Case Study: When the Going Gets Sticky, the Sticky Turn to Dry Ice Blasting
There are plenty of tough cleaning jobs in a manufacturing plant, but there are none stickier than trying to remove years’ worth of build-up on a machine that coats giant sheets of laminate with glue.
That stuff is meant to stay put, wherever it lands. And it lands pretty much everywhere.
The Bristol, Indiana facility of Robert Weed supplies RV manufacturers with laminate for the production of vehicle interiors, hand cleaning of the machine that coats boards with glue was increasingly time consuming. The board coater left glue everywhere, including the floor, where it mixed with dust and created cement-like deposits.
“I wish we would have known about dry ice cleaning sooner.”
– Jeanne Fulks, continuous improvement engineer at Robert Weed
Before Dry Ice Cleaning
After Dry Ice Cleaning
How Is This So Clean?
“Glue is very difficult to get off,” explained continuous improvement engineer Jeanne Fulks. “It took 10 people three days to do it by hand and we were burning up electric tools doing it.”
Then one day, Fulks was touring a Steel Case facility in Grand Rapids that manufactures office furniture with similar equipment, and she couldn’t help but notice what was missing: where was the gluey mess?
“It was a beautiful facility,” Fulks recalled. “They used similar equipment and some of it was extremely clean compared to ours. I asked, ‘How in the world is this so clean?’”
The answer was astonishingly simple: a dry ice blasting company came in every six months in a process that used no water, no chemicals, and left no secondary mess behind.
Better Results 4X Faster
Fulks started looking and was surprised to find a dry ice blasting company was practically a neighbor. She decided to give Polar Clean a try.
The results, as they might say in the glued-laminate board industry, have a way of sticking with you. Fulks tasked an internal crew with cleaning one section of the plant, while the Polar Clean team worked on the board coater and surrounding area.
“They did more work in one day than we did in 3 days,” Fulks said. “They focused on the harder stuff. We focused on the easier stuff, and it took us that long.”
Among the other differences: the Polar Clean team was able to get into nooks and crannies that people with hand tools couldn’t reach. “And do it four to five times faster,” Fulks said.
As a continuous improvement engineer, Fulks saw far more than time and labor savings in the comparison: it was an opportunity to transform downtime into production time – eliminating wasted time and materials.
“I would rather be running product for my customers than doing deep cleaning,” she said. “My customers don’t care what I have to do to get my machine clean. My customers care about product.”
Wires & Buttons No One Knew Were There
Some of those nooks and crannies, as it turned out, were concealing non-functioning buttons, wires and controls that had disappeared under layers of glue.
“We had a lot of glue covering wires that we didn’t even know were there,” said Fulks. As the result of dry ice cleaning, critical maintenance and part replacement needs were revealed that likely added years to the life of the equipment. “Once we got it clean, we could tell what needed to be replaced, versus total replacement,” she said. Extending the life of a key piece of machinery under current supply chain conditions is more than a matter of cost, Fulks said.
“If you have to replace a coater like this, right now the lead time is at least a year,” she said. “If we can extend the life of our equipment, we’re going to do it.”
Dry Ice Blasting Efficiency by the Numbers
- $50,000: estimated cost of replacing the board coater machine
- 12 Months: minimum wait time for replacement of board coating machine
- 1 Day: required to clean the entire board coater with dry ice
No Secondary Debris
Among the other advantages of dry ice cleaning, Fulks said, is that it dissipates immediately and leaves behind no secondary debris that could compromise the system and they can’t use water and hydroblasting because of the electrical.
“The only debris left over was the glue. We don’t want to be introducing other debris that can then get into the system and compromise it.”
The results were so clean that Fulks is now working to get a Polar Clean team out to the company’s Idaho facility and then onto a schedule of six-month touch-ups.
“We are very happy with the results,” she said. Fulks said the customer service made the process as nice as it was effective. As a bonus, she says, the cleanliness of the work area has been a morale booster. “I can tell you the morale of my people down there has improved. They are already doing a better job of taking care of the equipment.”
Her only regret? “I wish we would have known about dry ice blasting sooner.”
Dry Ice Blasting for Your Sticky Jobs
To learn more about why Polar Clean dry ice cleaning is the method of choice for a wide array of industries with sticky, tedious, hard-to-reach or otherwise stubborn cleaning jobs that require deep cleaning without the risk that water and abrasive cleaning techniques can introduce, contact us for a dry ice blasting consultation.
We have deep expertise in industries with the highest standards of safety, cleaning and efficiency, including power generation, food and beverage manufacturing and processing and petrochemical manufacturing, among others. Our work is fast, effective and adaptable to settings that other cleaning methods can’t touch.