Parts cleaning: the manufacturing maintenance saving you’ve never heard of

Posted on 20 Sep 2021 by Tim Brown

Manufacturing maintenance is an expensive but necessary exercise. Depending on the industry and specific application, according to the US Department of Commerce, the cost of maintenance ranges between 15 % and 70% of the cost of goods sold. At the upper end, business success is literally won and lost on the maintenance battlefield. Identifying opportunities for savings in maintenance operations is critically important but often not easy to achieve without cutting corners.

According to, running a piece of equipment to the point of failure can cost up to 10 times as much as operating a regular manufacturing maintenance program. Thus, the idea of skimping on maintenance to save costs, generally isn’t advisable.

Despite the obvious cost saving of performing regular preventive maintenance, the costs of undertaking such work are still considerable and generally involve highly technical and often dirty work.

However, there is a modern approach to manufacturing maintenance, which uses the latest technology to provide significant efficiency gains and cost reductions. It is automatic parts washing.

A maintenance worker uses a Safetykleen automatic parts washer to clean a crticial part - image courtesy of Safetykleen
A maintenance worker uses a Safetykleen automatic parts washer to clean a crticial part – image courtesy of Safetykleen

When maintenance takes place, numerous tasks are required but at some point following disassembly, parts must be cleaned of accumulated dirt and debris. What many companies don’t realise is that, when it comes to the cleaning process associated with maintenance, it’s not just that ‘it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it’. Parts cleaning also has a dirty little secret. It is typically expensive and inefficient.

This is because, when performed manually, such work takes a great deal of time, effort and often significant amounts of harmful and expensive chemicals. Plus, there is often an additional cost to correctly dispose of the produced waste.

A better option is automatic parts washing. Picture a dishwasher for your machine parts, except instead of cleaning light food scraps from your crockery, these machines are able to bulk clean and remove caked grease, contaminants and dust from items both small and large.

Automatic parts cleaning puts manufacturing maintenance on the right track

Knorr-Bremse, a manufacturer of braking systems for rail and commercial vehicles has operated for more than 100 years. The company provides overhaul / repair services for the Rail industry. Through its long-standing expertise, the company is able to take components and systems, which have been in service on trains for decades, and return them to original equipment levels of performance and safety.

Despite the company’s high-quality results, the feedback from its customers was that they wanted a much faster turnaround of overhauled components.

The essential first step for every component received is that it must be thoroughly cleaned, preventing any accumulated dirt and oil entering the internals of the system endangering loss of performance or safety levels.

As such, Knorr-Bremse identified Safetykleen, to help them improve its cleaning processes and decided to work in partnership with the Safetykleen to optimise the efficiency of the operation. This close working relationship saw Safetykleen offering the latest specification Aquakleen automatic parts cleaning machines with new chemistry formulations developed for the specific requirements of this application. And the results spoke for themselves.

 “Our new process, developed with the new Automatic Aqueous cleaning machine solution supplied Safetykleen, reduced the cleaning cycle from 30 minutes down to 7 minutes!,” said a spokesperson at Knorr-Bremse “Not only was the cleaning time reduced but the cleaning is now more efficient and has significantly less environmental impact.”

Parts cleaning as a service: where the real savings can be made

There is a huge range of Safetykleen automatic parts washers available to service a range of manufacturing maintenance requirements - image courtesy of SafetykleenAn automatic parts washing machine offers other significant direct opportunities for manufacturing maintenance cost savings.

The use of a parts washer can dramatically decrease the personnel time required for the cleaning component of maintenance and allows maintenance workers to focus on the key tasks of disassembly, reassembly and testing. According to feedback from users, an automatic parts washing machine can complete two days’ worth of manual cleaning in around 3 hours and reduce maintenance personnel requirements by 23%.

And that is only a small part of the equation. Safetykleen offers parts washing as a service, providing a flexible solution that includes a parts cleaning machine for the customer to use as needed, a supply of cleaning detergents, regular maintenance of the cleaning machine at agreed intervals, waste management and any associated compliance documentation. 

This often proves to be the best option for businesses as it means they get:

  1. A top-of-the-line parts washer without any capital outlay.
  2. Expert advice that ensures the business gets the most effective solution for their particular application.
  3. Staff training to ensure operational best practice.
  4. Ongoing support that removes the need to spend time on waste management and compliance, and reduces the risk of machine breakdown.

Interested? Safetykleen International is the world’s leading provider of parts washers, surface treatment and chemical application services. Founded in 1973, the company has almost 50 years of experience offering a wide range of solutions to address the needs of manufacturers globally.

Operating in 11 European countries, including the UK, the company has over 2,500 employees, and provide parts cleaning services that can support a huge range of customer requirements across many different manufacturing sectors.

Manufacturing maintenance is a crucial part of keeping your machines and products running efficiently for years to come. If you’re looking for custom solutions on how to best maintain your equipment with tailored parts washing, contact the experienced Safetykleen parts cleaning experts today.

For more information, visit or call 0330 912 7419.

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