Parts Washing Equipment: How to make your selection process easier

Oct. 1, 2003

Parts Washing Equipment:

How to make your selection process easier

Are you considering purchasing a parts washer for your parts cleaning needs? Unsure where to start? The following tips are offered by Gary Minkin, president of The MART Corporation, concerning sending request for quotes (RFQs) to a parts washer manufacturer.

There are 55 washer makers in America. Each has its own unique product line with varying models and options. The ability of the industry to precisely meet a cleaning application and its requirements, no matter how stringent, is almost a certainty. But in order to meet your expectations and requirements, here are some things manufacturers need from you.

Don't design a parts washer

Washer manufacturers must know all the parameters and requirements of your application. You don't need to call out any design details or design a washing machine. The washer makers have already done that. Calling for specific designs may discourage some manufacturers from submitting quotes and could drastically limit your choices.

Avoid sealed bids
Many washer bids are sealed and prevent contact between the manufacturers and buyers. Since dialog during the bid process is important, I suggest that, unless the circumstances are unusual, never have sealed bids. No matter how detailed an RFQ might be, an exchange of information enables the washer makers to be more responsive and also allows the buyer to ask questions of the manufacturers.

What's being cleaned
First on the list of information needed in the RFQ are details of what's being cleaned. Sizes, shapes, and weights are crucial. If the parts are common parts, then identifying the parts is sufficient. Otherwise drawings should accompany the RFQ. If the drawings are proprietary, then review the responses and narrow the field down to several washer makers. Require that the remaining manufacturers sign nondisclosure agreements, and furnish drawings to this group with the understanding that the drawings could change their responses and price quotes.

Parts orientation
Next the washer makers must know how the parts will be oriented: Hung on hooks? Fixtured? If fixtures will be used, do these fixtures exist and are they already used throughout the plant or will they be designed specifically for the washing machine? Drawings of existing fixtures must be included in the RFQ. Photos of fixtures, empty, and with parts loads, are also useful. If fixtures are to be designed, then who will design them and, once designed, who will build them? Because the operating characteristics of washing machines vary so widely, you might want the washer makers to recommend the fixture design.

Substrates and soils to be cleaned

Next, washer makers must know the substrates. Iron or steel? Note that iron and steel wash differently. Or aluminum or die cast? How about plastic? Is the plastic high temp or not. It makes a big difference. If you wash a standard plastic in a high temperature process you will end up with a lot of very clean, very warped plastic.

The next issue is the soils to be removed. It is not enough to identify the soils generally, such as carbon, grease, and hydrocarbons because the characteristics are different and so is soil removal. Gasoline carbon in an aluminum head requires a different process from the same carbon in an iron head. The question in the RFQ is this: Can you remove this specific carbon and, if so, what's your process? Consider the case of aircraft wheels that have carbon dust from brake disks embedded in them. They will also have rubber bead and possibly mastic bonded to the rim. The question in the RFQ: Can you remove the carbon dust, bead, and mastic and, if so, what's the process?

Grease and oil soils must also be specifically identified. Synthetics are standard hydrocarbons with the addition of a clay or synthetic compound. Synthetics remove differently and waste management is an issue as well. The question: Can you remove synthetics, and how? And the second question: What is your method of managing the solution and removing the waste?

System throughput
Next is throughput. How many loads or piece parts will be washed in an eight-hour shift? This will establish the cycling time per load.

Your RFQ should also address rinsing of the parts and storage once the parts are cleaned. Washer makers can provide rinsing and RP cycles if required.

Cleaning standards
Now to the most important issue of all, the cleaning standards. You may find it remarkable that no more than 50 of the RFQs I have reviewed over time actually had cleaning standards. This is remarkable because cleaned parts are the reason for purchasing a washing machine or any cleaning system. When a customer does not have a cleaning standard (which is most of the time) we will suggest a standard that will meet the customer's needs.

Choosing the chemical
It's likely that you already have a chemical in mind for the process. But the washer maker actually picks the chemical. It's included in its response, along with the MSDS for the recommended chemical. You may not use it, but its chemical is your fall back. If your own chemical doesn't work, then the chemical it recommends must meet the requirements in the RFQ including the cycling time, cleaning standards, and all the rest.
One such example is hydrogen embrittlement. When washing such parts as aircraft wheels and landing gear, the question to the washer maker is: Can you clean these parts to our standards without causing hydrogen embrittlement? In order to respond, the washer maker will warrant that the process and chemical it recommends will be safe for this application.

Avoid specific callouts
You shouldn't make specific callouts in your RFQ. Every time you make a callout, whether it's a pump size or table drive method or anything else, you have let the washer off the hook with respect to that component or device. If it doesn't work, you have little recourse because you asked for it.

Space considerations
The RFQ should state all constraints and limitations. If floor space and ceiling height are issues, then these should be listed. If necessary, furnish layout drawings for the installation site. Identify the turntable or conveyor height above floor level, and state whether or not a pit in the floor is acceptable. Check the path from the outside door through the plant to be certain that the equipment can be moved to the installation site. If services to the machine are limited such as size and location, these should also be noted.


The warranty policy should also be required with the response. Keep in mind that manufacturers treat warranties differently. Some may want to inspect failed parts before supplying replacements. Others may send their customers back to the manufacturer of the components.

You might also require a warranty that is longer than one year, or a warranty based on operating hours rather than years of service. In this event you should request that an hour meter be supplied with the washing machine. An hour meter is an excellent idea anyway because you can set a maintenance schedule based on operating hours.

Operating manual
Assuming that the washing machine is not a custom system, the RFQ should also require that an operating manual be included with the reply. An operating manual cuts through the sales rhetoric and explains, in simple language, how the machine operates, the maintenance required, and the results you can reasonably expect. As part of your review you should compare manuals. This also tells you the manufacturer's knowledge with respect to your industry and requirements, and the cleaning process.

The final document you should require is a performance warranty. This simply states that, if the washing machine does not meet the requirements of the RFQ when operated according to the operating manual, it can be returned to the manufacturer. A performance warranty, sometimes called a merchantability agreement, is implied with everything that we buy today, whether it's a fast food hamburger or a computer or a jet plane. The agreement formalizes and makes explicit what is already implied. The manufacturer, by signing the warranty, guarantees that its machine will meet all the parameters of the process and application.

These have been a few tips to be aware of when considering purchasing a new washer. For specific questions regarding your parts washing needs, you can contact Gary Minkin at the number listed on page 25 (in the magazine).

Additional ReSource
The MART Corporation
2450 Adie Road
Maryland Heights (STL), MO 63043
(800) 543-MART