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Resources Articles Sustainability That Improves Your ESG Reporting Through Better Lubrication Practices

Sustainability That Improves Your ESG Reporting Through Better Lubrication Practices

December 2021 | Troy Turnbull and Mark Ulstrup

Sustainability, greenhouse gases (GHG), emissions, and carbon neutral are all terms that are in the news these days, but are they really relevant to your business?

The answer? Absolutely. We all want to be environmentally friendly and socially responsible… as long as it doesn’t negatively impact our company financially. So, given that all these initiatives cost money and time, the question really is “…will they improve things and bring in more business?”

Given the upcoming changes from the EPA put upon large companies and OEMs, the answer is ‘Yes’.  These initiatives could very well provide companies a big competitive advantage since sustainability improvements nearly always provide a cost savings.

In 2019, 90% of S&P 500 listed companies produced an ESG (Environmental, Social, Governmental) report indicating improvements to their sustainability programs. The ESG reporting mechanism is not an exact formula, but rather a framework for disclosure of sustainable quantified data. There are three GHG emission scopes specified inside the ESG report:

  • Scope 1 – Emissions that are direct from the owned or controlled sources (those you emit because of your processes)
  • Scope 2 – Emissions that are indirect from the generation of purchased energy (your power consumption)
  • Scope 3 – Emissions that are all indirect (and not included n Scope 2) and occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including upstream and downstream emissions (your supplier’s emissions) and account for 65% to 95% of the reporting company’s emissions

If you are supplying parts to a company that is producing an ESG report, consider yourself to be in the 65-95% majority, which your customer must improve. There is even an ‘ESG risk rating’ used by these large companies to access their supply chain and help regulate sourcing policies. If you have set a baseline, have an improvement strategy and track your emissions, then you very well may have a preferred supplier status with your customer.

So, what can you do to improve your ESG compliance? 

Lubricant ratio and proper usage help eliminate waste

The proper use of lubrication can affect each of the three scopes and can show quick and effective improvements to your ESG reporting. The emission of excess gases (Scope 1) can be a direct result of using the incorrect lubricant, an improper dilution ratio, excessively applied volume or inaccurate lubricant placement, which ends up burning off into the atmosphere or being hauled away as waste.

If you can’t remember the last time you changed lubricants, consider meeting with your lubricant supplier to help determine the best choice for each part you manufacture. One size does not fit all and the optimal lubricant and application can vary based upon metal make up.

If using a graphite mixture or oil-based product, look into a synthetic or semi-synthetic lubricant for easier disposal. This search may include establishing a dilution ratio for the lubricant that better improves the process. Proportional mixing machines are a productive and constant means of creating a uniform formula; even the manner used to stir the mix is important as too much agitation can degrade the die lubricant.

Once your lubricant type and ratio are confirmed, consistently test it and the ratio of lube to water. Tests should be performed throughout a shift, a day, a week, a batch, or even from operator to operator, to ensure that improvement will be realized. Testing the lubrication should not only take place from the mixing device or holding tank, but also from the spray nozzle to confirm that the delivery system is working properly. Different testing methods include refractometers, moisture balance analyzer, or a simple and fast hydrometer.

The use of evaporators to eliminate waste lubricants is another area of GHG emissions. This process can be minimized or even eliminated by a reclamation system. This allows you to reuse at least a portion of the lubricant, helping to maximize efficiency and minimize waste haul. This will lower your overall emissions and improve your ESG score.

Again, synthetics work well in reclamation, but there are many to choose from and prior to purchase of any lubricant you need to inform the lubricant manufacturer of your desire to reclaim and reuse. This will allow them to include proper biocide additives that minimize biological growth, which can be harmful both to the product and people touching and breathing it.

Importance of delivery systems to reduce emissions

The delivery and application of your lubrication will also improve your Scope 1 emissions. A good test for this is to tour your factory and identify misplaced lubricant (E.g., puddles on the floor, machinery, boot soles, spray in the air). Where and how much lubricant being applied can substantially reduce your overall consumption and lower your carbon footprint.

Spray nozzles are a key component to precise application as they can help regulate the amount of lubricant along with the shape of the spray. Pin-pointing the location of spray is essential in preventing overuse and ensuring proper functionality. However, having a proper delivery system of lube to the nozzle will manage timing and volume automatically, even storing the entire recipe per part number for repeatable process capability. The recipe can then be ‘locked’ to eliminate any potential of tampering. Up to 24 nozzles can be independently programmed to deliver lube, air, or even skip cycles on these systems to minimize usage.

Many times, manual changes are performed in the plant based upon what appears to be lubrication failure. If parts are not forming correctly or releasing, operators adjust as necessary to keep production moving. However, close examination of the process will indicate that, in many instances, an overcompensation of lube is being applied. This is due to either an improper dilution ratio or a bad nozzle that is not spraying correctly.

Also, keep in mind that nozzles typically become obstructed due to lack of maintenance. With a comprehensive delivery system in place, any dormancy would be detected, and a purge of the lines and nozzles performed. Flow meters also aid in indicating under or over utilization of lube. If using a water-based lubricant, have your water tested for hardness to prevent a buildup of calcium, which will restrict line size, causing volume issues and potentially blocking lubricant from being dispensed.

Automate lubrication for precise spraying

Application automation is another excellent choice for improvement to ensure lubrication is very consistent.

Many facilities choose to have operators hand spray their dies using a long hand wand, garden sprayer or spray bottle. Although the person may do their best to coat the surfaces the same every time, spending long hours press side only equates to over or under coverage and a very tired arm Although not covered by these three GHG scopes, worker safety and well-being is an ESG initiative

A reciprocator machine is ideal for many applications as it extends the lubricating nozzle into the die area and accurately layers the target zone with lube and can even blow air separately to remove debris. Another option is to outfit a robot or a cobot with a nozzle or a manifold loaded with a host of spray tips that will lubricate precisely. The cobot/robot can manipulate the spray nozzle or spray manifold like a human, mimicking the same application process consistently. Both machines utilize the same technology of delivery as discussed so that each part can be programmed and stored for future use.

You can also improve application usage with use of a roll coating machine. It is ideal for many applications as it applies lubricant onto the metal coil or metal blank evenly and thoroughly, minimizing the lubricant usage. Overall, Scope 1 improvements can be directly linked to overall lubrication reduction without compromising production performance.

Improving your ESG Scope 2 emissions focus on a reduction in your general power consumption. The very purpose of lubrication is to reduce friction, which can cause unnecessary force or delays in your process when parts stick to dies. The proper lubricant and application enhance both issues and can help lower your power use.
A much-neglected source of power utilization is the need for a pressured air supply via a compressor. The demand for air in plants is always at a premium and the easiest fix is to add another compressor. However, this comes at the high cost of power and investment. Again, using the correct lube and dilution ratio, applied correctly, will minimize the amount of air required to lubricate. 

Everything covered in Scope 1 and 2 will benefit you greatly if true progress is made.  But with Scope 3, if you are supplying parts to a company that is measuring their ESG performance, then you are their biggest target of improvement 3.

Scope 3 has two areas of focus -- upstream and downstream sources. In both of these categories, freight can be a large spend and, once again, proper dilution and lubricant application can lower these costs. Maximizing your dilution ratio using less lube means fewer incoming shipments and less waste hauling. 

Reclamation of lubricants for additional savings

Reclaiming lubricants instead of disposing just makes environmental and economic sense. Purification systems suited for hydrocarbon oils are known for reducing lubrication requirements up to 70% while reducing machine downtime. The ideal system doesn’t use absorbents, rather it relies upon the buoyancy of oil droplets, helping eliminate disposal issues to provide a definite ESG improvement.

To begin your journey to GHG improvement, set the baseline and capture important KPI’s such as:

  • Required dilution ratio
  • Current dilution ratios throughout the facility;
  • Present lubricant usage via flow meter totalizer;
  • Cost of mixed lubricant at each machine;
  • Total water usage;
  • Energy consumption (kW);
  • Freight charges for lubricants; and
  • Waste haul expenses. 

No one likes EPA mandates. However, this new sustainability reporting mechanism for lubricants presents opportunities to generate new costs savings — all while gaining a competitive advantage. The key is to start now!

Want to learn more? Contact Us today.

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