On average, cutting fluid is only 1-3% of an entire metalworking operation, but as companies grow, that single line item can have a significant impact on an organization’s success. Implementing a cutting fluid management program is key to reducing waste, controlling costs, and improving efficiency.

When companies are just starting out, cutting fluid management simply requires discipline and diligence from operators following protocols. But as operations grow in scale and output volume, the demands and processes for optimizing fluid become more important and potentially complex. As the manufacturing sector continues to expand and companies scale up to meet growing demand, it’s important to understand the challenges and best practices for cutting fluid management at every step of a company’s evolution.

Cutting Fluid Management for Small Job Shops

Small shops vary greatly in size, ranging from just a few to a few dozen full-time machine operators, with roughly an equivalent number of machines on site. Cutting fluid management at this scale is relatively straightforward and often performed manually, focused on basics like maintaining proper fluid concentration, fluid volumes, removing tramp oil, filtering contaminants, and cleaning the sump. Because of the size of the operation and everyone working together, small manufacturers typically put operators in charge of the cutting fluid management for their individual machines or group of machines.

“At this scale, it’s easier for operators to manage their own cutting fluid, and some of them take pride in overseeing the whole operation of their machine,” says Flint Jewell, a District Sales Manager at Master Fluid Solutions. “But if demand increases and companies begin to grow, this level of care can be difficult to maintain.”

When individual operators are no longer able to effectively manage cutting fluid and coolant spend begins to rise, it’s time to take your coolant management protocols to the next level. Consider investing in a cutting fluid makeup or recycling system to remove some of the manual labor, or devote select staff specifically to cutting fluid management.

Cutting Fluid Management for Medium-Sized Enterprises

Medium-sized shops typically consist of a range of a few dozen to roughly 50 machine operators. Companies at this scale are much more complex, producing a high volume of parts often with a more diverse array of machines. To maximize efficiency, cutting fluid management responsibilities often shift to small teams entirely devoted to maintaining concentration, keeping fluid free of tramp oil and contaminants to extend sump life. In some cases, these responsibilities can also shift to the maintenance team, who manage cutting fluid in addition to facility upkeep. 

Since there are so many sumps to manage, a comprehensive fluid management approach can allow for reduced usage waste. Basic fluid recycling systems optimize cutting fluid performance by cleaning the fluid of contaminants.

“In a small job shop, it could take a company over 10 years to achieve ROI on a recycling system,” explains Flint. “But for medium-sized shops and larger, where they’re spending  potentially $50,000 or more in cutting fluid annually, reducing fluid consumption by 20% to 30% allows them to recoup the investment in just a few years.”

If management sees coolant consumption rates beginning to rise, it’s a sign to improve cutting fluid management processes and invest in a cutting fluid capable of being recycled and additional fluid recycling systems and support.

Cutting Fluid Management for Large Companies

Large metalworking operations have more than 50 full-time machine operators and range from major parts producers to international operations with a global footprint. Companies at this level are dealing with many hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars worth of cutting fluid each year, so cutting fluid management has a major impact on the bottom line. In some cases, operations at this size contract with third-party coolant management companies who handle all aspects of daily maintenance, sump cleaning, and disposal of cutting fluids.

These operations also typically have central fluid systems with filtration and recycling that maximizes the life of coolant. Integrating coolant management systems with software can also help stakeholders further refine processes and find more opportunities for cost savings.

Master Fluid Solutions: Your Coolant Supplier for Every Stage of Growth

Cutting fluids play a vital role throughout your operation, ensuring everything from effective and efficient machining processes to optimal tool life to high-quality surface finish. As an operation goes through growing pains, a trusted cutting fluid supplier can provide all the expertise and customized solutions needed to continue ensuring part quality while you figure out how to realize your business potential. The best partner in this is one that can support your metalworking fluid needs through every stage of its journey.

Master Fluid Solutions has grown into a global industry leader thanks to high-quality product offerings, premium customer support, and dedication to helping metalworking companies thrive. Need help with any aspect of your cutting fluid management program? Schedule a site visit to see how we can help.