Expert Insights on Fluid Management with John Hoff at Impact Fluids

What Sets Impact Fluids Apart from Other Fluid Suppliers?

At Impact Fluids, we differ from most fluid suppliers because we approach the market as a fluid manufacturer, but we not only supply fluids, we also take a comprehensive look at the entire ecosystem of fluid use in a stamping facility. We focus on areas of waste and overuse and the entire process the fluid touches. Instead of simply selling a great product, we actively engage with your business to help you save money along the way.

As a Fluids Supplier, It May Seem Contradictory That You Promote Fluid Reduction. What Drives Your Passion For This?

From a young age, I’ve been environmentally conscious. I remember being in fourth grade and writing about Ralph Nader’s book on the environment. When I transitioned into this industry from a completely different field, I was shocked by the amount of waste I observed. This experience reinforced my commitment to environmental stewardship. Together with my colleagues and suppliers, we focus on minimizing fluid usage, which not only conserves resources but also reduces costs for our clients. 

How Does Impact Fluids Foster a Culture of Continuous Improvement within the Organization?

At Impact Fluids, continuous improvement is integral to our operations. We regularly meet to discuss ways to enhance our business and our customers’ operations. Our commitment to fluid savings and reduction permeates our culture, training everyone from phone staff to warehouse workers.

Can you Share a Success Story that Reflects the Collaborative Approach Your Team Takes with Customers?

One success story involves a local company we’ve partnered with over several years. Initially, it took considerable effort to demonstrate our commitment to their operations, responding to even their smallest concerns to help optimize their fluid usage. Over time, our relationship has grown into a solid partnership. They now depend on us for comprehensive fluid management solutions, showing a deep trust in our approach and the consistent benefits it brings.

What Are Some of the Core Values that Drive Your Business Decisions?

Our core values—teamwork, positivity, strong work ethic, and open communication—guide every decision we make. It’s crucial for us that every team member, from those answering phones to those in the warehouse, embodies these values. This approach ensures that we not only enjoy our work but also work efficiently and maintain transparency with our customers, fostering an environment of mutual trust and respect.

What is the Most Common Issue You See Customers Experiencing that Leads to Inefficient Fluid Management?

The most prevalent issue we see that leads to inefficient fluid management is improper fluid application. Many of our customers initially lack precise control over this process, which can lead to significant inefficiencies throughout their operations. When fluids are not applied correctly, it often results in excessive usage, which not only wastes the fluid itself but can also affect machine performance and product quality. This over-application can cause issues such as accelerated tool wear, inadequate lubrication, and complications in subsequent processing stages like painting or coating due to residue build-up. 

Why Would One Use a Spray System Over a Roller System and Vice Versa?

Choosing between spray and roller systems often depends on space constraints. If there’s limited space to install a roller system, a spray system is the alternative. Although effective at applying fluid, spray systems can lead to overuse. For instance, when applying fluid to a 24″ wide stock, spray nozzles tend to cover the entire width, which can result in excessive application. In contrast, a roller system applies fluid more precisely and efficiently to the stock’s top and bottom surfaces, reducing waste and increasing accuracy.

Are All Fluids Made Equal? What are Some Key Differences between a Lower Versus a Higher-Quality Fluid?

Not all fluids are created equal. The key differentiator is the ‘guts’ of the fluid—its additives and composition. Higher-quality fluids are formulated with superior additives that enhance performance and prevent costly issues during subsequent processes, such as welding and cleaning. These factors significantly impact the efficiency of operations and the quality of the final product.

How Do the Specific Characteristics of Your Fluids Contribute to Improved Performance in Metalworking Applications?

We do not aim to offer the cheapest fluids on the market; our goal is to provide fluids that perform exceptionally well. This is achieved by incorporating high-quality additives into our fluids. We also focus on understanding your specific metal forming processes and the requirements of subsequent processes like welding or painting. This ensures that our fluids not only help form products accurately but also support downstream processes effectively.

What Considerations Go into Formulating Fluids for Different Metalworking Processes?

Our fluid formulations are highly customized. We look at the specific challenges of each forming operation and what happens to the part afterward. This might involve subsequent processes like welding or painting, which require the fluid to perform in ways that facilitate these processes effectively. This means our formulations are tailored not just to the forming process but also to ensure the part can undergo further processing with minimal issues.

In What Ways Do Your Products Cater to the Unique Requirements of the Automotive Manufacturing Process?

Our products are specifically designed to meet the rigorous demands of automotive manufacturing, which requires fluids that are approved by almost every major automotive manufacturer. For instance, we represent Fortech products, which have received automotive approval from nearly every major car manufacturer. This ensures our products meet the high standards required in automotive production.

How Does Impact Fluids Adapt its Solutions for Different Industries with its Unique Needs?

Impact Fluids tailors its solutions to meet the specific needs of industries with unique requirements for approved fluids. For example, the automotive industry requires fluids that have received specific approvals if they are supplied directly to OEM car manufacturers. We have secured these necessary approvals for our stamping fluids. Additionally, in the medical and aerospace sectors, we provide the Hangsterfers product line, which is a leading supplier for these industries, ensuring our fluids meet the stringent standards required.

Isn’t Fluid just Fluid? What Makes Certain Fluids Unique and More Applicable to Certain Industries or Applications?

Fluid is far from just fluid. Those within the industry understand this, but it may seem like a niche detail to outsiders. The distinctiveness of a fluid comes from its composition—what the product is made of. For instance, a fluid designed for forming aluminum differs significantly from one intended for stainless steel or cold-rolled steel. Each type of metal may require a different fluid formulation to optimize performance, highlighting the importance of a supplier that understands and caters to these specific needs.

How Does the Fluid Lifecycle Analysis Process Work, and What Benefits Does it Offer to Customers?

Our fluid lifecycle analysis is a detailed approach developed over the last 20 years, focusing on the entire ‘ecosystem’ of a fluid from the moment it arrives in a facility to when it leaves as waste. This process involves examining every step the fluid undergoes and identifying potential areas of waste—not just the obvious waste on the floor, but also less visible inefficiencies. After a thorough analysis, we provide a detailed report to our clients, showing where inefficiencies occur and the costs associated with them, thus enabling cost-effective and environmentally friendly practices.

How Do You Ensure Ongoing Training and Reviews to Keep Fluid Usage Optimized as Operations Evolve?

At Impact Fluids, we believe in a partnership model with our customers, which includes ongoing training and regular reviews to optimize fluid usage as operations evolve. Our approach involves designating a ‘champion’ within each client’s organization who deeply understands the value of our services. 

This partnership is crucial because we provide them with a customized plan that includes a clear timeline and specific actions to minimize waste. Regular visits allow us to assess progress and make necessary adjustments, ensuring that operations remain efficient. This ongoing engagement helps us address any areas where performance may start to lag, allowing us to provide immediate solutions and maintain optimal fluid usage consistently.

Every Company is Different, But If You Could Tell Stamping Operation Leaders One Thing to Help Them Have a More Efficient Fluid Management Process, What Would it Be?

The key to a more efficient fluid management process in stamping operations lies in the application. Often, we observe that there’s an over-application of fluids, sometimes by as much as 50% to 80% more than necessary. Given the limited space between the die and the metal in stamping processes, this excess fluid has nowhere to go but out, leading to significant waste. Efficient application, tailored to the exact needs of the process, not only reduces waste but also ensures the quality and efficiency of the stamping operation, leading to considerable cost savings.

How Has the Industry Evolved Since the Merger of Great Lakes Industrial Service, Curtis Fluids, and Advanced Metalworking Solutions?

Since the merger of Great Lakes Industrial Service, Curtis Fluids, and Advanced Metalworking Solutions, the industry has primarily evolved in how it manages workforce challenges. With a significant reduction in available labor, especially skilled manufacturing personnel, companies are increasingly reliant on fluid suppliers like us to provide comprehensive management solutions. We help them not only supply fluids but also manage their application, freeing up essential personnel to focus on other critical aspects of their operations. 

This change from a purely transactional relationship to a more integrated, supportive approach has allowed our customers to lean on us more heavily, ensuring their operations can continue smoothly despite broader industry challenges.

What Trends Do You Foresee in the Metalworking Fluid Industry in the Coming Years?

The most notable trend is consolidation, which is reshaping the industry landscape, leading to a decrease in the availability of expert field representatives and chemists. This consolidation is resulting in a loss of expertise, particularly among younger generations entering the chemical industry. This shift underscores the growing importance of companies like Impact Fluids, which continue to invest in training and maintaining a high level of fluid management expertise.

Can You Share a Specific Example Where Impact Fluids Significantly Improved a Customer’s Bottom Line Through Fluid Optimization?

A notable example of how our fluid optimization efforts significantly improved a customer’s bottom line involves a large manufacturer in Michigan. They faced challenges with excessive fluid usage and subsequent issues in post-processing stages, such as painting. Our fluid lifecycle analysis identified considerable waste. By introducing a more efficient roller application system, we reduced their fluid usage by 70%. This reduction not only lowered their direct costs significantly but also improved the application process, preventing the pooling of fluids and facilitating easier post-stamping treatments like painting.

How Do you Measure Success in Terms of Both Cost Savings and Environmental Impact for your Customers?

We measure success not just through cost savings but also by assessing the environmental impact of our interventions. For instance, by reducing a customer’s fluid usage by 70%, we not only cut their fluid costs significantly but also reduced their waste output. This decrease in waste contributes to their compliance with environmental standards such as ISO 14001, helping them gain credits for waste reduction and bolstering their environmental stewardship, which is increasingly important to companies across industries.

What Feedback Have you Received from Customers Regarding the Long-Term Benefits of your Continuous Fluid Reduction Process?

The feedback from our customers about the long-term benefits of our continuous fluid reduction process has been overwhelmingly positive. They value our commitment to not just providing fluids but also to maintaining a partnership that helps them continually improve their operations. Customers appreciate our proactive approach, which includes detailed fluid lifecycle analyses that provide them with actionable data to make informed decisions. This support helps them achieve significant cost savings while maintaining high operational standards and environmental compliance.

What Are Some Benefits of Partnering with a Smaller Company like Impact Fluids Instead of a Larger Fluid Supplier?

Partnering with a smaller company like Impact Fluids offers several advantages. Our commitment to service and the personalized attention we provide are unparalleled. Unlike larger suppliers, where individual customers might get lost in the shuffle, each of our customers is incredibly important to us. We invest significantly in maintaining these relationships, focusing on detailed, customized solutions that address specific needs. This approach ensures that we not only earn their business but also maintain it over the long term, treating their business as if it were our own. 

What is Something About the Metalworking Fluid Industry That Would Make a Great Trivia Question?

I would say who is the only company in the metalworking fluids industry that has the expertise in fluids but also fluid application and mixing? Who is it? Impact fluids.

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