Lubricants are essential in everything from mining and railways to space travel. They keep gears moving. They reduce friction to improve performance and longevity. For NASA, they help transport space shuttles to the launch pad.
The Whitmore Manufacturing Company® is responsible for producing these industrial lubricants, as well as sealants, coatings, cleaners and oils. The company produces over 16 million pounds of lubricants each year, ranging from biodegradable and dry film lubricants to hydraulic oils and tire sealants.
Whitmore manages all steps of lubrication production, from R & D and product formulation to application services for customers around the world.
Recently, it began a $20 million, 120,000-square-foot expansion of its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Rockwall, Texas.
The creation of a Whitmore lubricant begins in a batch mixer. The solution is then heated within specific temperature parameters.
Traditionally, the industrial lubrication industry has relied on labor-intensive batch processes. At Whitmore, operators were required to manually select the number of gallons of raw materials to be processed at a charging and mixing station.
Workers had to manually move the hoses and manifolds from each charging station to different areas of the plant floor.
Once the requested number of gallons was pumped out, a valve would shut. Operators then had to blow air through the hoses to remove any lingering product. Forgetting to clear the hose could cause contamination in future batches that used the same hose with a different raw material.
Operators manually activated the motors to spin and heat the contents. As the lubricant warmed, operators had to keep a close eye on the temperature gauge and turn the mixer off at the prescribed temperature for that specific batch of lubricant.
Operators then added other ingredients and repeated the mixing and heating process all while watching multiple mixers and temperature gauges at the same time. Errors at this stage were responsible for the majority of batch re-work or losses.