Mar 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
WHILE extreme makeover may be a popular term these days in the mass media, QualaWash is renovating its tank cleaning facilities with more than the usual gloss.
“We're upgrading all of our facilities,” says Mike Bauer, QualaWash president, adding, “Our infrastructure is only part of the plan. The key to all of this is management and leadership in combination with superior customer service.”
The Tampa, Florida, company operates 36 tank cleaning facilities across the United States and Canada. A total capital investment of $8 million has been spent in key locations as part of an upgraded process that includes new technology, evaluation of heat and water consumption, heel control, and environmental protection enhancements.
One emphasis is security. “We have installed security cameras at over half of our locations with all sites scheduled for completion by the first quarter of 2008,” says Bauer.
All renovations should be finished by early 2009. Some of these value-added changes are occurring in Bridgeport, New Jersey; South Gate, California; Houston, Texas; Barberton, Ohio; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; and Sulphur, Louisiana.
Part of the employee side of the project involves training. Tank cleaners attend a monthly session that includes information on confined space entry, elevated work surfaces, environmental stewardship, hazardous materials emergency control, respiratory equipment, and injury prevention and investigation. They study product labeling, chemical identification, and material safety data sheets.
New hires are placed on a 120-day probation during the training process. “It takes about a year for a tank cleaner to be fully trained,” says Rick Derr, facility manager at the Barberton location.
Tank cleaner training takes high priority at QualaWash, Bauer says. “All of us at QualaWash recognize the value and the need to have the best team of professionals in the industry. Our tank cleaners are the industry's best, and form the backbone of our cleaning business.
“Another important aspect of the changes going on at the QualaWash facilities is an emphasis on customer service — and a big part of that is our service guarantee,” says Bauer.
“We want drivers coming to our facilities to have a safe place for their vehicles, and a comfortable and user-friendly place to wait while their tank trailers are being washed,” says Shannon Greene, vice-president of sales and marketing. “One way we try to improve our service is by surveying drivers to find out what they want. In addition, there is a hotline available for anyone to call. We solicit driver opinion on our latest renovations, their experiences at our locations, and their satisfaction with our cleaning. We also ask their opinion on how we can better serve them.”
Barberton tank wash
One of the company's latest examples of a facility overhaul is the 12-acre site in Barberton where about $1.3 million was spent on renovations for the four-bay wash rack. “This was reconditioned to our specifications,” says Derr, who directed the work.
The wash system was constructed in-house and is equipped with Sellers Model 360 spinners and Cleaver-Brooks boilers. Three 800-gallon vats supply the system with caustic, detergent, and hot water. A 500-gallon tank stores stripper. One bay handles washes that require the use of caustic, another provides caustic and detergent, a third bay is used for stripper for latex cutting, and the fourth bay supplies a hot water flush and steam.
Bays 1 and 2 typically use a prerinse for 30-45 minutes followed by caustic or detergent, and a final rinse, all maintained at 180° F. A blower dries the tanks. Bay 3 has a prerinse at 160°F followed by the stripper cycle. Bay 4 supplies flush at 180°F and steam at 200°F.
“One of our innovations is a 20,000-psi hydroblaster built by Gardner Denver to our design,” says Derr. Installed on a mobile skid, the hydroblaster with its 100-horsepower motor is used for hard-to-clean jobs.
About 25 tank trailers are cleaned daily at the facility, which is open from 11 pm Sunday through 11 pm Friday, as well as Saturday from 8 am until 4:30 pm. On-call service is available 24/7. Services include intermediate bulk container and tank container washes, hose testing, product heating, steam heating, and exterior vehicle cleaning.
To handle wastewater from the cleaning bays, QualaWash installed two 5,000-gallon batch tanks where wastewater is separated from solids and hauled off to disposal sites. Four other 500-gallon tanks hold sulfuric acid, alum, polymer, and caustic that are used in the treatment process. Sulfuric acid reduces the pH, while alum and polymer are combined to help bond the sludge. Caustic reduces pH after solids have been separated. Once wastewater pH is adjusted, it is released into the sewer.
In keeping with QualaWash's customer service emphasis, the Barberton facility has a remodeled drivers' lounge with snack and soft drink machines and free coffee. Also available for driver use are a washer/dryer, television, DVD/VCR, games, books, fax machine, computer with Internet access, microwave oven, and showers. For drivers who want to clean the inside of their tractor cabs, QualaWash provides industrial vacuum cleaners.
While the renovations going on at the QualaWash facilities are well underway, Bauer says the company continually looks for better ways to clean hard-to-wash projects. As for the future, he adds: “We are looking to add strategic locations that will better link the supply chains of North America. We know the competition is intense, but we believe our terminal network, resources in technology, and environmental expertise will position QualaWash to be an industry leader for years to come.”
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