Somewhere along the way, maybe half a lifetime ago, I got involved in photography on a semi-professional basis. I photographed a bunch of weddings and also spent a lot of time cruising around back roads taking pictures of birds, colored leaves, snow banks, flowers and whatever else I thought was interesting that got in the way of the camera. Some of the resulting pictures were really quite good – – every now and then even a blind frog catches a fly! Of course, I was always anxious to show off my work but frequently heard comments like, “I could take pictures like that if I had your cameras” or, “Wow, those are great! You must have some very expensive equipment!” I thought it interesting that the majority of admirers credited the quality of the equipment employed much more readily than they did the artistic ability of the photographer in creating a striking photograph. In fact, I didn’t have the “best” equipment that was available (I couldn’t afford it) so there had to be a little more to it than that!
The mindset, however, seems to be quite common and pervasive. In the world of industrial cleaning, there also seems to be a perception that there is a direct correlation between the expense or complexity of the cleaning hardware and the level of cleanliness it provides. In fact, the hardware is only one of many factors in the equation. Clearly, there is a level at which the addition of some important features will increase the capability of the hardware and, undoubtedly, provide the potential for better cleaning results. Upgrades to flow rates, spray coverage, ultrasonic power, filtration, for example, obviously fall into this category. There is a point, however, when adding features may not necessarily increase capability and, in fact, may be detrimental to the overall success of the cleaning process. Adding redundant temperature sensors, for example, has little or no effect on the ability of the system to perform its primary function of cleaning parts.
In industrial cleaning, just like in photography, the overall result is the combination of several efforts. Cleaning hardware is important, but even the BEST hardware, if not properly applied, may provide less than spectacular results. In most cases, more sophisticated, complex and, yes, probably expensive hardware increases the potential for human insufficiencies. Many hardware features are specifically intended to minimize the potential for human error. However, these features are only effective if the parameters they monitor have been properly assigned and adjusted. I have seen far too many cases of hardware that is so complex as to be beyond the ability of operators to understand (let alone control) with the result that well-intentioned hardware becomes a liability rather than an asset.
In summary, a complex or expensive cleaning machine is only as effective as the people who maintain and operate it. When investing in cleaning hardware, make sure there is an overall plan to support that investment and the overall process. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the cleaning machine will do the job by itself. Remember, even a $10 million racecar won’t win a race without a driver. There’s a lot more to it.