Every vehicle maintenance or repair facility purchases fluids that their vehicles will require to run properly. Whether you are topping off or changing fluids to maintain a fleet of 350 trucks or doing quick oil changes on your customers cars, you are looking for the most cost effective and efficient way to get the fluid to the vehicle. Designing your fluid delivery system is critical to efficiently operating your facility.
Fluid delivery systems can be broken up into four sections:
- Fluid Source /Containment–
- Dispensing Point
When designing a fluid delivery system, it is best to break it down into sections to make it easier to consider your different options. I like to go in the order listed above, beginning with:
This is the starting point of the system and determines how you will select the other three sections. The type containment is determined by the type of fluid how much you need. This could be a drum, plastic tote or tank. When it comes to sizing your tank, consider your fluid consumption – how much are you using monthly? You’ll also want to consider how much it costs you for a delivery. Also, what kind of fluid are your storing? If it has any caustic qualities, you want to make sure the container is rated to hold it. Once you have established size and type, consider the dimensions of the area where the fluids will be housed. There are many shapes, heights, and depths you can choose from. Lastly always make sure whatever choose to store your fluid in, make sure it has double containment. If it is a tank, make sure its double wall and if it is a drum make sure you have a secondary spill containment system.
With the locations of the fluid and containments figured out, the next step is the figure out your end dispensing points. There are a few determining factors with this. The first being how many bays do you have in your shop and the second is how often are the fluids being accessed? These are important to considered because there two main options. The first being a fluid reel that can be mounted in or near a bay so that a technician can have quick access to pull it down and dispense from a fluid gun. This is the fastest and most efficient option, but also the more expensive upfront. The second option is a place a fluid bar in a centralized location in your shop where technicians and use the spigots mounted on the bar to pour the fluids into a jug and carry it back to the vehicle. The downside to this is the amount of time it takes the tech to walk over and fill up a jug and walk back to the bay. The upside is your reducing the cost of mounting multiple reels in each bay. To circle back it comes down to size and frequency of use. Reels save time and money with high volume fluids and efficiency of techs time, but fluid bars make more sense for lower volume fluids, so the foot traffic and less frequent or a small shop where the technician is walking a short distance.
Once you have worked out the where and how you are storing the fluids, it is time to consider the type of pump you will need to deliver the fluid to your end dispense point. The factors that come into play are type of fluid, distance of travel and amount of dispense points. Fluid type matters because of the viscosity of the fluids. At the high end, you have a grease which requires a tremendous amount of pressure and a higher ratio pump like a 55:1 vs. washer fluid which is watery and may only require a 1:1 diaphragm pump. Distance of travel is also plays a large because you want to make sure the pump you choose has the rated pressure to push the fluid it is pumping to its destination at consistent flow rate (usually in the 2-4 gallon/minute range). This also true with the amount of dispense points. You want to make sure the tech at the farthest dispense point in the shop is getting the same flow rate as the tech at the closest to the pump, and factor in the number of simultaneous dispenses you need. The size and rating of the pump will dictate the allowable distance and number of dispense points you can reach.
Piping & Tubing
With the fluid storage location, location and type of dispense points and the right size pumps to cover the distance from a to b, we need piping/tubing for the fluid to travel in. This portion of the system can often be overlooked. There are a lot of options to consider. The first being whether you use pipe or tubing. Both are acceptable, the PEI (Petroleum Equipment Institute) recommends tubing for lubricants, but the important factors of each are diameter, working pressure and material. Diameter is important because it can play a factor into flow rate of the fluids. How much fluid can travel through at a given time and reduce or increase back pressure in your system. Working pressure is extremely important because depending on the pump ratio and fluid type you want to make sure the pipe or tubing can handle the pressure the fluid is putting out as it travels through. It can be dangerous and messy if a pipe bursts or splits. Lastly what the piping or tubing made of is important because like when you are selecting a tank you want to make sure the fluid you are running does not have caustic qualities. If it does, you need to make sure that the piping or tubing is rated to hold that type of fluid.
In conclusion the four sections you need to consider when designing a fluid delivery system are:
- Fluid Containment- consider type of fluid, consumption of fluid and area it is being stored
- Dispensing points- frequency of use and size of shop will help determine the best option
- Pumps- fluid type, viscosity, distance and flow rate will help you chose the right style and ratio
- Piping/Tubing – Consider diameter for flow rate, working pressure for safety and material that is rated for fluid you are running through it.