Fluid Management Improves Efficiencies

By Paul Treml, Matrix Business Development Manager at Graco’s Lubrication Equipment Division

Effectively manage bulk inventory and reduce shop costs

Fluid management is critical to keeping costs low in vehicle service applications, as it tracks the dispense of oils, coolant, antifreeze, and other fluids. Effective fluid management in fleet vehicle service, automotive, heavy truck, and heavy equipment can reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies, while generating helpful data about dispense history. Complete engineered systems effectively deliver these benefits, as components are designed to work together to deliver the most accurate data possible.

Why choose fluid management?

Efficient fluid management systems allow fleet vehicle service shops to control expenses by effectively managing their inventory of fluids such as oils, gear lube, coolant and antifreeze. One benefit offered by fluid management systems is that metering can ensure the dispense of precise volumes, avoiding costly mistakes. With this added control, facilities are able to capture additional savings by purchasing fluids in bulk. With an increasing number of vehicles on the road today requiring expensive synthetic oils rather than conventional ones, precise dispense and inventory management is key to keeping costs down.

With the large volume of fluid being stored and dispensed, inventory accuracy and shop efficiencies are critical for expense management. Effective fluid management systems provide parts managers with the information necessary to order enough fluid at the right time.  With inventory available, technicians have less downtime and are able to spend more time servicing vehicles. In the same way, fluid management systems can track volumes of used or wasted fluids, ensuring that disposal is timely to avoid the hassle of full waste containers. 

Another critical reason for implementing a high-quality fluid management system is the ability to recall transaction data. The detailed dispense history provided can help shop managers in visualizing production and discovering patterns or workflow roadblocks in order to improve efficiency. Additionally, having fluid dispense history can provide an audit trail showing the date, time, type of fluid, and how much fluid was dispensed for a particular vehicle, confirming that the correct oil was used or the proper volume replaced.

In short, fluid management systems deliver a range of benefits to fleet vehicle service shops, including increased inventory control, greater dispense precision, improved operational efficiency, and detailed dispense history.

Components of a fluid management system

Before discussing the benefits of fluid management systems further, it is important to establish what is meant by “fluid management system,” for the purposes of this article. The Graco Matrix® Total Fluid Management System™ is an example of such a system, and can be used to model both the necessary and optional components of a fluid management system and their impact.

There are a number of components that, while not technically part of the fluid management system, are critical to dispense. Among these is a reliable pump, such as a Graco Fire-Ball® 300 Series oil pump. The pump, along with hose reels, diaphragm pumps for waste oil evacuation, and other material handling equipment, are central to the actual dispensing and disposal of the materials being monitored by the fluid management system.

With the Graco Matrix system, the only components necessary for functioning are the Matrix software and transceiver coupled with either a Matrix Meter and/or tank level monitor. The system is a Windows-based software that can be configured easily by users to suit any particular dispense environment. Given that no two fleets are the same, it is important for end-users to be able to configure their system to meet their needs. 

The transceiver is connected back to the user’s PC and functions as a wireless hub specifically for the Matrix system. Up to eight transceivers can be configured in a single system, providing flexibility to shops of all sizes. The secure network set up by the transceiver(s) ensures that the Matrix system functions without relying on the shop’s existing wireless network. This wireless setup makes installation less costly and labor-intensive than that of wired systems.

Nearly every one of the thousands of Matrix systems installed globally use the Graco Matrix Meters. This smart meter gives technicians the ability to control pin codes, work orders, dispense authorization, and dispenses from within the service bay, saving time and improving efficiencies. The pre-set functionality allows the meter to shut-off automatically when a predetermined amount of fluid has been dispensed.

Other components available through the Matrix system include pump air control and tank level monitors. The pump air control is integrated into the system in order to improve security and eliminate the risk of unauthorized or unintentional dispenses. More importantly, it ensures that if there is a leak after hours, the risk or loss is minimized as the pump will not activate therefore protecting the bulk supply.  

The tank level monitors are designed for both supply and waste tanks, and can be set up to check fluid levels on a schedule, automatically measuring the tank levels and reporting them to the designated contacts. The monitors have automatic email capability, and can notify both internal management and either fluid suppliers or oil recyclers in the event of supply tanks nearing empty or waste tanks nearing full.

Cost savings and improved efficiency

Well-designed systems such as the Matrix can answer the “five Ws” for every dispense job: who performed the dispense, what specific fluid was dispensed, where in the facility this dispense took place, when it occurred, why (i.e., which work order and customer record the dispense was tied to), and even how much fluid was dispensed. 

The complete picture offered by top-quality fluid management systems gives insight into how to improve shop efficiencies and with this kind of comprehensive data, you can make smart business decisions about inventory and process. In combination, the data, system efficiency, and precision dispensing make fluid management critical to managing costs and ensuring success in fleet and municipality vehicle service applications.

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