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Environment industries archive


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Cleaner Production - High Pressure Water Jet System

Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd. replaced an excisting hot caustic paint stripping process, used for cleaning car skids, with a high pressure water jet system. This project has resulted in annual savings in the order of $300,000 from reduced chemical, energy and waste disposal costs. Significant improvements in paint quality were also achieved through the ability to clean the skids on a more regular basis than had been possible previously. This cleaner production success has given Ford the incentive to look for other opportunities to improve its environmental performance and reduce costs.


Ford is one of four Australian manufacturers of passenger vehicles and is a recognised Australian icon. The company operates an engine, stamping and casting plant at Geelong and an assembly plant at Broadmeadows, Victoria. In 1992, Ford participated in a Cleaner Production Demonstration Project managed by the Victorian Environment Protection Authority and Business Victoria. This project focused on the cleaning of the skids used for transporting car bodies through the paint shop at the Broadmeadows plant.

The Excisting Process

Ford uses approximately 1700 skids for transporting the cars through the assembly process. The bodies are assembled onto two main beams connected by hinged cross members called a skid. (The hinging allows the skid to be closed for easy transportation around the plant). As these skids pass through the painting operations, they are coated with paint and over time paint build up increases to the point where they require cleaning. In the past the skids were cleaned once every 18 months on average by immersion in hot caustic tanks. The tanks required large amounts of energy to maintain the required temperature. Heating was provided by steam generated in an on-site boiler. The heat losses from the system were estimated at 80 per cent.

Spray Painting a car Body

Spray Painting a car Body

Investigation of contamination sources in the painting process indicated that the skids were a significant source of dirt, and that an optimum cleaning cycle of three months was desirable. The hot caustic cleaning process was relatively slow and inefficient, and meant that the skids could not be cleaned as regularly as required.

Cleaner Production Initiative

A number of technologies were investigated to replace the caustic process, including shot blasting, sand blasting, fluidised bed stripping and chemical stripping. After careful consideration, a process utilising a high pressure jet of water operating at 15,000-20,000 pounds per square inch was chosen. The water jet undercuts the paint and lifts it off the skid. The paint residue, in the form of flakes and suspended particulate matter, is separated from the water by a filtration process and then disposed of in the general waste stream. The residual water is passed through the on-site trade waste treatment plant prior to disposal to sewer.

Skid cleaning using high pressure water

Skid cleaning using high pressure water

Since participation in the Cleaner Production Demonstration Program, Ford has implemented a number of initiatives at the Broadmeadows plant, including:

from 1998 to 1999, while improving vehicle finish quality.

The new application technology incorporates:

Additional reduction efforts in 1999 have resulted from employee awareness and rationalisation of assembly of passenger and light commercial vehicles on the same lines.

Advantages of the Process

There have been significant cleaner production benefits associated with implementation of the water-jet cleaning of the skids, as outlined in the following table below:

  Excisting Process Cleaner Production Initiative
Process Hot caustic dip hazardous to both operator and environment High pressure water blast cleaning
Environmental Impact High energy cost
High risk of chemical spill
Hazardous process
No chemicals used
No prescribed waste
Significant energy savings
2- 3% reduction in re-work
Production Rate (skids/day) 6 20
Cost of cleaning skid $186.00 $27.00

Other benefits include:

Economic Benefits
Cost $120,000
Annual Savings $300,000
Payback period 0.4 years

This has encouraged Ford to look at other areas where cleaner production practices can be implemented.

Cleaner Production Incentive

The Victorian Environment Protection Authority approached Ford about being involved in its Cleaner Production Demonstration Project in 1992. The objective of this project was to demonstrate to Victorian industry the range of cleaner production opportunities that are available, and the consequent cost savings that could be achieved. Participation in the Demonstration Project provided the incentive for Ford to look at the caustic stripping process - a process which was recognised as being inefficient and posing numerous health and safety risks.


The largest single barrier to cleaner production at Ford is communication. The large number of people employed at the Ford assembly facility means that conveying information about the quantities of waste generated and the costs to the organisation is always challenging. Empowerment of individual work groups is considered a key to implementation of cleaner production and a range of other workplace initiatives.


Henry Marszalek
Environmental Quality Office Asia Pacific
Ford Motor Company Ltd.
1735 Sydney Road
Campbellfield VIC 3061
Ph: (03) 9359 7914
Fax: (03) 9359 8949
Web site:

Casestudy implementation: 1997
Further developments: 1998, 2000

Casestudy initially prepared: January 1997 by the Australian Centre for Cleaner Production

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Last modified: May 2001