Mike Jones is vice president at MicroCare Corp., a leading global manufacturer of precision cleaning, coating and lubrication products based in New Britain, Connecticut. The company supplies cleaning products to a variety of industries such as electronics, metal finishing, transportation, photonics, medical devices and aerospace. Jones graduated from Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and received his master’s degree in marketing and statistics from Columbia University. We caught up with him to discuss the latest news in precision cleaning.
PF: The phase-out of the last major ozone-depleting solvent HCFC-225 has begun. How has this affected the industry, especially customers who are looking for alternatives?
MJ: This is a big, big deal for many of our customers. Let’s face it, HCFC-225 was a great product: nonflammable, no aroma, easy to use and reasonably priced. Customers really appreciate that kind of value proposition. But HCFC-225 is an ozone-depleting substance, so its time has come. Customers have had more than a decade to make any adjustments but, sadly, many companies have left the change-out to the last minute. We’re working with them to help transition to the ozone-safe alternatives. The good news is that for most of these customers there are drop-in solvent replacements they can use with their existing cleaning machinery. This makes switching to ozone-safe cleaners good for the budget and good for the planet.
PF: What’s your view on the economics of water-based cleaning?
MJ: They are falling, and faster than most people think. While water-based cleaning definitely has its place in the rainbow of cleaning options, it is not the “green” panacea many people claim. It certainly is not the answer for every cleaning application. Water cleaning generally requires large and expensive machines, including their water treatment systems, which dominate expensive floor space. Water cleaning requires large quantities of expensive detergents and then expensive waste water treatment systems to pull those detergents out of the waste stream. Aqueous systems use lots of electricity, which is very expensive and contributes significantly to global warming. Water cleaning generally is slower than solvent cleaning, and is unable to handle the tight stand-offs and micro-apertures we see on electronics and mechanical devices today.
PF: What other issues will those concerned with parts cleaning be facing in the near future?
MJ: The world of the 21st century will be shaped not by conflicts over oil or mineral resources, but by the availability of water. Water scarcity is a huge and global issue, and one with no easy answers. Here in the U.S., the Western area is suffering the longest, deepest drought in recorded history, but California—basically a desert climate—uses 25 percent of its land area to irrigate 250 different crops, some of which are highly water-intensive. The northern half of China struggles with enormous water shortages: The water table in Beijing has dropped more than 1,000 feet in the past 20 years due to population growth and wasteful policies. Central India has hundreds of millions of people without access to sufficient water, and sub-Saharan Africa is equally stressed. Water’s importance to political and social stability can only deepen. This is one of the key reasons why an aqueous cleaning system may not be the best choice: It’s a sloppy way to use a very precious resource, and sooner or later, supplies will be restricted as more urgent uses are awarded higher priority.
PF: What’s the best piece of advice you were given?
MJ: Years ago as a newly-minted MBA, I was working in marketing at a division of AT&T. After listening to one of my reports in a large meeting, my vice president offered a sage precaution: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” It was a forehead-slapping moment. Since then I have been determined to get the best data, the best research and the best analyses to guide and support every decision.
PF: What did you want to be when you grew up?
MJ: A pilot. Today, I own a Cessna.
PF: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
MJ: My first job was working as a “yard bird” at a concrete factory in Connecticut. The company made huge concrete castings that weighed tons and, when bolted in place, became the exteriors of skyscrapers. There was a small group of us who polished the castings and made their surfaces smooth by rubbing cement into any little bubble or scratches. It was a grueling job, ten hours a day, and working under the summer sun on those concrete stones the temperature would climb to 140˚F. From this long broiling summer, I learned how some guys would only work when the boss was watching. I learned how great a cold beer tastes after all day working in the sun. I learned a lot about safety. I also learned that, at least then, girls really liked guys with great tans.
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