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Ford Vegetable-based Metalworking Fluids


Move to a single, sustainable metal-working fluid.


Ford Motor Company uses between 20-30 million litres of soluble metal cutting fluid globally every year, primarily in the manufacture of engines and transmissions.

Until 1999, more than 99% of this fluid was based on mineral oil technology, and there were more than 25 suppliers of fluids to Ford Powertrain Operations providing over 200 different products worldwide. There were few common products or management systems. This represented a major chemicals and waste management problem.

The challenge was to dramatically reduce the complexity of the operations while meeting all the complex technical requirements for metal-working fluids including:

  • Tool-life
  • Surface finish/quality
  • Environmental impact
  • Cost
  • Compatibility with work environment
  • Bio-stability
  • Foaming
  • Operating concentrations/toxicology


Working with established Tier 1 supplier Houghton International, Ford selected a two-phase metal-working lubricant /coolant based on vegetable oil.


Lower operating concentrations – lower costs and lower exposures
Safer compared to single phase semi-synthetics
Superior technical performance
20% overall cost reduction despite higher cost per litre
Renewable feedstock
Waste can be burned as a renewable energy source
Compatible with waste water treatment plants
2 million litre reduction in emulsion use
Cleaner swarf and cleaner shop-floor
Longer system life
Predicted saving at the Bridgend plant of up to 40%
Potential saving of US$250,000 per tear at the Bordeaux transmission plant

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