NEWS AND EVENTS

Spark Continuous Improvement with the Boron Quality Lab

:: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 :: Posted By Fred Ascherl

Since its beginnings in 1872, U.S. Borax has been a pioneer in the use of borates across a wide range of industries and applications. Over time, as new uses for borates were developed, it became essential to differentiate products by type and ensure each product had the correct level of boron for its intended use.

In addition, preventing variation is paramount for manufacturers across industries.

Manufacturers need to be able to trust the consistency of their raw materials source—and trust the reliability of their supplier. To provide those assurances, U.S. Borax has a dedicated Quality Lab onsite at its mining and refining site in Boron, California.

What is the role of the Quality Lab in manufacturing quality control?

To ensure that manufacturers and end customers can trust the quality and consistency of the products they receive, the Quality Lab runs 24/7 and supports every aspect of Boron mine operations, start to finish.

If you ever have the chance to visit the U.S. Borax mine in Boron and tour the Quality Lab, you’ll get an enthusiastic reception from the team members, who are justifiably proud of the work they do. The lab itself, in operation at the Boron mine site since the 1950s, is a state-of-the-art testing facility—and it’s the hub of quality data analysis for the entire plant.

U.S. Borax Operations video

Learn more about the value of quality control at our production facility in Boron.
 

Across industries and applications, its essential that manufacturers are able to trust the purity, quality, and consistency of the borate components that go into their processes. The glass industry was one of the first to need boron product testing because glassmaking uses boron in specific rates and amounts.

The Quality Lab rapidly expanded its focus to be able to deliver quality assurance to any industry. In most manufacturing processes, a variation in boron content, solubility, or integration into a product can cause dramatic changes in the end product’s effectiveness.

The Quality Lab supports the mine’s comprehensive quality management program, which is certified to the rigorous ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System Standard. The lab’s primary functions include:

  • Resource model matching: Before ore is mined, the lab processes test samples to ensure that ore meets the quality standards required for 20 Mule Team® Borax products. This “pre-screening” step helps ensure mining operations are as efficient as possible and that the ore we take out is going to be usable in our processing plants.

  • Processing plant quality testing: U.S. Borax refined borates are produced using a multi-step process that’s significantly more extensive than production of a “raw mineral” product—and more highly managed. Plant operations personnel employ quality management best practices at every stage of the refining process continuously ensure consistency and quality of the products produced.

    At each stage, operations personnel collect samples for in-process analysis. The Quality Lab provides rapid analysis through titration testing, and delivers those results to operators on the processing line. Operators can use that data in real time to adjust the process, prevent variation, and mitigate the risk that any sub-standard product reaches customers. A final sampling and analysis step is performed for every finished product.

  • Packaging verification and traceability: The quality lab performs additional final checks on packaged products to ensure shipped products meet both internal and customer standards. Every lot code is analyzed and traceable. And, every shipped product is provided with a Certificate of Analysis to confirm the product that customers get is what they need to work in their specific process. Customers put a high degree of trust in that certification, using it to help speed their intake process and improve efficiency.

  • Sample validation: On rare occasions, the Quality Lab receives a request from a customer to re-analyze a product sample. These quick-turn analyses help customers who may be looking for a root cause of an issue or variation in their operations.

Through all these levels of support, the Quality Lab verifies the reliable quality of U.S. Borax products—and validates the trust our customers place in us.

Two labs at Boron: Quality Lab and the Pilot Plant

In addition to the Quality Lab, Boron is also home to the Pilot Plant, a specialized research lab focused on development of new products and applications. In addition, Pilot Plant scientists assist customers with product and formulation research.

The Pilot Plant team seeks new and innovative uses for borates in improving modern living. They are also focused on continually improving U.S. Borax operations. For example, the Pilot Plant team has been instrumental in developing a process for extracting lithium from waste rock at the Boron mine—an environmentally responsible way to provide this highly strategic element.

The team brings a broad range of experience with both 20 Mule Team Borax products and the vast range of industries and applications those products are used in. That makes them a valuable resource for customers looking for specialized research or help with development of borate-related formulations for their products.

Lifelong commitment to continuous improvement

The Quality Lab and Pilot Plant are staffed with experts who bring decades of experience and a lifelong passion for quality.

That longevity may sound like a simple thing, but when you’ve been part of an organization for your whole career, you feel that you’re a part of it. These professionals don’t just look at the day-to-day details of their jobs. They have a higher perspective that enables them to see the long-term value of providing an essential service to our customers.
 

Resources

U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 500 customers with more than 1,700 delivery locations globally. We supply 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto

Copyright © 2019 Rio Tinto. All Rights Reserved.