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Environment & Sustainability

AESYS Technologies: Advanced Boiler System Helps Ensure Clean Water in New York City

  • February 10, 2014

This great manufacturing, engineering, and construction story involving AESYS Technologies dates back to 2006, and is worth retelling because of the scope of the challenge that was met, and the importance of the product – clean water – involved in the project.

In New York City, the North River Water Pollution Control Plant was processing 170 million to 340 million gallons of raw sewage each day. Through the sludge-processing equivalent of wear and tear, the original process hot-water system pipes throughout the plant experienced serious corrosion and leaks. More than 10,000 gallons of hot water were being lost daily, and the plant was frequently forced into expensive piping system drain-downs to permit repairs to be made. The plant’s boilers were fatigued after operating at temperature differentials beyond their design capability.

A project team was assembled involving the New York Power Authority, AESYS Technologies, Harris/AECOM, and Dynamic Mechanical Constructors. A project of this scope could easily have shut down processing for four to six years, but through careful coordination between the plant managers and the companies involved in the project, it was achieved with no interruption of service.

AESYS Technologies provided four new boilers with boiler feedwater/deaerator and condensate transfer systems, blowdown tanks, and chemical-feed systems. More than 25,000 feet of welded hot-water distribution piping were installed. New approaches to technical challenges were developed to address the specific requirements of this project.  A deaerator system ensures feedwater oxygen removal to prevent future boiler corrosion.

The result is a low-pressure process steam-boiler plant controlled by a programmable lead-lag control system, with optimal operational-system redundancy going forward.

For more Great Manufacturing Stories, click here.

ExxonMobil: Jobs, Investment, and Waste-to-Energy Conversion at One of World's Top Petrochemical Hubs

  • February 6, 2014

One of the world’s largest and most integrated petrochemical hubs can be found around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In fact, ExxonMobil’s operations there include a refinery, chemical plant, plastics plant, resins facility, and polyolefins plant, plus a lubricants facility across the river in Port Allen. Together, the company’s local operations produce 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline and billions of pounds of petrochemical products every year.

Not surprisingly, ExxonMobil is the largest manufacturing employer in the state, with more than 5,000 employees and contractors. The Louisiana economy also benefits from 41,500 jobs supported indirectly by the company’s operations.

Between 2010 and 2013, ExxonMobil made nearly $1 billion in capital investments in Louisiana, according to Paul Stratford, manager of its Baton Rouge chemical plant. Such investments are necessary to ensure that the company remains in a position to respond to the needs of its customers. For example, ExxonMobil is now investing $215 million, split between a synthetic lubricants project in the chemical plant, and a center for manufacturing, blending, and distributing synthetic aviation oil in Port Allen.

The polyoelfins plant is noteworthy from a waste-to-energy perspective. In 1998, ExxonMobil purchased the plant, which produces high-density polyethylene and polypropylene used in making containers for food, shampoo, and detergents, as well as carpet backing, diapers, hospital gowns, automotive fuel tanks, hula hoops, shipping pallets and non-corrosive fuel tanks. The plant was one of the industry’s first to achieve ISO 9000 status.

The manufacturing process there uses steam produced by three boilers, which historically were fueled only by natural gas. Today, methane from a local landfill supplies 90 percent of the energy needed to operate one of the three boilers. Using this “waste gas” to provide energy at ExxonMobil and a second company, Novolyte, instead of burning the gas, is the equivalent, in terms of CO2 reduction, of removing 59,000 cars from the roads, according to local officials. That is a significant environmental benefit, thanks to the waste-to-energy project, which was implemented without any direct investment of taxpayer funds, after two years of R&D and an investment of $1.8 million by ExxonMobil.

Therein lies a Great Manufacturing Story of jobs, capital investment, and emissions reductions. For more great stories, click here.  

McCormick Spices: Great Taste Starts with a Commitment to R&D

  • January 9, 2014

It would be hard to find a company that does more to bring life to the taste of food than McCormick Spices, whose products can be found in residential and commercial kitchens around the world. McCormick is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2014 with its annual Flavor Forecast, new recipes, videos, and opportunities for its customers to share their ideas.  

The company was founded in Baltimore. Today, it operates plants in Hunt Valley, Maryland; Gretna, Louisiana; South Bend, Indiana; Atlanta, Georgia; Irving, Texas; and London, Ontario; and one in Mexico, as well as a number of plants overseas. About 40% of sales come from non-U.S. operations.

Consumers are often surprised when they learn how much R&D goes into the company’s products. McCormick typically will invest between $52 million and $58 million in R&D each year at its research labs and product-development facilities. These efforts focus on developing new products, improving existing ones, and finding ways to lower sodium and calories, to help consumers more easily comply with recommend dietary guidelines that often include reducing salt, fat, and added sugars. McCormick is also involved in studies of diets in a variety of global regions.

Through the years, McCormick has grown its business not only by developing its own products but also through acquisitions. Its purchase of A. Schilling of San Francisco in 1947, enabled distribution across the entire continent. Canada’s largest spice company, Gorman Eckert Ltd, was acquired in 1962. Then came a frozen-foods acquisition, Gilroy Foods, in 1973. McCormick added an interest in Old Bay seasonings in 1990 and purchased Lawry’s seasonings in 2008. Today, the company employs about 8,000 people worldwide.

Raw materials, such as peppers and onions, are sourced both locally and internationally. McCormick’s manufacturing processes are highly efficient, yet the company continually works to minimize waster. Instead of relying on landfills or incinerators, McCormick recycles its scrap metals, cardboard, office paper, plastics, and food waste whenever it can. The London, Ontario plant recycles nearly 45% of its solid waste, and the Monteux, France plant now recycles 75% of waste. Packaging is minimized whenever possible.

Spices, rubs, and seasonings make food more delicious, and in that process, bring people and even different cultures a little bit closer together. And that may be, as McCormick celebrates its 125th anniversary, the company’s greatest achievement of all!

Haws Corporation: Water Dispensers for the 21st Century

  • December 20, 2013

Luther Haws invented the water fountain in 1906. Today, the company that bears his name is a global leader in the hygienic dispensation of water.

Haws was a sanitation inspector for the City of Berkeley in 1906, when he saw school children drinking water from a shared tin cup. That observation inspired him to design and build the world’s first drinking fountain, with the Berkeley School Department his first customer. By the time California passed a state law banning the shared drinking cup in 1917, Haws already had a thriving manufacturing business.

The company began international operations in 1972, and moved its headquarters from California to Nevada, citing the latter state’s more favorable business climate, in 1996.

Today, Haws Corporation has manufacturing and assembly operations in Sparks, Nevada, where it employs several hundred workers; and in Brazil, Singapore, and Switzerland, allowing it to efficiently serve global markets. The company remains family owned.

Drinking fountains and electric water coolers remain a part of the product line. Hygienic, eco-friendly, touch-free Brita hydration stations (which allow one to fill a cup or bottle with water without having to touch a knob or button) were introduced in 2010. The latter product delivers filtered water right from standard tap lines, and eliminates the need for bottled water. A single unit can eliminate the consumption of, on average, about 36,000 bottles of water per year, according to Tom White, the company’s president.

Emergency equipment has become another important product line for Haws. This includes eyewash stations and turnkey-tempered emergency drench showers that are American National Standards Institute (ANSI) compliant. Haws engineers are able to tailor these products for the specific needs of each customer, with a full line of mixing valves, tempered water solutions, recirculation systems, air-charged systems, and alarms available.

In terms of careers, Haws employs operations managers, electrical and mechanical engineers, plumbers, pipe-fitters, and service technicians, among others. Its customers include chemical and industrial facilities, government agencies, parks, education and cultural institutions, and even service businesses such as ski resorts. Among many awards, the company is a past winner of the Western Nevada Business of the Year by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada.

From Luther Haws’ pioneering, original invention to today’s company that offers award-winning products in 80 countries, this is another great story in the world of manufacturing and technology.

DuPont: Nurturing Careers in Science

  • December 19, 2013

Each year, Science magazine presents a list of the best employers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Employers are ranked on 23 variables, including financial performance, work culture, and academic and intellectual challenge. More than 3,500 scientists around the world are surveyed by the journal, which is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Among the companies so recognized, DuPont made the list in 2013 for the sixth year in succession. Across six continents, DuPont employs more than 10,000 scientists in the areas of biology, chemistry, materials science, and engineering. Science-driven innovation lies at the heart of the company’s long-term business strategy.

Through the years, their researchers and managers have introduced such ground-breaking technologies as  Teflon® coatings, Kevlar® fibers, Tyvek® house wrap, Nomex® thermal protection, Corian® kitchen surfaces, Plenish® soybean oil, and Sorona® renewably sourced fiber, among dozens of others.

Under the leadership of new Chair and CEO Ellen Cullman, DuPont is continuing its transition from traditional chemicals to a greater emphasis on food science, environmental protection, and renewable energy solutions. Science lies at the heart of the company’s focus. She and the company are encouraging high school and college students in the U.S. to study science, math, and engineering to ensure that companies like hers will be able to continue to conduct R&D activity in the U.S. long into the future.

DuPont believes that by collaborating with customers, governments, NGOs, and thought leaders, it will help find solutions to global challenges related to providing the world with enough food, decreasing dependence on fossil fuels, and protecting life and the environment. That focus means the emphasis on science and innovation at DuPont will be stronger than ever for many years to come.

PPG Industries: Innovation with Impact

  • December 17, 2013

Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries is a truly global company. Founded in 1883, it now manufactures in more than 40 countries and does business in more than 70. PPG’s products are concentrated in four categories: Paints and coatings, optical, specialty materials, and glass and fiberglass.

PPG’s corporate tagline is Bringing Innovation to the Surface, and in each of its divisions, the level of innovation is impressive.

In the coatings category, PPG serves industries including automotive, aerospace, marine, industrial coatings, and packaging coatings. In 2013, PPG expanded its Springdale, Pennsylvania plant to accommodate a new electronic materials manufacturing cell. The group manufactures graphene and nano-silver conductive links, which are innovative materials used in the automotive, telecommunications, and medical fields.

In the optical arena, PPG produces optical monomers and coatings, visors and goggles, photochromic dyes, and through a majority-owned joint venture, the Transitions photochromic lenses for eyeglasses.

PPG recently invested $9 million to expand its Barberton, Ohio plant, which makes optical casting resins for eyewear, coatings for passports and silica for a variety of paint and rubber products. The expanded plant will now make organic light-emitted diode (OLED) products. These thin, efficient lighting products are used in smart phones and televisions.

The PPG story began in the glass industry, and their innovation in that field continues today. For example, Dassault Aviation in 2013 announced it will use uniquely curved, lightweight glass windshields and side cockpit windows designed by PPG for the new Falcon 5X business jet. The custom-shaped windshield provides optimal pilot visibility, and uses the company’s Surface Seal coating to shed water. The windows are manufactured in Huntsville, Alabama.

Innovative glass from PPG is playing an important role in sustainable building, as well. The Bullitt Center, an office building in Seattle that has been called the “greenest” structure of its type in the world, features PPG’s Solarban low-emissivity glass and Starphire ultra-clear architectural glass. All of the building’s energy harvesting, water harvesting and treatment, and waste processing can be conducted on-site. Architects chose PPG’s glass product for its balance of thermal, solar control and lighting performance. Solarban is part of a curtain-wall system fabricated by Northwestern Industries in Seattle. Because of the large windows and high ceilings, the building draws 82 percent of its lighting needs from the sun.

PPG’s glass products were also employed at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which was selected for a 2013 Green Design Award. The project used three types of PPG glass to achieve the desired energy-efficiency objectives.

Much can be learned from any company that survives for 130 years, especially one that continues to be a global leader in its product categories. Innovation clearly is one of the driving forces in PPG’s continued success.

Dow Chemical: Green Chemistry Innovation

  • December 12, 2013

When the EPA awarded The Dow Chemical Company with a U.S. Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award honor in 2013, it marked the ninth time in 18 years that Dow and its affiliates have received such recognition. The award was established in 1996 to recognize organizations that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacture, and use. Selections are made each year by a panel of experts from the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute

The 2013 award recognized Dow technology, called EVOQUE pre-composite polymer technology, that is reducing the environmental impact of coatings such as paint. The technology improves rust resistance, while cutting the paint’s carbon footprint by more than 22 percent and water consumption by 30 percent. It is an example of innovation that benefits the environment while improving performance, reducing waste, and making good business sense.

Dow manufactures more than 5,000 different products at 188 factories in 36 countries. Its global workforce exceeds 54,000 people. The company believes that product and process innovation go hand-in-hand with sustainable business.

Rohm and Haas, which is now a division of Dow, received a Green Chemistry honor in 1996 for a product called Sea-Nine that controls the growth of plants and animals on ship hulls, which at the time was imposing $3 billion per year in extra fuel costs. Sea-Nine, which is applied like paint, replaced less effective products with toxic tin-containing materials.

In 2000, Dow won for a product called Sentricon that eliminates termites. Until 1995, the common approach to subterranean termite control involved placing insecticides into the soil surrounding a building to create a chemical barrier. Sentricon is a highly specific bait used only where termites are active. It has been used on hundreds of thousands of homes.

Dow and BASF jointly developed a better process for making propylene oxide, a chemical that is ubiquitous in industrial processes, such as the manufacture of detergents, food additives, and polyurethanes. The new process uses less water and substantially reduces the generation of waste in the production of propylene oxide, leading to a Sustainable Chemistry award in 2010.

More information about the Presidential Green Chemistry Award program can be found here.

Texas Instruments: Leading in NanoPower Harvesting Innovation

  • December 10, 2013

One of today’s most exciting emerging technologies is a process called NanoPower Harvesting. The goal of this technology is to harness unexploited energy in the environment and put it to practical use. Extensive R&D efforts are underway.

Here is how Texas Instruments (TI), a technological leader in this developing field, paints the picture: “Imagine a world in which we’re surrounded by wireless sensors that monitor environmental conditions such as air quality, and they all simply scavenge the power they need from sunlight and elsewhere. The first glimmer of that day is already here.”

NanoPower Harvesting can be defined as systems that extract and manage tiny amounts of power from ambient sources such as light, solar, thermal, electromagnetic, or vibration to supply the power for low-power devices with applications that may not be possible with traditional battery-powered systems.

One future application is likely to be using energy from human body heat to power sensors for medical and fitness monitoring purposes, according to TI. Another could be monitoring the condition of infrastructure, such as bridges and levees, where checking and changing batteries is not especially practical. Yet another application almost certainly will include wireless monitoring of HVAC and lighting smart-systems in factories, office buildings, and homes.

TI has already introduced a number of products in this space. One is the bq25504 Ultra Low Power Boost Charger. This product does not harvest energy, but it provides the vital connection between a harvesting device (such as a photovoltaic solar cell) and an end-use electronic device. It features a high-efficiency current boost charger/converter, user-programmable power point tracking, cold-start capability, and flexible energy storage options. It operates on only 330 nano-amps, which TI notes is the best in the industry.

There is another environmental benefit of this technology. By reducing the need for batteries or extending their life, there will be fewer batteries ending up in landfills.

When placed on a wireless sensor node with three commonly available integrated circuit components, the bq25504 can extract energy from ambient light and use it in applications such as powering a microprocessor. This application provides a hint of the exciting things to come, as product designers will develop other innovative uses that conserve energy and improve our quality of life. In the interim, the work that TI is doing to expedite the use of this technology is a Great Manufacturing Story.

Frito-Lay: Great Stories Behind an Iconic Brand

  • December 10, 2013

Frito-Lay is the leading manufacturer of snack-food, with seven of the ten most popular micro-snacks in the U.S. Consumers enjoy their products in 79 countries, and their billion-dollar brands include Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, Ruffles, Lays and Tostitos. Other popular brands include Rold Golds, Sun Chips, and Cracker Jack. Yet there is much more to Frito-Lay’s manufacturing story than what meets the taste buds.

The first thing that impresses people about Frito-Lay is often the scope and the efficiency of the business. The potatoes used in North America are harvested from 80 farms in 27 states. The time elapsed from potato farm to bagged snack food is often just 24 or 48 hours. The largest Frito-Lay facility is in Perry, Georgia, at nearly one million square feet. That plant alone operates 12 production lines and ships 64 million cases of chips each year to 18 states.

Based in Plano, Texas, Frito-Lay employs 48,000 people. Globally, the company operates an estimated 55 plants and 1,830 distribution centers. Frito-Lay has been part of the PepsiCo since 1965. Frito-Lay itself was the result of a 1961 merger of the Frito Company (founded in Texas in 1932) and the H.W. Lay Company (established the same year in Tennessee).  

Healthier Snacking. Consumers have become increasingly health conscious in recent years, and that is another part of the Frito-Lay story. The company now offers snacks in three categories: Healthy, Healthier, and Fun. It discontinued the use of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils in 2003. Its chips contain zero grams of trans fat per serving. In many global markets, they are using heart-healthier oils such as sunflower, corn, and soybean oil. Sunflower oil is used in the U.S., reducing the saturated fat content in chips by more than half. The company says that a serving of most of its snack chips includes no more sodium than a slice of white bread.

As an international company, Frito-Lay caters to different tastes from country to country. Accordingly, it offers alternative flavors and different snack products in Mexico, Brazil, Europe, Australia, and Asia. PepsiCo recently built R&D centers in China and Germany to explore, test, and develop new food products and variations that meet the expectations of these international customers.

Sustainability. Sustainability and environmental stewardship constitute another important part of the Frito-Lay story. Food-products manufacturing relies heavily on water and electricity. The company’s vision was to transform an existing plant as far off the electricity grid as possible, while producing no landfill waste. In 2011, Frito-Lay announced that its Casa Grande, Arizona plant had achieved near-net-zero status, as follows: The plant generates two-thirds of its electricity from renewable sources. A biomass boiler uses wood and agricultural waste as its source for combustion energy to produce steam, which reduces natural gas use by 80 percent. New technologies have reduced water usage by more than one-half. Less than 1 percent of waste goes to landfill, thanks to recycling and other measures.  The facility was the first to achieve the Green Building Council LEED Existing Building Gold Certification.

Drawing on what it learned in Casa Grande, Frito-Lay is working to reduce the environmental footprint of all of its plants, and to reduce fuel use in its fleet of trucks, as well. The Casa Grande plant won the 2012 U.S. Water Prize from the Clean Water Alliance, and the Beloit, Wisconsin site was honored in 2013 with a Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council Green Master award. Along with numerous other distinctions, the company also has 17 Green Building Council LEED sites in the U.S.

All of which affirms that you don’t need to choose between great tasting snacks and Great Manufacturing Stories.

Mannington Mills: Sustainability and a Commitment to the U.S.

  • November 15, 2013

Mannington Mills is a fourth-generation, family-owned business with nine locations and more than 2,000 employees worldwide. Based in Salem, New Jersey, the company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015. The company has seen rising demand for its flooring products, which include not only hardwood flooring and porcelain, but also rubber tile and luxury vinyl tile that are increasingly in demand in healthcare, educational, and industrial settings. Rubber flooring is increasingly popular because of its durability and comfort underfoot. Due to growing demand, the company has already added capacity at its San Jose, California, plant, and is expanding its Madison, Georgia plant by 45,000 square feet in a project that will be completed by 2016. More than 200 new jobs are expected once the new plant is operational.

The company’s executives see the expansion in Georgia, where it operates two plants that it purchased in 2012, as part of its own commitment to bring manufacturing of luxury vinyl tile back to the U.S. Eight of Mannington’s nine locations are in the U.S., with the other in Great Britain. In addition to Georgia and California, the company manufactures in New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, and Alabama..

No manufacturer survives for 100 years, through the up-and-down business cycles and changing trends in consumer preferences and industrial practices, without being innovative and focused on the long term. Mannington has developed new products and improved existing ones to help meet customers’ needs.

The company is also sharply focused on sustainability. When the company learned about the large amounts of drywall filling landfills, it redesigned its Premium Tile products to use pulverized gypsum reclaimed from construction projects. It also launched a program called LOOP, which recycles hundreds of tons of old flooring (vinyl composition tile) into new products that contain post-consumer recycled content. By 2012, Mannington had recycled more than 20 million pounds of tile.

Mannington’s laminate flooring generally has more than 70 percent recycled content by weight. Its core is made of high-density fiberboard, made from wood shavings and other waste, which is recycled and compressed.

Even engineered hardwood is more environmentally efficient than traditional hardwood, according to the company. With traditional wood flooring, planks are cut out of each log. With engineered hardwood, Mannington peels wood into sheets, which are bonded in cross-grain layers, with more renewable species used for inner piles. The result is a product that is less apt to warp or buckle.

With its Centennial coming in 2015 and a plant expansion set for completion in 2016, Mannington Mills is a Great Manufacturing Story.

To read more Great Manufacturing Stories, click here.