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Agave cores used to make tequila (Photo by Stan Shebs via Wikimedia  Commons)

Agave cores used to make tequila (Photo by Stan Shebs via Wikimedia Commons)

Soon the plastic used to make the air conditioning units, storage bins, and wiring harnesses in Ford vehicles could come from an unlikely source: Jose Cuervo Tequila.

The giant Dearborn, Michigan, based automaker announced July 12 that it was partnering with the Mexican tequila company to explore ways agave plants left over from the spirits-making process can be reclaimed to make sustainable bioplastic parts on Mustangs, Explorers, F-150 pickup trucks, and other Ford vehicles.

Inexpensive, Lightweight, and Plentiful

Agave is a type of cactus that is the primary ingredient in tequila. Jose Cuervo currently harvests between 200 and 300 tons of agave per day, shredding, mashing, and extracting the plant’s juice to make its titular alcohol product.

Currently, most of the leftover byproduct from the tequila manufacturing product has been waste products. But Jose Cuervo recently sent treated fibers to Ford, whose research and development team was able to chop it up and compound it into a lightweight, durable plastic, Ford’s senior sustainability leader Debbie Mielewski recently told the website Tech Crunch.

The researchers discovered that plastic made from agave is very durable and could be perfect for use in some of the interior and exterior auto parts on Ford vehicles. It’s also very lightweight, which could reduce overall vehicle weight and improve gas mileage.

Plant-Based Auto Parts

If agave is used to make auto parts, it won’t be the only plant used in Ford vehicles. Currently, the company uses eight sustainable-based materials for car parts, including soy foam, wheat straw, castor oil, kenaf fiber, cellulose, wood, coconut fiber, and rice hulls.

For example, Ford has used soy foam in the headrests and seat cushions of all of the vehicles sold in North America. The soybean-based product first replaced stuffing made from petroleum oil back in 2008. Now, about four million pounds of soy oil are used every year.

Ford also uses wheat straw in the Flex SUVs the company builds at its assembly plant in Oakville, California.

Transforming Wastes to Raw Materials

Right now, Ford is experimenting with fast-growing plants like bamboo and algae that can be used to make “green” plastic parts in its vehicles.

Researchers also are looking into converting carbon dioxide waste — the culprit behind greenhouse gas emissions that are adding to the hole in the planet’s ozone layer — into foams that could be used to make plastics used on its cars and trucks.

About 400 pounds of plastics are used on a typical Ford vehicle, so the more of these that can be made from agave and other sustainable carbon-based plants, the better it will be for the environment.

 

 

 

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Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find coming up soon on the Bahrns blog:

  • Ford Motor Company has found an unusual source for some of its new auto parts: The Jose Cuervo Tequila factory. Yes, really. We’ll explain …
  • In the Know: Powered Industrial Trucks and some of the OSHA regulations involved with these industrial machines. Read part two …
  • Buying a lift table can improve your operations and make your business safer, more efficient, and more profitable. But in order to buy the right lift table, you have to ask the right questions. That’s where we can help …

All this and much, much more can be found coming soon on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!

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The growth of “cobots” — or collaborative robots that work side by side with human workers — in the material handling industry will be phenomenal in the next six years, according to a new report.

The report, titled “Global Material Handling Cobots Market by End-User, Application, and Region: Analysis and Outlook 2016 to 2022″, found that industrial manufacturers are set to used cobots for many of the material handling tasks currently performed by humans.

Cobots are small, more affordable, user-friendly, and provide more flexibility than traditional industrial robots, making them particularly appealing to small and medium-sized industrial manufacturers.

Amazon’s DC Robots

These type of collaborative robots already are widely used in many of Amazon’s distribution centers. The world’s largest retailer purchased the robotics firm Kiva in 2012 and since then has slowly been integrating 30,000 of the machines into 13 of its fulfillment centers.

Thanks largely to the use of cobots, Amazon has been able to reduce the average time between when a consumer orders products online to the time those products are picked, packed and shipped from 60 to 75 minutes down to just 15 minutes, according to a Deutsche Bank study.

The Amazon cobots are not only more efficient than human workers, but they take up less space, which can allow new distribution centers to be designed with more shelf space and less wide aisles. All new Amazon distribution centers will be built using the robotic technology.

Material Handling Applications

According to the report, cobots designed for material handling applications are expected to be the most widely used in industry.

Right now, the auto industry is the largest buyer of new material handling cobots, with most of the machines performing pick and place tasks formerly done by human workers.

Other industries expected to follow suit include electrical and electronics; machinery and metal; chemical rubber, and plastics; food and beverage, and others.

Most Popular Jobs for Cobots

Pick and place tasks are the most popular for cobots, according to the report. But other tasks include palletizing, packaging, and others.

Geographically, most cobots today are sold to businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, followed by Europe and North America. The strongest growth potential is in China and Southeast Asian countries, the report stated.

While cobots are expected to become more common in most industries for material handling tasks, there are some drawbacks, according to the report. Major challenges include safety concerns, the technological difficulty of improving payload capacity and speed of the cobots, and low penetration rates of industrial robots.

 

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If you are a warehouse manager, then you are well aware of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. government agency responsible for the safe use of powered industrial trucks also known as forklifts.

Forklifts can be dangerous if not properly used and maintained. OSHA Rule 1910.178 covers all aspects of the safe operation of a powered industrial truck. (Courtesy: Bryan Van Devender at flickr.com)

Forklifts can be dangerous if not properly used and maintained. OSHA Rule 1910.178 covers all aspects of the safe operation of a powered industrial truck.
(Courtesy: Bryan Van Devender at flickr.com)

The actual regulation that covers powered industrial truck use is OSHA Rule 1910.178, which provides a detailed explanation of all aspects of powered industrial truck use including:

·      Assignment of Responsibilities
·      Operator Training
·      Pre-Use Inspections
·      Operating Procedures
·      Fueling Procedures
·      Program Audit
·      Recordkeeping

We will be developing a series of articles that discuss the OSHA 1910.178 regulations. Each aspect listed above will be discussed so that warehouse managers are well aware of their responsibilities as far as OSHA rules on forklift use is concerned.

Assignment of Responsibilities

Of course, different warehouse executives and personnel have particular responsibilities in executing OSHA Rule 1910.178 including management, the program administrator, supervisor, and employees who operate the trucks. Here is a breakdown of those responsibilities.

Managements’ Responsibilities

·      Provide equipment that is safe to operate.
·      Discourage modifications to equipment except when authorized by the equipment manufacturer.
·      Provide adequate operator safety training on all equipment used to move materials.
·      Establish and enforce safe operating rules and procedures.

Responsibilities of the Program Administrator

·      Make certain that the equipment is safe to use.
·      Discourage modifications to equipment except when authorized by the equipment manufacturer.
·      Guarantee proper powered industrial vehicle/forklift training is offered and certify that each operator was trained and evaluated.
·      Create and enforce safe operating rules and procedures.
·      Conduct an annual review of the program.

Supervisor Responsibilities

·      Assign and identify employees who are responsible for operating powered industrial trucks.
·      Monitor the safe use of the equipment.
·      Make certain that no employees under their authority operate a powered industrial truck without proper certification.
·      Confirm that there is retraining of forklift operators when appropriate.
·      Make certain the equipment is inspected daily.
·      Make certain that damaged equipment is tagged “out of service” and removed from use.
·      Make certain that equipment is repaired when a malfunction occurs.

Employee Responsibilities

·      Operate only the equipment for which they were trained and authorized.
·      Perform daily pre-use inspections.
·      Report equipment damage or other unsafe conditions affecting the safe operation of the truck.
·      Attend training sessions
·      Follow all safety rules and operating practices.

(Next time: Training)

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3D Printer (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

3D Printer (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Daimler, the world’s largest truck maker, announced last week that it soon will begin printing spare parts for its vehicles on three-dimensional printers rather than building them in a factory and shipping them wherever they are needed.

The announcement marks a breakthrough in the new 3D printing technology, the first of many that are expected to be unveiled as the use of innovative printers become more widespread.

Auto Parts and More

Spare parts for cars, trucks and other vehicles are one of the first applications for the new printers, which use special lasers to melt powders into plastic, glass, metals, and even ceramics.

For years, Volkswagen has been using 3D printers in the process of “rapid prototyping”, in which company designers use the devices to print out experimental parts and assemblies during the development of new vehicles.

BMW has been experimenting with 3D printers since the 1990s, using the technology to make components for its high-end Rolls-Royce Phantom, including the luxury vehicle’s indicator light casing.

Push-Button Machine Tooling

But Daimler’s announcement is thought to be the first widespread use of the technology to get needed parts to service centers, dealerships and other places worldwide with literally the push of a button.

The truck company will build printed spare parts using a selective laser sintering (SLS) process that use spare parts numbers to build parts for trucks, even vehicles that are several decades old or out of production altogether.

Not only will printing parts save money on shipping and delivery, but it also is expected to cut production costs by 25 percent to 45 percent, according to management consultant Roland Berger.

Other Industries Already Using Technology

The aircraft industry has been using 3D technology for many years. The US Navy uses 3D printers to create spare parts for its ships at sea, as well as for aircraft. For example, the damaged nose of a Harrier jet can be replaced with a 3D printed part even if the aircraft carrier is thousands of miles from the nearest port.

Spare parts may be just the beginning of the applications for 3D printing in the auto and truck industry. BMW has said that it plans to use the technology to make personalized vehicle parts for its customers in the future.

Some experts predict that within the next decade, homes equipped with 3D printers, raw materials and design software eventually will be able to build everything from clothing to consumer electronics, from cookware to furniture. And the places that are now used to manufacture these products eventually will become obsolete.

Those goods that can’t be built practically in the home could then be produced locally, reducing the need for large, centralized manufacturing plants.

 

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Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories coming up on the Bahrns blog:

  • An auto part on one of your delivery trucks needs to be replaced. But rather than going down to the auto parts store, you simply go to your laptop, hit the print button and take the part off your 3D printer. Futuristic fantasy? No, it’s already happening. We’ll explain …
  • Powered Industrial Trucks and some of the OSHA regulations involved with these industrial machines. Read Part One …
  • Many of the materials handling jobs currently being performed by human workers could be turned over to robots … within the next six years, according to a new report. We’ll give you the details …

All this and much, much more can be found coming up on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!

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Cigarette SmokingWhile the number of people smoking in the US has dramatically decreased in the past decade, there are still millions of smokers who are risking their health and life as a result of their addiction to nicotine. They also could be costing your business real dollars and cents.

According to a survey of more than 29,000 workers by the American Productivity Audit, tobacco use was a leading cause of worker lost production time — higher than both alcohol abuse and family emergencies.

Real Dollars and Cents

One major corporation found that their employees who smoked had more hospital admissions than workers who didn’t smoke: 124 per 1,000 workers vs 76 per 1,000 workers. Smoking employees also had higher average insured payment for health care than non-smokers — $1,145 vs. $762 — during an 11-month period.

If your business is covering some or all of your workers’ health insurance costs, that’s real money coming out of your bottom line.

As of 2014, 28 states have banned smoking in all enclosed public places. Many retail businesses also have banned indoor smoking, including many that most people would normally associate with smokers in the past, such as bars, restaurants and casinos.

Designated Smoking Areas

Yet many companies still allow workers to smoke on their property. Perhaps in the interest of employee relations, many businesses continue to provide employees who smoke either indoor smoking break rooms or outdoor areas where they can light up away from non-smoking co-workers.

Eliminating this employee benefit may be detrimental to employee morale — at least among those workers who still smoke — but companies can help improve the health of their workers as well as boost their own profitability by encouraging employees to quit smoking.

A Low-Cost, High-Profit Investment

Promoting cessation assistance to workers who smoke is one of the most cost-effective benefits you can offer your employees.

Things you can do to improve the chances of your employees quitting smoking include:

  • Distributing a list of local cessation programs
  • Post toll-free hotline numbers such as 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669)
  • Post the link www.smokefree.gov for quit tips, information, and other free resources
  • Providing free self-help materials
  • Organizing free onsite support groups for people trying to quit smoking
  • Offering free or reimbursed smoking cessation programs onsite or with local health care providers

Initiate the Conversation about Quitting

In some instances, health care providers may even help pay for counseling and medication for smokers trying to quit. Check with a representative of your business’s health care provider to find out.

Creating a dialogue about smoking can also help motivate smokers to make positive changes in their lives. One recent survey found that 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit. Your encouragement may be all it takes to get them to take the next step.

 

 

 

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traffic control devicesWorkplace accidents are bad for business. Not only can they result in hospital bills, reduced productivity, and a disruption in the workflow, but they also can attract attention from federal safety officials, demoralize other employees, and create a toxic work environment.

Avoiding workplace accidents like vehicle collisions with people and property and tip over accidents should be a priority for all businesses. Bahrns.com features a variety of traffic control products that can instantly improve the safety of your operation and improve the quality of life at your workplace.

Here are five of the least expensive and most effective:

Plastic Speed Bumps

Truck drivers, forklift operators, and others who are traveling too fast over your business’s driveways and pathways pose a danger to themselves and others. If repeated requests for drivers to slow down aren’t working, stop giving them a choice.

Instead, install plastic speed bumps that force vehicles to slow down or risk violent bumping that can cause damage to their vehicles or loads. Just remember to post warning signs indicating that the speed bumps are there in the first place.

Traffic Cones 

Directing traffic where you want it to go is simple when you use affordable orange plastic traffic cones. Drivers who want to avoid striking these cones will go wherever you tell them to go.

But don’t worry. Even if they are accidentally run over, these durable vinyl traffic cones are usually as good as new.

Poly Parking Stops

Parking berms stop vehicles from running over lawns and other areas where you don’t want them. But concrete parking berms are costly, difficult to install, and almost impossible to move.

Plastic parking stops offer an affordable, lightweight alternative that can be used practically anywhere. Ideal for temporary parking or permanent parking lots, poly parking stops can be picked up and placed wherever and whenever you need them.

Safety Flags

One of the fastest and most effective ways to get traffic to flow the way you want is to post a person with a bright orange safety flag.

Simple, inexpensive yet effective, orange plastic flags will get the attention of drivers every time.

Traffic Signs

Getting a new stop sign or other traffic sign installed on a public street can sometimes take an act of Congress … or at least the local city council But on your private property, you make the rules.

That means you can install traffic control signs anywhere you want and drivers are required to obey them.

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Research can identify waste in your forklift fleet. (Courtesy:

Research can identify waste in your forklift fleet.
(Courtesy: U.S. Department of Defense at flickr.com)

So far we have discussed identifying and measuring waste in the battery room, how proper battery rotation can help to reduce waste, and properly watering batteries. In this article we will discuss right sizing of the battery room.

When we refer to “right sizing of the battery room,” we are not referring to the actual size of the room. We are talking about having the proper number of batteries in the battery room to service a warehouse’s forklift fleet. You want to avoid having more batteries than you need or fewer batteries then you need to service your fleet.

A battery room management system will assist you in determining the proper number of batteries to have in the battery room to ensure efficient productivity.

What you want to measure is battery availability at any given time. This include when there are more batteries than needed, when the battery room is running out of available batteries, the length of cool down time, and battery cycles per week.

Many management systems that use the cloud automatically report the state of charge data. Appropriate people in the warehouse can get reports via the Internet.

Some management system includes a subscription to a web-based service that stores these reports. These reports can verify that there is a proper number of batteries to service a warehouse’s forklift fleet.

The system can also result in faster and less frequent battery changes, longer battery run times, increased battery life and increased productivity. Using a battery room management system can save warehouses as much as $100,000 or more a year.

While you’re at exploring more ways to save on warehouse operations, you should also consider the forklift. For example, there are forklift fleet optimization systems (FOS) that provide such data as the basic status of batteries and forklift maintenance. Knowing this information can help a warehouse save even more.

However, before exploring on ways one can save on the proper operation of forklifts, you should try to answer these questions:

·      Do I have too many or too few forklifts?
·      How many hours are the forklifts working per shift in a day?
·      Do we have the right mix of forklifts with the right capacities and functionality requirements?
·      How much are we spending on forklift maintenance?
·      Are operators properly maintaining forklift batteries?
·      How and when are we charging our forklift batteries?
·      At what point do we start replacing forklifts because of their growing maintenance expense?
·      Should we change out our older forklifts because of high maintenance costs and/or reliability issues?
·      Are our vehicle checklists being filled out properly to comply with OSHA regulations?
·      Have the credentials of the forklift operator expired?
·      Are there accidents that take place that are not reported?
·      Are there more damaged forklifts than previously?
·      Are operators lifting loads beyond the capacity of their assigned lifts?

Besides the battery room, don’t ignore your forklifts when considering cost savings. For most warehouses they are the largest capital expenditure and can become a major operational cost.

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This Weeks Bahrns Blog July 2016 Week 2

11 Jul 2016

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Here is a special sneak preview of some of the stories you will find coming soon on the Bahrns blog:

  • Collisions between vehicles and property, vehicles and people, and vehicles and other vehicles are among the leading causes of injuries and property damage at US businesses. We’ll tell you about five affordable, fast and easy ways to instantly improve traffic safety at your business …
  • How do you save space space and save money with your battery charging area and batteries? Here’s some helpful tips you might not be aware of …
  • Although most states have banned smoking in public places, many businesses still provide workers designated smoking areas on their properties. But investing in smoking cessation programs may make more sense from a profit/loss perspective …

All this and much, much more is coming soon on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!

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