We live in a world that is growing ever conscious of the world around us, and a movement that is known as the green movement has been taking place in different aspects of society for the last few years. Manufacturing is no different as companies strive to lighten the load they put on the environment as well as keeping their costs down by operating in an energy efficient manner.
“Going green” has become a common marketable phrase across the globe. However “going green” has far greater advantages than just being a catchy marketing slogan, especially in the industrial manufacturing world. The goal of green manufacturing is to manufacture products in the most efficient way, while not compromising the environment in a negative manner. By reducing energy use and waste production a company can greatly decrease their impact on the environment all while continuing to provide high quality products for their customers.
In 2005 the market for ‘green’ building comprised a meager 2% of the construction industry at large. With the ensuing economic recession one might expect that such a small sector may have all but vanished. In truth, green building is bouncing back better than before. Much better. Recent reports suggest that this environmentally conscientious sector is now commanding as much as 30% of all new construction. Renovations are also turning to green products and processes which may increase the price slightly, but often improve the value dramatically in the eyes of the consumer market. Though ‘going green’ was once treated as a hippy-dippy-tree-hugger trend, its current stronghold on an otherwise stagnant industry proves that sustainable building may just be the answer to sustaining that very industry.
Climate change, environmental impact and carbon footprint. These are just a few of the phrases haphazardly thrown around nowadays to assert the need for recycling programs across the nation and around the globe. One phrase often overlooked, however, is economic recession. While many assign credit for the environmental movement to the men and women of the 1970s, the value of recycled goods was actually emphasized decades before that. It was the economic depression of the 1930s and 40s that brought conservation and recycling to the forefront of the American mind. The stock market crash made money scarce and the pair of World Wars that followed necessitated the rationing of goods. Rather than see this as a breaking point, Americans founded an industry, recycling.
Lean manufacturing-if you’re in industry, I’m sure you’ve been hearing this concept a lot in recent years. It claims to be a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste while at the same time, improving the product and maximizing customer value. While it may be true that the recession and mainstream environmental concerns may have something to do with Lean’s new found popularity, it’s actually not a new concept, but rather the business model of many established and successful companies, including Ford, Johnson & Johnson and Lantech. Lean has been in development the last 5 to 6 decades, and the official term was coined in the early 90s. If switching to lean means a higher quality product and higher efficiency and significant savings, why isn’t every company doing it?
Air conditioners are probably the most necessary of all luxury and comfort items, especially if you inhabit a warm climate. I live in Michigan, which yes, in the winter months is unbelievably cold, but in July and August, 90 degrees and humid isn’t that uncommon. I’ve also never lived in a house with central air conditioning; so I know-a hot, sunny, humid day without AC is almost torture…until you get your energy bill, that is. Standard air conditioning systems have been the established method of cooling residential and commercial buildings since they first appeared in the 60 because are so effective. Put on full blast, walking into your house is like walking into the Arctic Circle. However, they suck up energy and are probably the most un-green system in your house. During peak summer months, AC is responsible for about 100 million tons of carbon emission each year.
A surprising 15% of American car owners never wash their cars; they just let the rain take care of it. Many wash their vehicles in their driveway with a hose and household cleaners. Some claim they don’t have time, others don’t want to pay for a professional cleaning. Today, there are 100,000 professional car washes in the United States. Whether you’re part of a small business or working for a large chain, owners of car wash equipment need to advertise the benefits of their company to the public. Virtually every type of car wash system used today-whether touchless, coin-operated, automated or hand-operated, has advantages that far outweigh the alternatives. Perhaps the most attractive advantage to the consumer, using professional car washes is a money-saving method of protecting an expensive investment. Washing a car twice a month can protect from environmental factors, including acid rain, salt on roads during the winter and bird droppings, all of which can cause serious damage over time. These unavoidable issues will harm the finish, age the car and significantly decrease its overall resale value-on average, about 20%.
Within the past 5 years or so, the concept of reducing emissions has been the automotive industry’s most popular issue. It’s all over their commercials, boasting fuel economy and environmental friendliness. Though less advertised, non-road diesel engines, including forklift trucks, are no exception. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working since 1996 on a 4-tiered program to greatly reduce emission pollutants and sulfur content in fuel. Program From 1996 until last year, non-road diesel engines have complied with lenient emission standards and still accounted for 44 percent of diesel particulate matter (PM) emissions and 12 percent of total nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, an excessively large amount of total emissions from mobile sources. So in January of 2008, the EPA put the 4th tier into effect. The new standards involve models built in 2008 and later and aim to reduce 90% of NOx and PM emissions, in comparison to unregulated engines. They are also reducing sulfur in fuel to 15-ppm.
This last April, British environmentalist and adventurer David de Rothschild set sail in a catamaran he had constructed entirely from recycled PET bottles. As a statement to the growing global problem of ocean pollution and the need for higher recycling standards, de Rothschild planned to sail to what Planet Green Bottle calls ‘Plastic Soup’, a floating mass of plastic waste nearly the size of Texas suspended in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This British adventure-seeker may have found the most creative way yet to call attention to this pending environmental risk, but plastic engineers and manufacturers have been working towards a solution in more conventional ways for many years. Polyethylene terephthalate, or ‘PET’, is a petroleum-based resin and may be broken down and recycled almost indefinitely. The addition of dies, fiberglass and other composite materials reduce PET’s recyclability, but the majority of PET materials, such as the beverage bottles out of which Mr. de Rothschild constructed his boat, are recycled at a cost relative or lower than that of purchasing virgin materials. Still, many water bottles, soda bottles and other beverage containers never make it to the recycling bin, ending up in landfills, or worse: the Pacific’s Plastic Soup.
Pollution Control can be very expensive!’ you may say. And you’d be right. It can be. With ever increasing pressure to reduce emissions of gaseous pollution (and a company’s carbon footprint), many are choosing to install fume abatement systems on process exhausts where pollutants are present. In fact, regulations require pollution control equipment for many industries. The popularity of the Thermal Oxidization process for pollution control is, for the time being, high enough that it is considered the norm. Some companies have to endure the cost of cleaning exhausts for the environment. That is the responsibility element companies have to get used to. But it doesn’t have to be all bad news. I would bring to your attention several possibilities of secondary Heat Recovery worthy of your consideration. Process exhaust Heat Recovery can offer exceptional payback. The right industrial-grade air to air heat exchanger, correctly designed, engineered and built for your application, can allow you to reduce negative impact on the environment and your operational energy costs – dramatically. For instance: If you have a Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer (RTO) abatement system you know the final outgoing RTO exhaust temperature is higher than the incoming process air temperature. If, for example, you have 200°F entering the RTO from your process, the RTO exhaust could be as high as 400°F – even higher if the bypass is open. When RTOs are sold with high thermal efficiency expectations, companies often overlook the energy recovery potential of the RTO application.
With all the ‘green’ alternative energy, recycling and sustainable manufacturing facilities popping up across the U.S., it seems only fitting to talk about heat exchangers. Recycling re-usable materials like aluminum, steel, HDPE, rubber and pulp products is a topic of frequent discussion in both consumer and manufacturing industries, but what about energy recycling? Industrial facilities and process manufacturers in pharmaceutical, bio-diesel, pulp and food process industries have been using the heat exchanger – a rather basic design concept – for decades to transfer heating and cooling. In recent years engineers have been tweaking the design, replacing typical coolants with gases or liquids which need to be heated anyway, allowing facilities to recycle their own energy. Automotive radiators, heater cores and evaporators work this way, with tubes of liquid coolant absorbing excess energy from the engine, which is then blown by fans into the car interior as heating.
Chinese company Suntech, a heavyweight in global solar manufacturing, announced its plans last week to build another solar cell manufacturing facility here in the States, although they won’t decide where for another six months. Clearly these companies see an economic advantage to solar manufacturing here in the United States. Along with new tax breaks and federal incentives for renewable energy manufacturing, companies like Schott and Suntech see the benefits of setting up manufacturing close to customers – which means they’re anticipating an imminent demand in the US for solar energy. In the wake of losing hundreds of domestic manufacturers and hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs to the recession, pumping up the US solar manufacturing industry looks like a pretty great idea.
Since even before the industrial era, humans have been concerned with air pollution control. As early as the beginning of the 1300s in London, smoke pollution was a problem that Edward I recognized by enacting a ban on burning soft coal. However, that policy did not stick, and once the Industrial Revolution began in the late 1700s, air pollutants increased rapidly because of the dramatic shift to machine-based processes. Steam power fuelled by coal was introduced in the First Industrial Revolution of the 18th century and used for factory machinery. Steam-powered transportation became prevalent during the Second Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, with the internal combustion engine and electrical power generation making their appearance at the end that century…
Included in President Barack Obama’s historical inauguration speech was a striking statement on his vision for the future of our energy industry. ‘We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.’ Perhaps this statement sounds a little over-the-top to you – a little too epic. But honestly, what could be more epic than shifting the world’s energy source from petroleum to wind energy, solar power and compressed air? So far it seems President Obama is making good on his word. According to an article published today in the Washington Bureau, the U.S. Interior Department has ‘cleared the way’ for domestic offshore wind farms by finalizing guidelines. Projects are being considered for constructing wind farms off the United States’ Atlantic coast, namely Rhode Island and Massachusetts. A project long delayed by the previous administration’s procrastination in laying out legislative guidelines for offshore windfarms (and by the Kennedy family’s distaste for having the view from Martha’s Vineyard off Cape Cod marred by wind turbines), it looks like a shift from offshore oil fields to offshore windfarms are soon to be underway.
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