Category Archives: industry news

Renewable technology is here to stay and will continue to grow

Solar Power along with other renewable technologies (geothermal, biomass, hydroelectricity, battery) continue to surge and lead the world’s emerging energy technology. According to the United Nations, they found that global spending on solar power was higher than any other energy source in 2017. Even more, the International Energy Agency (IEA) claims that wind and solar capacity is “ten-fold” what it was a decade ago.

Global Energy Impact

Countries all over the world are taking advantage of the many benefits of renewable energy. China is a major player in renewables being nearly half of the entire worlds renewable energy budget. According to Dr. MacGill from the United Nations, Air Pollution in China is believed to kill around a million people every year, which would also likely to be a key motivation to their huge investment in clean energy.

In 2015, developing countries such as the Middle East and Mexico invested more in renewable energy than developed countries have done since.

Wind offers the lowest price form of renewable energy in some countries.

Future Impact on environment and policy

While fossil fuels still exist, and are widely used across the globe, renewable energy will hopefully remedy the greenhouse gas emission damages that effect the environment and society. Policies may also take place for any investors that continue to use fossil fuels.

Figure 1 Graph provided by: Renewableenergyworld.com

It is predicted that by 2026 Western Europe and North America will reach a solar capacity of almost 300 gigawatts of energy. Advances in the technology will be the major driving factor in the cost as so will tax policies. This would mean stronger battery technologies, more efficient electronic components and reliable cables.

Smart Factories Going Off the Grid

Factories are some of the biggest consumers of energy. Because of this, many companies are exploring the use of solar power as a way to reduce operating costs in the manufacturing process. Solar costs have been going down over the years and it may be getting closer to the time that factories consider solar as a real option.

Solar power became the most inexpensive source of energy last year. Solar is now cheaper than wind and its fossil fuel counterparts like natural gas. The biggest challenge of solar is the question of what to do for power supply at night or during bad weather when the sun is not out. Storage solutions help to the problem and many consumers still rely on grid-sourced electricity for part of the day for their homes.

Manufacturing plants and offices consume most of the energy they require during daylight hours. This means that commercial plants may benefit from solar power without needing to buy a storage solution to cover night time usage.

There are also economies of scale with solar power. The cost per unit goes down as the usage goes up. In fact, commercial solar installations are largely responsible for giving solar the title as cheapest energy resource in the world. Commercial solar installations can often get to ROI in a few years.

Factories are known for having flat roofs with lots of roof space to accommodate solar panels. The large, flat surface area of a factory building allows an easier and faster system installation while having fewer shading issues caused by nearby trees.

The energy market is in a state of rapid change. It’s not too early to start paying attention to what’s happening with the solar market and consider how your factory may benefit from a switch to solar energy. Even if you don’t jump off the grid cold turkey, you may find you can stick your toes in and find a hybrid solution that will still lower your operating costs and your carbon footprint at the same time.

2-part blog post: Part 2 -SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS for the Factory Floor

In Part 1 – How Dangerous is it to Work Near Heavy Machinery, we explored some of the dangers posed by working in environments with heavy machinery. Despite the dangers, there are some safety precautions and measures that can be taken to greatly reduce the risk of injury and even death. Here are some considerations for keeping the factory floor safer:

Fatigue:
About 38 percent of U.S. workers sleep less than seven hours a night, according to a 2016 study from NIOSH. Several additional studies found that workers who have a sleeping disorder are more likely to be involved in a workplace safety incident. Furthermore, fatigue-related productivity losses cost nearly $2,000 per worker each year, according to estimates from a 2010 study conducted by Cupertino, CA-based Alertness Solutions. The RAND Corporation has three recommendations for decreasing the amount of fatigue. They include, 1) understand the importance of sleep and promote it, 2) create brighter workplaces with settings for naps and 3) deter lengthy use of electronic devices after work.

Handling materials:
If you work in an industry which requires the use of mechanical handling equipment, making sure the proper use of mechanical handling equipment, the storage of materials, and the maintenance of the storage locations should be paid close attention. Sufficient safe clearances should be allowed for aisles, at loading docks, through doorways and wherever turns or passage must be made. In addition, aisles and passageways should be kept clear and in good shape, with no obstruction across or in the aisles that could create a hazard. It’s also important to avoid a stacking collapse, a common accident related to storage. So items stacked upon each other should be properly secured. The location where the materials are held must be kept clear of accumulating materials which can create hazards from tripping, fire, explosion, or pest harborage. Finally, proper signage should be used to mark clearance limits as they apply.

Training:
Safety training should be part of your program to keep workers safe. OSHA Train-the-Trainer and OSHA Safety Training courses are available for construction or general industry to U.S. workers who need specific job-related safety training.

Complacency:
Complacency can be the enemy of safety. Complacency occurs when you’ve been doing something one way for so long without incident that you assume there can never be an incident. A false sense of security does not bode well in any industry, but it could be most dangerous in environments with heavy equipment where things are constantly changing. In a constantly changing environment, extra vigilance is needed, but workers still become complacent. Fixing complacency takes constant vigilance. Nothing beats complacency like regular reminders. Morning meetings allow you to bring safety awareness to the forefront of everybody’s minds first thing in the morning each and every day. If the job doesn’t allow for daily meetings, at least plan for one at the beginning of each week to get people refocused on safety.

Good signs can be effective against complacency too. Even making just one person think more aware of safety measure can prevent deadly incidents.
Everybody on a site or manufacturing floor or in a warehouse should be working with safety in mind.

Keeping equipment on a maintenance schedule and adhering to the schedule is another way to keep the factory floor safe. Companies that have safeguards in place and have well documented and communicated emergency procedures will be two steps ahead if they face an unforeseen situation when they will be sorely needed in order to save lives.

2-part blog post: Part 1- How Dangerous is it to Work Near Heavy Machinery?

Every day thousands of engineers, operators, assemblers and compounders are faced with the dangers of working near heavy machinery. In addition to heavy machinery, these workers also face the dangers of conveyor belts, combustible liquids and spray booths. Most warehouses and production plants are noisy, fast-paced and have many moving parts. It’s no wonder that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 300 work-related fatalities are reported each year in the US. In addition, nearly 400,000 non-fatal injuries are reported annually, out of approximately 12 million people who are employed in the industry.

IMPORTANCE OF MANUFACTURING
Despite the dangers, the National Association of Manufacturers reports that for every $1 spent in manufacturing, another $1.40 is added to the economy. Manufacturing is a crucial part of the keeping the economy going strong. Manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. Continuing to increase the safety measures for people working with heavy machinery and other workforce dangers in manufacturing should be a priority for every manufacturer.

Every business can learn from Amazon about automation and robotics

Amazon is leading the charge to reshape how the logistics industry operates by using automation and robotics. More and more, consumers are dictating logistics operations by their ever-shortening demand for fast and convenient everything. Amazon has set this bar high and consumers don’t want anything less than Amazon-fast. Logistics is becoming ever more data-driven as a response to this increasing demand for faster response, faster delivery and flawless execution.

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New ways to implement continuous improvement in factories

Continuous improvement has long been an important part of staying competitive in manufacturing. As product life cycles become shorter and the number of new product proliferation grows, there is an increased need for continuous improvement.

Some of the new trends in manufacturing that are being embraced include additive manufacturing, cloud-based systems, rapid design and super-fast prototyping, and crowd-sourcing. Here are just a few ways these trends will help factories implement continuous improvement across their supply chains.

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The Industrial Internet of Things is About to Change Manufacturing

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has the opportunity to bring changes across the manufacturing industry in a variety of ways. information will increasingly be generated by machines and things, and that information will be connected to help unveil insights across the supply chain. How exactly will IIoT change manufacturing? No one can predict for certain, however, as information is increasingly generated by machines and things, information will be tracked and captured using sensors, RFID tags, meters, actuators and GPS, among other things. We can expect that inventory will count and manage itself, shipping containers will detect their contents, assembly will be robotic, the entire value chain will be connected and connectivity will mean worldwide networks will plan and make decisions in real time. Some of this is already occurring in manufacturing and things will continue to go in this direction.

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