Every year, 85 U.S. operators of Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs) — more commonly known as forklifts — leave for work in the morning and never return home.
The most tragically ironic situation occurred in the late 90’s in Perth, Australia. During the filming of a forklift safety video, the 52-year-old owner of a machinery training school was thrown from the forklift cabin and crushed to death.
The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” was never more appropriate than when applied to forklift safety. Which is why daily, pre-shift inspection of all powered industrial trucks is required by OSHA standards.
Any defects in the equipment can lead to a serious accident, so early detection is paramount. While OSHA does not require a documentation of a daily inspection, a written checklist is always a good idea. Checklists vary depending on the type of forklift or other PIT being used, but most include the following:
Are there any hydraulic leaks in the mast or elsewhere?
Are fuel connections tight and battery terminals covered?
Is there any lint, grease, oil or other flammable material on the forklift?
Are there any deformities in the forks, mast, overhead guard or backrest?
Are tires at proper pressure and free of damage?
Are seat belts working and accessible?
Is the load capacity plate readable?
Do all controls (such as lift, lower and tilt) work smoothly?
Is the horn working?
Are the lights operational?
Is steering responsive?
Do brakes stop smoothly and reliably?
Does the parking break hold the forklift on an incline?
Are there any sparks or flames coming from the exhaust system?
Does the engine show signs of overheating?
If you detect anything wrong with the forklift, do not operate it until the necessary repairs have been made.
Remember: Your employer, your co-workers and your family are counting on you to safely complete every work shift. So be smart and be safe!
You click the “Submit Order” button on your favorite e-tailer’s website and wait. Thirty minutes later, a delivery drone deposits the parcel on your front porch.
If major players like Amazon, Google and Walmart have their way, this scenario will soon play out all across the country. In fact, what began as little more than a pipe dream a few years ago continues to inch closer to certainty as regulatory hurdles are overcome.
It’s easy to see the appeal of such a Jetsonion delivery system. But is it cost-effective? And how long will it really be before delivery drones become mainstream?
Driven by Two Factors
Flying at altitudes up to 1,000 feet, the airships would communicate with a remote scheduling system, telling the drones when to fetch packages from inside the blimp and head to their destinations.
But perhaps the drones’ best feature is also its most obvious one: They can go where there are no roads. And considering that about one billion people on the planet do not have access to all-season roads, that’s significant.
Take Rwanda, for instance, where drone deliveries have already taken flight. That country relies increasingly on drone technology in order to receive critical supplies.
Far removed from the American PR circus surrounding retail and e-tail deliveries, U.S.-based tech company Zipline uses its drones as “sky ambulances.” Their drones deliver lifesaving blood supplies by parachute to remote hospitals and clinics located hours outside the Rwandan capital of Kigali.
By focusing on critical medical supplies, Zipline has successfully convinced regulators to tolerate the potential safety risks of delivery drones. As it turns out, that’s a lot easier to do when the deliveries are saving lives and not just bringing the latest cosmetic or a new pair of shoes.
Smaller Players, Too
But don’t discount minor players in the drone delivery game, either. For instance, a small startup company called Flirtey recently partnered with convenience store chain 7-Eleven.
Together, they’re experimenting with using drones to deliver over-the-counter medications (and perhaps, Slurpees and chili dogs). Take a look:
On November 16, the quirky billionaire and Tesla Inc. CEO and co-founder unveiled a sleek prototype electric semi-truck (dubbed “Semi”), which he claims will travel 500 miles on a single charge. According to Musk, the average truck trip is less than 250 miles, so Semi could handle a standard round trip without recharging.
The truck’s battery pack is built into the floorboard, and can be charged to 80% of capacity within 30 minutes. Musk’s long-range plan includes the worldwide installation of solar-powered “mega-charging” stations.
Semi utilizes four independent motors and can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 20 seconds when fully loaded. And, Musk has said, the truck “feels like a sports car.”
Equipped with the most advanced safety mechanisms, Musk indicated that the vehicle will also be able to operate semi-autonomously in convoy. This would be the company’s first attempt at self-driving trucks.
The cab itself has been completely redesigned. It’s spacious, with a ceiling high enough to allow the occupants to stand upright. The captain’s chair is centrally located and flanked by two display screens — the same screens used in Tesla’s luxury Model 3 sedan. These screens provide navigation and scheduling data, as well as images depicting blind spots and other areas around the truck.
With no engine, transmission, and other traditional diesel truck components to get in the way, the seating area is pushed forward in the cab, not unlike a VW bus. To see highlights of the Tesla Semi unveiling, click here.
New Market for Tesla
Well-known for its all-electric luxury cars, this is Tesla’s first foray into the commercial freight market. Musk says he intends to begin mass production of the Tesla Semi by 2019. If that happens, it would open up a potentially lucrative new market for his company.
“A lot of people don’t think you can do a heavy-duty, long-range truck that’s electric, but we are confident that this can be done,” he said.
For years transportation firms seeking ways to reduce their emissions and operating costs have expressed keen interest in electric trucks. In addition to being emission-free, Tesla claims that its Semi will be much cheaper to maintain than standard diesel trucks and will cost just $1.26 a mile to run, versus $1.51 for a diesel.
“We’re guaranteeing that this truck will not break down for a million miles,” Musk said at the unveiling.
How Much Does It Really Cost?
Although Musk has not yet named a price for the Semi, a $5,000 deposit is required to reserve each truck. So far, Meijer Inc. has ordered four, and Walmart has secured 15.
Because the Tesla Semi is still a testing prototype, it will likely go through a series of changes as the company prepares for production. (Of course, it’s also possible that production will be delayed, or fail altogether.)
“The Tesla Semi boasts specifications that are unprecedented in the logistics industry…Tesla has to get many more pieces of the puzzle right to make this machine a market reality.” — Forbes, 11/20/17
And the Tesla truck is not the only kid on the block. Several other companies are actively working to develop electric semis and smaller delivery vehicles. Musk’s potential rivals include Daimler, Cummins and Bosch, as well as a host of startup companies.
This is the last article of a five-part series on industrial energy efficiency. This month we will address how Compressed Air Systemsare prime targets for energy efficiency measures.
Compressed air is used in many industrial processes, such as sandblasting, injection molding, spray painting, and equipment heating and cooling, to name just a few. Air compression motors have high electrical demands. In fact, up to 20% of total electrical use in certain industries can come from air compression systems.
In many cases, leaks are caused by bad or improperly applied thread sealant. This is why it’s so important to select high-quality components, and install them properly with the appropriate thread sealant.
Did you know that non-operating equipment can be an additional source of leaks? To remedy this problem, any equipment no longer in use should be isolated with a valve in the distribution system.
You can also reduce air leaks by lowering the demand air pressure of the system. The lower the pressure differential across a hole or leak, the lower the rate of flow. A lower rate of flow translates into reduced leakage rates.
Once leaks have been repaired, the compressor control system should be re-evaluated and adjusted (if necessary) to realize the total savings potential. A proactive leak prevention program will go a long way toward improving the performance of your plant’s compressed air systems.
Recovering Waste Heat
As much as 80%-90% of the electrical energy used by an industrial air compressor is converted into heat. In many cases, a heat recovery unit can recover 50%-90% of this available thermal energy and put it to use heating air or water.
This is the fourth article of a five-part series on industrial energy efficiency. This month we cover Part Four of the series: Start-Up Spikes. This occurs whenever energy-consuming equipment and systems are started simultaneously.
Start-up spikes are an all-too-common occurrence in most manufacturing and distribution facilities. When energy-hogging equipment is started up at the beginning of a shift, it can often lead to unintended peak-demand energy charges.
This staging of load ensures that power quality is maintained and any on-site generators are not overloaded during start-up. In addition to the sequential start-up, the load control system would monitor on-site generators, removing power load from the system if the generators become overloaded.
A Case Study
Start-up spikes can sometimes go undetected unless you’re monitoring your energy data. The following situation, reported by Industrial IP Advantage, is a case in point:
A manufacturer’s energy consumption profile documented a significant spike in demand that occurred monthly, without fail, on the same day and at the same time. A submeter pinpointed the source of the spike. During lunch break on the same day of the month, the maintenance staff simultaneously started all of the production equipment for testing purposes.
Staging the start-up – achieving a steady state with one system before turning on the next – would avoid the spike. But the optimal energy management strategy also included scheduling the once-monthly testing at 6 a.m. during the power utility’s off-peak demand period. The bump in overtime costs is minimal relative to paying peak rates over the course of an entire year.
This example underscores the importance of routine energy monitoring, so that start-up spikes can be pinpointed and eliminated before they become a problem.
Up to 20% of total electrical use in certain industries comes from air compression systems. Our last article in this series will address how these systems are prime targets for energy efficiency measures.
This is the third article of a five-part series on industrial energy efficiency. This month we cover Part Three of the series: Weeknight Setbacks. This is the practice of reducing or eliminating an industrial facility’s energy usage during weeknight off-periods.
Energy is complex. With so many moving pieces, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to improve efficiency. And industrial facilities, with multiple independently-controlled systems, are equally complex.
Is there any equipment routinely left on that could be shut off? Any motors operating unnecessarily (such as a ceiling fan in an unoccupied space)?
What about computers and office equipment? Any that don’t go into “sleep” mode after a period of inactivity? This could be a real power drain.
With regard to lighting, occupancy sensors and timers can capture significant energy savings. But they need to be combined with lighting systems that can be effectively controlled. Is your staff trained to turn off all lights when closing?
Space heaters are huge energy hogs. If they’re being used in your facility, that usually indicates poor HVAC system control. You’ll want to investigate.
Is your rooftop ventilation unit equipped with exhaust fans? You can set them to run only when spaces are occupied.
Did you know that heating and cooling your facility can account for up to 50% of your energy use?
One of the most cost-effective means of reducing energy consumption is by setting the temperature back during weeknight off-periods. (Typical thermostats are set between 65°F to 70°F for heating and 72°F to 78°F for cooling.)
The Department of Energy projects that you can reduce your energy cost by 5% – 12% with a 3°F to 10°F setback. A 10°F to 20°F setback can result in a 9% – 18% energy cost reduction!
Programmable thermostats are typically classified as three types:
Electromechanical thermostats use an electrical clock and a series of pins and levers to control temperature. These are the least expensive programmable thermostats. They’re also easy to control, but offer limited flexibility.
Digital thermostats allow you to tailor settings to varying schedules for different days of the week, or up to four different “setpoints” per day.
Occupancy sensorthermostats maintain the setback temperature until triggered by a person entering the controlled space. The trigger mechanism can be a switch, button, light, or motion sensor.
Is It Worth It?
Once you’ve implemented a weeknight setback program, you need to determine if it’s paying off.
Fortunately, new technologies now allow industrial businesses to compare energy use over time to see how setback sequences change. Having access to historical demand data to create a relative performance benchmark is a key consideration when contemplating an energy efficiency strategy.
According to the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Dayton, the easiest way to track your progress is by using data analysis software that compiles available temperature, production and utility billing data. Anything more complicated may be too complex for widespread use.
The EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager is a reasonable choice. Not only does this online tool measure energy and water consumption, but it tracks greenhouse gas emissions as well. And it can be used to benchmark the performance of a single building or multiple buildings.
Hard starts are rough on equipment, causing premature wear and tear. And they can lead to unintended peak- demand charges. Our next article, “Start-Up Spikes,” will look at how to avoid them.
Remarkably, plastic can be made by simply polymerizing air pollution.
Introducing Newlight Technologies
Newlight Technologies, founded in 2003, is a company that began by posing the simple question: “Why not use greenhouse gas emissions as a resource to make materials?”
Per Mark Herrema, company co-counder and CEO, “After a decade of research, Newlight discovered how to combine greenhouse gas with air to produce a high-strength material called AirCarbon, at nine times higher yield than previous—a material that is strong enough to replace oil-based plastics, and made with carbon that would have otherwise become a part of the air.”
Carbon Pollution: A Real Problem
This disparity leads to great costs not only for the environment, but also for our health and the economy. According to a CBS report, failure to cut carbon pollution could cost the U.S. economy $150 billion per year. But what Newlight proposes is a game changer–utilizing AirCarbon as a plastic alternative will reduce fossil fuel use, reduce the carbon footprint, and reduce costs.
From Greenhouse Gas to Plastic
The process of converting carbon into plastics starts with capturing concentrated methane-based carbon emissions from farms, landfills, and energy facilities that would otherwise become part of the air we breathe.
The captured carbon is fed into a reactor, where added enzymes strip out carbon and oxygen, and then rearrange it into AirCarbon. AirCarbonl is then melted down, cooled, and sliced into tiny plastic pellets, the size of shelled pine nuts. From here the AirCarbon thermoplastic pellets can be molded into endless products.
A Revolutionary Material
By weight, AirCarbon is “approximately 40% oxygen from air and 60% carbon and hydrogen from sequestered methane.” The material matches the performance of oil-based plastics and out competes on price.
Just outside the small central Chilean city of Curacaví, situated between the hills of a coastal mountain range, sits a most unusual dwelling. Built in 2009 as a concept project for construction company Infiniski, this home is primarily comprised of three large shipping containers and numerous wooden pallets. Dubbed the “Manifesto House,” the house is a modular and eco-efficient structure designed by Jaime Gaztelu and Mauricio Galeano.
Pallets as Ventilators
The use of the pallets on the exterior gives the house a fantastic texture and conceals the shipping containers like an outer shell, but the pallets also have another purpose. Namely, they provide shade from the strong Chilean sun and allow the home to be naturally cooled, since air can move freely between the slats. In winter, the pallets can be lifted back to allow the sun to warm the metal walls of the house and generate heat.
The home’s architects explain their use of the wooden pallets this way:
“The house uses two types of covers or ‘skin’: wooden panels coming from sustainable forests on one side and recycled mobile pallets on the other. The pallets can open themselves in winter to allow the sun to heat the metal surface of the container walls and close themselves in summer to protect the house from the heat. This skin also serves as an exterior aesthetic finishing helping the house to better integrate in its environment.”
A Look Inside
Inside the home is open and airy. The living room is enclosed by sliding glass doors and hinged screens. A large folding screen is used to create a covered outdoor porch or to shade the interior from the sun when folded down. When open, the space flows onto outdoor patios creating a large indoor-outdoor environment. Geothermal heat pumps help provide additional heating and cooling.
“The Manifesto House represents the Infiniski concept and its potential: Bio-climatic design, recycled, reused materials, non polluting constructive systems, integration of renewable energy.” – Architects Jaime Gaztelu and Mauricio Galeano
The house is divided into two levels, using three recycled de-commissioned maritime shipping containers as structure, and is 1700 square feet at ground level. The containers are completely weather tight and provide the house with necessary structural capacity. One container has been cut in two parts and is used on the first level as the support structure for the two second-level containers. Manifesto House utilizes prefabricated and modular components, allowing for more efficient construction and potential future modifications or extensions.
The Infiniski Concept
Architects Gaztelu and Galeano are Infiniski’s founders and partners. Infiniski’s mission is to build homes cheaply and quickly using sustainable materials while incorporating renewable energy systems. According to Gaztelu and Galeano, “The Manifesto House represents the Infiniski concept and its potential: Bio-climatic design, recycled, reused materials, non polluting constructive systems, integration of renewable energy.”
Bio-climatic design focuses on the construction of buildings that are in harmony with the natural surroundings and local climate. This way, each home’s form and position is adapted to its energy needs within its specific natural surroundings. As Gaztelu explains, “We apply technology to make the house like an organism in the natural environment that, like a flower or a tree, responds to changes in the climate and can also take advantage of them.”
To this end, Manifesto House has been designed to use up to 85% of recycled, reused and eco-friendly materials. These materials include recycled cellulose and cork for insulation; recycled aluminum, iron and wood; noble wood from sustainable forests; ecological painting; and eco-label ceramics. Because of its bio-climatic design and the installation of alternative energy systems, the house achieves 70% autonomy.
The Manifesto House is just one example of numerous unique and eco-friendly projects that Infiniski has undertaken, primarily in Spain and Chile.