Energy Efficiency: Compressed Air Systems

This is the last article of a five-part series on industrial energy efficiency. This month we will address how Compressed Air Systems are 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.

Which makes these systems prime targets for energy efficiency measures.

High Maintenance

If you use compressed air equipment, you probably know that the cost of the equipment itself is often a fraction of the cost of operating and maintaining it.

In fact, the cost of operating a compressor for just one year usually equals or exceeds the initial cost of the unit. So a reduction in operation and maintenance expense will create substantial savings over the lifetime of the system.

Let’s take a look at some of the low-cost or no-cost measures that can help minimize the expense of operating compressed air systems.

Air Leak Surveys

An industrial plant that has not been well maintained will typically leak about 20% of total compressed air production capacity. But this can be reduced to less than 10% of compressor output by proactively detecting and repairing leaks.

The best way to detect leaks is to use an ultrasonic acoustic detector. This device can recognize the high frequency hissing sounds associated with air leaks.

The units are portable and consist of directional microphones, amplifiers, and audio filters. They typically use either visual indicators or earphones to detect leaks.

Ultrasonic detectors filter out background noises within the audible range. As a result, leaks can be heard in even the noisiest environments.

The benefits of ultrasonic leak detection include versatility, speed, ease of use, the ability to perform tests while equipment is running, and the ability to find a wide variety of leaks. In addition, any operator can become competent after about 15 minutes of training.

Fixing Air Leaks

Air leaks occur most often at joints and connections. Which means stopping leaks is often as simple as tightening a connection. But it can also be as complex as replacing faulty equipment (couplings, fittings, pipe sections, hoses, etc.).

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.

Typical uses for recovered heat include supplemental space heating, industrial process heating, and water heating. (Recoverable heat from a compressed air system is usually not hot enough to produce steam directly.)

For example, packaged air-cooled, rotary screw compressors are very amenable to heat recovery for space heating or other hot-air uses. Packaged compressors are typically enclosed in cabinets and already include heat exchangers and fans. So the only system modifications needed would be additional ducting (and possibly another fan).

Similarly, by using a heat exchanger, you can produce hot water. This is done by extracting waste heat from the lubricant coolers found in packaged water-cooled, reciprocating or rotary screw compressors.

Compressed Air Storage

An effective control strategy for your compressed air system should include adequate storage.  Employ storage to cover peak air demands by strategically locating receivers. This reduces both the amount of pressure drop and the rate of pressure decay.

For systems with highly variable air demand, you can achieve tight control by combining storage with a pressure/flow controller.  Narrowing the pressure variation with better controls not only uses less energy; it also minimizes any potential negative effects on product quality.

A Final Note

The final low- to no-cost measure recommended for improved energy efficiency pertains to inappropriate uses of compressed air. These include any application that can be done more effectively or efficiently by another method. The following table illustrates:


Sources:

Sustainable Plant

Compressed Air Best Practices

US Dept. of Energy

Univ. of Minnesota Technical Assistance Program


6 Key Lean Manufacturing Principles

Did you know that most lean manufacturing concepts were developed from the philosophies of Benjamin Franklin?

In his 1758 essay, “The Way to Wealth,” Franklin stated the following:

You call them goods; but, if you do not take care, they will prove evils to some of you. You expect they will be sold cheap, and, perhaps, they may [be bought] for less than they cost; but, if you have no occasion for them, they must be dear to you. 

And Henry Ford cited Franklin as a major influence on his own business practices, which included Just-in-Time manufacturing.

Let’s take a look at some of the guiding principles for implementing a lean manufacturing protocol…

Waste Reduction

First and foremost is waste reduction/elimination. Historically, this is the foundation of modern-day lean manufacturing, identified by Toyota Production System in the 1990’s.

Many of the other principles revolve around this concept. There are seven basic types of waste in manufacturing:

  • Overproduction (production ahead of demand)
  • Unnecessary Motion (moving people or equipment more than is required to perform the task)
  • Excess Inventory (all components and finished product not being processed)
  • Production of Defects (leading to rework, salvage and scrap)
  • Waiting (i.e., waiting for the next production step or interruptions of production during shift change)
  • Transportation (moving products that are not actually required to perform the task)
  • Overprocessing (resulting from unnecessary work that adds no value)

Waste reduction/elimination involves reviewing all areas of your organization, determining the source of all non-value-added work, and reducing or eliminating it.

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is sometimes referred to by the Japanese word “kaizen,” which literally means “change for the better.”

 

As the name implies, continuous improvement promotes constant, necessary change toward achievement of a desired state. The changes can be big or small, but they must lend themselves toward improvement.

To be effective, continuous improvement should be a mindset throughout the entire organization. Lean manufacturing experts suggest that you not get caught up in only trying to find the “big ideas,” as small ideas can often lead to big improvements.

For instance, at Toyota, the culture of continual aligned small improvements has yielded large results in overall improved productivity.

Respect for Humanity

The most valuable resource for any company is its people. Without them, the business simply will not succeed.

Staff Members

When employees do not feel respected, they tend to lose respect for their employer. This can become a major problem when a company is trying to implement lean manufacturing principles.

Most staff members want to perform well in their jobs. They’re not just earning a living; they’re also developing a sense of worth from their work.

Constant communication and praise for a job well done will go far to show people you respect them. But it’s also important to include them in upcoming changes and ideas, giving them an opportunity to provide their input. The more involved they are in decisions, the more the ideas become theirs. (And the more likely they are to accept the changes.)

The Supply Side

Implementing lean manufacturing processes requires the cooperation and participation from everyone in the company. But the respect for humanity principle goes so much deeper than the employee level.  You must also display respect for your customers and suppliers, as well as the environment.

Virtually every company is a supplier to someone else. If everyone throughout the supply chain treats their customers and suppliers with respect, working through issues becomes a whole lot easier.

Levelized Production

The basis of this principle is that the workload is the same (or level) every day. In a lean manufacturing facility, this type of standardization is very important.

The key ingredient for this lean manufacturing principle is utilization of a pull system. Components used in the manufacturing process are only replaced once they have been consumed. In this way, companies only make enough products to meet customer demand.

To achieve this, levelized production takes into consideration both forecast and history.

An Example

Your customer orders most likely fluctuate daily. Let’s say on Day 1, they want 10 black and five red parts. The next day, they want 12 red and seven black. On Day 3, they only require 13 parts.

Using levelized production:

  • On Day 1 you would set the level volume at 15 parts per day, and production would replenish the 15 parts that were ordered.
  • On the second day, the order is 19 parts (four parts higher than our levelized production volume). Production would still build 15 parts and the shipping area would take four parts from an inventory called “fluctuation stock.”
  • On the third day, the order was 13 parts, which is two less than the levelized volume. So two parts are put back into fluctuation stock.

Just-in-Time Production

The basis behind just-in-time production is to build what is required, when it is required and in the quantity required. In conjunction with levelized production, this principle works well with the pull system. It allows for movement and production of parts only when required.

The goal in lean manufacturing is to maintain finished product inventory at the lowest levels possible, while ensuring delivery does not suffer.  Of course, it is nearly impossible to carry zero inventory, particularly in facilities where short lead time is essential. So you will need to carry a store of parts to pull from when required.

Kanbans

To facilitate just-in-time production, companies typically employ a system of “kanbans.” A kanban is a hand-sized card that moves with the product or material. It signals when the product is to be built or when the material can be moved.

The kanban basically serves as a work order or pick list. But it also serves as a visual control, to identify the contents of each box. A third function of a kanban is inventory control, to determine the amount of finished product on hand.

Built-In Quality

The idea behind this principle is that quality is built into the manufacturing process. It’s built into the design of the part. It’s built into the packaging. From design to shipping, quality is a major consideration.

This means that your machines are capable of detecting abnormalities and your fixtures have mistake proofing to avoid misassembly.

Abnormality Detection

“Autonomation” pertains to a machine’s ability to judge good or bad conditions. When an abnormal condition is detected, the machine stops and triggers an alarm. A production worker then removes the parts and resets the machine. This keeps the suspect parts from continuing through the process.

Autonomation eliminates the need for a production worker to stand there and monitor each machine. It’s often referred to as “automation with a human touch.”

Mistake Proofing

The purpose of mistake proofing is to eliminate product defects by preventing, correcting, or drawing attention to human errors as they occur.

Mistake proofing can be implemented at any step of a manufacturing process where something can go wrong or an error can be made. For example, a fixture that holds components for processing might be modified to only allow those parts to be held in the correct orientation.

Presence sensors are another example. These sensors allow  only components that fit, and will trigger an alarm if the machine is cycled without all the components present.

Simulation Game

We’ve covered only six of the many lean manufacturing principles out there. If you’re thinking about employing these ideas and others, you may wish to check out the following Factory Business Game:


Sources:

Lean-manufacturing-junction.com

Lean Directions

Investopedia

Quality Digest

Lean Production


Energy Efficiency: Battling Start-Up Spikes

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.

But these spikes can also be a problem for any commercial buildings where lighting and HVAC systems kick into high gear at the same time each day.

Hard Starts

In the manufacturing and warehouse environment, start-up spikes result when multiple mechanical systems are turned on simultaneously. These “hard starts” can result in additional energy costs. But they’re also rough on equipment, causing premature wear and tear.

That’s because the inrush current from a hard start is often five to six times a motor’s full-load running current. This massive current creates heat in the motor windings, and heat can kill a motor over time.

One solution to this problem is a “soft starter.”

Soft Starters

Soft starters ramp up the voltage gradually, thereby limiting the inrush current. Here’s how: Every time your compressor, pump, or machine starts, the soft starter limits the current for about the first five seconds. It then reverts back to normal running conditions. This results in a more gradual increase of current and eliminates the spike.

The gradual increase in voltage significantly reduces heat buildup. Which ultimately results in an extended lifetime of the motor – particularly of motors that are stopped and started frequently.

In fact, a soft starter will allow you to turn a motor on and off much more frequently without damaging the windings. And for motor applications that involve intermittent loads, a soft start may enable you to shut the motor down in between loads, rather than running it continuously.

Variable Frequency Drives

At the high end of the starter spectrum is the variable frequency drive (VFD). VFDs are typically used for motor speed control, but they can also be used on small motors where they function as motor starters only.

The benefits of using a VFD include:

  • Reduced current starting
  • Communications to a central building management system, and
  • Easy interface for automatic control.

But these benefits come at a cost: increased complexity, increased installation costs, and sensitivity to the environment in which the VFD is installed. Also, additional equipment is often required to support VFDs (such as filters and surge protectors), which further increases cost.

Staging the Start-Up

Another technique for eliminating start-up spikes in factories and warehouses is to stage equipment to come online just in time (that is, sequentially, rather than simultaneously). By gradually ramping up mechanical equipment in a staged manner, excessive energy charges can be avoided without compromising production output.

Equipment start-up can be sequentially staged any time power has been interrupted through a “load control system.”

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.

Next Up…

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.


Sources:

DS&O Electrical Cooperative

Cummins

Industrial IP Advantage

Consulting-Specifying Engineer


How New Green Packaging Is Saving Endangered Species

On May 18, 2015, “as the light was fading at the end of a bitterly cold day,” zoologist Tony Martin dropped his last rat bait pellet onto a peninsula at the western tip of an island near the South Pole.

“We had finished. We had really finished,” Martin wrote in his final transmission.

It was the end of an arduous four-year effort to save the endangered seabirds on South Georgia island. Martin’s 25-man team, led by the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), had undertaken the largest rat eradication in history, defending indigenous creatures from their ravenous enemies.

The rats had been introduced to the island by early explorers and hunters more than 200 years ago. And they had been preying on the eggs and chicks of nesting seabirds ever since. In fact, until Martin and his team intervened, the rats had wiped out more than 90% of South Georgia’s seabird populations.

Almost Didn’t Happen

But this is a success story that almost didn’t happen.

One major obstacle the SGHT team had to overcome early on:  How to contain the rat poison pellets to withstand a transport of 17,000 miles across rocky seas, as well as outdoor storage for months in the polar climate?

 

Another consideration was that Martin’s team of conservationists needed the containers to be recyclable and/or biodegradable.  They wanted to leave virtually no evidence that they had even been there.

Eco-Shield: The Future Is Here

Bell Laboratories, the manufacturers of the pellets, had the answer.

They suggested the SGHT team contact Ox Box, an Illinois-based container company. Ox Box had recently developed a new container material called Eco-Shield, which incorporates plastic resin from recycled plastic bottles with corrugated fiberboard.

The company claims that, not only are Eco-Shield crates extremely strong, durable and weatherproof, their unique chemical composition makes these boxes recyclable and biodegradable, as well.

Bell Labs had good reason for recommending Eco-Shield: They had successfully used the special containers on a previous conservation project.

The Galapagos Experience

In 2012, conservationists waged a similarly aggressive campaign to poison the invasive rats living on Pinzón Island, part of the world-famous Galapagos chain.

The rats — introduced through human activity 200 to 300 years ago — were wreaking havoc among the Galapagos wildlife by preying on eggs and hatchlings of bird and reptile species. Particularly at risk was the saddleback giant tortoise, one of the world’s most ancient and endangered species.

evotourism-Galapagos-Islands-631.jpg__800x600_q85_crop

But to save the tortoises and other threatened wildlife populations, the folks at Bell Labs had to ensure that their product would survive the trip to the Galapagos and the tropical Ecuadorian climate. In addition, the containers had to meet the Galapagos project’s strict environmental guidelines.

That’s when they turned to Ox Box for a solution. The Eco-Shield containers used by the team exceeded the project manager’s expectations, and helped them redefine “survival of the fittest.” Because of these containers, the project team was able to successfully “carpet bomb” Pinzón Island, one of the largest areas in the Galapogos chain.

Now, for the first time in more than 150 years, the population of saddleback giant tortoises is set to recover on its own.

Antarctic Epilogue

Meanwhile, back on South Georgia island, ongoing monitoring of the SGHT team’s project indicates some early success. The bait pellets appear to be extremely attractive to rodents, who prefer the pellets over their natural food, but unattractive to seabirds and other indigenous species.

As the need for eco-friendly packaging and shipping materials increases, it’s just a matter of time before products like Eco-Shield become the norm.

Here’s the Eco-Shield promotional video, highlighting the South Georgia habitat restoration project:

 


Sources:

BBC News

Ox Box

Bell Laboratories

Discover Magazine

South Georgia Heritage Trust


Energy Efficiency: Are Weeknight Setbacks Worth the Trouble?

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.

Let’s see if we can’t simplify the strategy for setting up a weeknight setback procedure in your facility.

Identify the Baseload

First, identify the amount of energy used during weeknight off-shift periods.

Buildings don’t turn off at night, they turn down. Overnight load (or “baseload”) is something you always want to minimize if your facility is unoccupied. It sounds like a no-brainer, but even the most efficient buildings may present a baseload energy management opportunity.

Differences in baseload are often easy to spot. For instance, if you’re seeing only shallow drops in energy demand, that probably means that few pieces of equipment are actually shutting down during these off-periods.

Ask yourself, “What do we turn off on Saturday night that we don’t on weeknights?”

A Walk-Through Energy Audit

A walk-through audit of your facility after hours can really shed some light.

  • 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.

Temperature Setbacks

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 sensor thermostats 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.

Up Next…

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.


Sources:

Business Energy Advisor

NC Energy Office

Gridium.com


The Humble Pallet…Where Would We Be Without It?

In 2010, police in Dubai intercepted a container from a Liberian-registered ship that had originated from Pakistan. Suspecting narcotics smuggling, they searched the container’s cargo—heavy bags of iron filings—but found nothing.

Almost as an afterthought, they then decided to check the pallets on which the bags had rested. Inside each pallet was a hollowed-out section containing 500 to 700 grams of heroin.

Which only goes to show you that pallets typically go unnoticed. (A fact that the drug smugglers were no doubt counting on.)

120808_TRANSPORT_Palete.jpg.CROP.cq5dam_web_1280_1280_jpegInvisible, But Everywhere

Think about it… This unassuming construction of beams and planks has carried most every object on the planet, at one time or another.

“Pallets move the world,” according to Mark White, an emeritus professor at Virginia Tech and director of a pallet and container research lab.

And, while they may not look like much, these simple shipping containers play a major role in the history of our economy. But just when did the ever-humble pallet become such a warehouse staple?

It All Began…

Before the birth of pallets, wooden crates, boxes, barrels, and kegs were the mechanisms of choice for transporting and storing goods. Skids were also sometimes used. (As you no doubt already know, a skid is similar to a pallet but does not have bottom deck boards.)

In fact, the use of skids dates back to Ancient Egypt and Ancient Mesopotamia, in the 1st millennium B.C.

It wasn’t until the early 1920’s, shortly after the modern forklift was invented, that skids evolved into pallets. (This, of course, helps to answer that age-old question: Which came first, the pallet or the forklift? It was, indeed, the forklift.)

 

early forklift
Courtesy of “The Palletizer,” a U.S. Naval magazine.

Recognizing that skids did not provide the support and stability often required for heavier loads, bottom planks were added to the design in 1925. And the pallet was born.

This addition resulted in an improved weight distribution and a decrease in product damage. It also led to the concept of stacking, which allowed goods to be moved and stored with extraordinary speed and versatility.

Pallet
Skid
1001pallets.com-the-history-of-pallets-600x400
Pallet

Needless to say, the dawn of the pallet revolutionized the way merchandise was gathered, stored and protected. It wasn’t long before every warehouse across the globe began relying on these simple wooden structures to load and store their goods.

Standardization Needed

Then the war came. The Big One — WW II. And the popularity of pallets skyrocketed.

Mass production of all kinds of goods, especially for the military, increased sharply. Pallets were used by thousands of small and mid-sized business throughout North America.

1001pallets.com-the-history-of-pallets-2As a result, it quickly became obvious that pallet standardization was necessary. Every link in the handling chain needed to know just what it was receiving and had to be prepared to receive it.

That’s when the U.S. Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance set up a Materials Handling Laboratory in Hingham, Massachusetts. Their purpose was to engineer the job of handling as much war material on pallets as possible.

Working together, the Allied countries established a universal 48 X 48 standard size pallet to accommodate easy of shipment and storage of ammunition and other war materials.

One important feature of the standard pallet size is that it fits common 8’ 6” and 9’ 2” railroad box cars beautifully. In addition, the square shape simplified loading and unloading, as well as warehouse stowage.

Pallets Helped Us Win the War

2Pallets played a huge role in the Allied forces winning the war. Tens of millions of pallets were employed.

In fact, according to one historian, “The use of the forklift trucks and pallets was the most significant and revolutionary storage development of the war.”

During this time, a resourceful Navy Supply Corps officer, looking for a way to improve turnaround times for materials handling, invented the “four-way pallet.” With notches cut in the side of the pallet, forklifts could now pick up pallets from any direction.

The design change was a relatively minor refinement that resulted in a doubling of material-handling productivity per worker.

Today’s Pallets

This archived 1950’s video footage shows how surprisingly modern warehouses had become by that time:

Today there are approximately 450 million new pallets produced in North America each year. About 1.9 billion pallets are in use at any given time.

Today’s pallets are designed to withstand enormous weights and be lifted on and off trucks, ships, and planes. You might even say that, without them, it’s uncertain whether the global economy would be as strong as it is today.

For a virtually invisible object, pallets are everywhere!


Sources:

Slate.com

Packaging Revolution

1001 Pallets

Pallet Enterprise


Why Are Wood Pallets Heat Treated?

Did you ever wonder why wood pallets are heat treated?

What’s the purpose of the heat treatment, and when did it all begin?

Infestation!

ippc-logo-screen-largeIn 1951 a group called the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) was formed under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The IPPC’s purpose was to “protect cultivated and wild plants by preventing the introduction and spread of pests.”

But by the 1990s, a large number of newly established exotic bark- and wood-infesting pests was being reported worldwide. The IPPC noted that there was a strong association between these infestations and wood packing materials, particularly crates and pallets.

The Asian Longhorned Beetle

The following infographic highlights the problems caused the the Asian Longhorned Beetle, a common pest found in untreated wooden pallets and crates:

Infographic Courtesy of Visual.ly

The Emerald Ash Borer

The dreaded emerald ash borer, was another serious concern. This tiny creature has been known to totally devastate large populations of ash trees. Here’s how our Canadian neighbors are responding to the problem:

ISPM 15 to the Rescue!

The Asian beetle, ash borer and other wood-boring pests had to be stopped. So the IPPC got together in March of 2002.

The group decided that all solid wood packaging must be heat-treated or fumigated before they can be imported into any of IPPC’s 182 member countries. This new regulation was called ISPM 15. (ISPM stands for International Standards For Phytosanitary Measures.)

pallets_ispm15_for_international_shippingWith the implementation of ISPM 15, the pallet business was forever changed.

The goal of ISPM 15 is to “reduce significantly the risk of introduction and spread of most quarantine pests.” There are only two established methods for reducing the risk of wood pests:  heat treatment and fumigation with pesticides (usually, methyl bromide).

However, due to increased health concerns and ozone depletion associated with methyl bromide, heat treatment is the preferred method.

How Does Heat Treatment Work?

In the heat treatment process, wood pallets are placed in a special chamber (like the one shown at the top of this page). The pallets are then heated until the wood’s core temperature reaches 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature must be maintained for at least 30 minutes to comply with ISPM 15.

Once heat treatment is complete, the pallet is stamped with a mark of compliance, like this one:heattreat

Advantages of Heat-Treated Pallets

In addition to their pest control properties, heat-treated pallets offer several other advantages:

fig2_art08

Heat treating wood adds longevity and quality. Did you know that when wood is heat treated, its composition is actually altered?

It’s true. As a result, the heat-treated wood is less likely to decompose, even when exposed to dampness and extreme humidity.

Heat-treated pallets are also more resistant to fungi and other microorganisms that contribute to wood rot. Heat treating also hardens the wood and makes it less permeable, thus preserving the wood’s longevity while also reducing swelling and shrinkage.

Heat-treated pallets are environmentally sound. No chemicals are used in the manufacture of heat-treated wooden pallets, and they do not add any toxic stress to the ozone layer. They can also be recycled as wood chips and repurposed, so that nothing really goes to waste.

cargoshipwithshippingcartonsHeat-treated pallets are lighter in weight. Heat treating reduces moisture in the wood and makes it moisture resistant. The end result is a pallet that weighs less, saving money on shipping costs.

Heat-treated pallets are accepted internationally. International standards that regulate heat-treated wooden pallets in compliance with ISPM 15 are strictly enforced. With heat-treated pallets, wares can move freely across international boundaries without facing any shipping restrictions.


Sources: