Dec 17

Creating a Housekeeping Regimen

Good housekeeping is important in any workplace. In factories with processes that create combustible dust, however, ensuring good housekeeping and workplace organization should be a top priority. To keep employees safe and processes running smoothly, a regular schedule should be kept for cleaning up, safely removing and disposing of the dust. Yet, whenever a new initiative like this is undertaken, it is often difficult to sustain.

Reliable Plant recently addressed how starting an important initiative like this can often lose its importance over time. “This generally occurs because the expectation was created, but no follow-up was established,” Curtiss Quirin, the director of supply management for industrial supplies for Delphi Corp., wrote.

Quirin recommends the following key steps when starting a routine housekeeping program:

  1. Pick something important;
  2. Involve your people;
  3. Establish measurable requirements;
  4. Make it visible;
  5. Set up an audit frequency; and
  6. Have the discipline to stay on course.

“Before any new initiatives are started, you, as the leader, must decide what is important and be prepared to stay the course,” according to Quirin. “The goal is to set a standard and change behavior.”

When implementing a successful change initiative, bringing about the required behavioral changes needed to sustain the program is not easy. But if leadership picks an important activity – like the safety of employees and the structural integrity of the facility – and develops the discipline to stay the course, commitment to the new initiative should become easier and, ultimately, lead to improved safety, quality and productivity.

“Inspection requires not only the creation of a standard but also the discipline to observe and audit on a regular basis,” according to Quirin. “If done correctly, it will help to create constancy of purpose and the development of a work culture.”

Dec 09

America’s Engineering Hubs

America's Engineering HubsEngineers have long held a critical role in the nation’s ability to innovate, having found creative solutions to crucial problems and developed effective ways to harness technologies to put previously impossible accomplishments within reach. So, it isn’t unreasonable to expect the greatest capacity for innovation will be in areas with sizeable concentrations of engineers.

Forbes recently compiled a list of the top 10 engineering cities in the United States. Whether the metropolitan areas listed specialize in IT, energy or manufacturing, Forbes’ findings reveal that the “regions with higher concentrations of engineers tend to do better, and seize the leadership of key industries.”

San Jose/Silicon Valley topped the list as America’s top engineering hub. Totaling 40,4000, the region’s ratio of 45 engineers per 1,000 employees is twice as high as any other big metro area. The second city on the list is Houston, Tex., the world energy capital. Home to 59,000 engineers, Houston has a concentration of 22.4 engineers per 1,000 employees. In the third spot, driven by aerospace manufacturing, is Wichita, Kan., with 21 engineers per thousand employees and 5,870 engineers in total.

“These top three engineering cities tell us much about the source of American innovation, and the remarkable diversity that makes this country an engineering powerhouse,” Forbes explained. “It involves three essential industries — information technology, energy and manufacturing. Each has a distinct geographic makeup that reflects differing kinds of engineering talent.”

In separate findings, a new report from the National Science Foundation indicates that “intensity employment” – the proportion of workers in a state that is employed in science and engineering jobs – is highest in the District of Columbia, followed by Maryland and Massachusetts.

Much as Silicon Valley became the center of the tech revolution, many metropolitan areas are beginning to see clusters of engineers, whose ingenuity and capacity for innovation will no doubt set a path for the future.

Dec 07

Helping to Drive Quality in Manufacturing

Manufacturers of all sizes today face ever-greater volumes of data, all streaming in at high velocity and in a dizzying variety of formats – all of it needing to be being captured and analyzed. Today, manufacturers’ essential “big data” challenge is figuring out how to effectively harness and leverage the massive amounts of data collected from various sources.

Because many business and supply-chain management systems are “siloed” within the manufacturing enterprise, and data are not delivered in real-time to the correct decision makers in an easily digested format, much of the data collected today doesn’t have sufficient value, according to Bob Dean, executive director of business transformation at Cisco.

To collect, analyze and report the data dynamically – and ultimately help drive innovation, quality and cost savings throughout the organization – Dean recently wrote at that manufacturers need to “stitch” these various business systems into a cohesive and integrated decision engine by harnessing “Data in Motion” – a way for increasingly more and diverse data types from new devices and sensors to function at maximum value while still in motion.

“Take pressure sensors, which have been widely deployed across plant floors to monitor systems and ensure they are applying pre-defined parameters,” Dean notes. “If controlled by higher-level manufacturing execution systems, this same sensor data could be used in deciding whether to change the pressure envelope based on customer requirements or quality inspections across the entire factory, or even across sites. True business benefits accrue when Data in Motion flows freely across silos.”

As “big data” becomes a bigger challenge and a higher priority for manufacturers, it will also become an opportunity to gather valuable insights, decrease costs, increase profit and drive quality.

Dec 02

OSHA VPP Success Story: Tesoro’s Mandan Oil Refinery

Tesoro's Mandan Oil RefineryIn our ongoing series of posts highlighting companies that have taken extra steps to satisfy Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety requirements in their Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), a cooperative program that recognizes employers and employees who proactively prevent worksite fatalities, injuries and illnesses, here we look at Tesoro’s Mandan oil refinery.

Located in Mandan, N.D., the refinery manufactures gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, heavy fuel oils and liquefied petroleum gas, of which most are shipped via pipeline to the eastern part of the state and Minnesota. The facility has a daily capacity of 58,000 barrels, processing mainly low-sulfur domestic crude oil.

By focusing on continuously improving its workplace safety and health, the refinery has experienced a 45 percent reduction in injury and illness rates since 2004. The refinery earned VPP Merit recognition in August 2007, and in January 2011, it was designated a Star site, the highest level of recognition offered by OSHA’s VPP. A VPP Star site maintains employee injury and illness rates below the national average for its industry.

Part of the Mandan site’s safety successes can be attributed to its “Triangle of Prevention System” (TOP) incident investigation program, a worker-driven and company-supported safety and health program. The TOP program is a system-based safety program that uses a three-pronged attack on hazards in the workplace by identifying failures in the system, making recommendations to correct these types of failures and tracking the recommendations to completion.

Among the site’s other notable efforts are its emergency preparedness and response teams, proactive hazard analysis systems and employee training systems.

Nov 25

Emptying Rail Cars with Vacuums

Emptying Rail Cars with VacuumsIn the 1880s, freight cars became a popular way to transport agricultural products from the farms to the market. Transporting goods by rail remains one of the most cost and energy efficient ways to move bulk quantities of raw materials today. Modern freight cars are not only capable of containing a tremendous volume of goods such as sugar and limestone, but also hauling a great deal of weight – up to 120 tons!

While the freight rail network solved the problem of transporting goods to customers, emptying the sheer amount of material from the cars themselves posed another. The goods travel unpackaged, which means that they must either be dumped or vacuumed out. Some types of freight cars are designed with compartments that slope downwards, towards gates that open on the underside of the car. To unload one of these cars, the operator moves the car over a dumping pit and opens the gates.

A rather simple procedure, unloading freight cars in this manner invariably leaves some debris that must be cleaned out. Some materials such as limestone can crust and harden inside the freight cars, making it difficult to empty a load properly. The traditional way to prevent this situation is to have someone enter the car and clean it out using a simple shovel and bucket. As technology progressed, however, so have ways to keep rail cars clean. Today, the most efficient method of disposing residual material inside a freight car is to use a vacuum system.

At DeMarco, we offer industrial vacuum systems that will complete the job quickly and efficiently. The vacuums can easily be connected to a freight car with our flexible, abrasion resistant hose. Using an industrial vacuum not only eliminates the need for workers to expose themselves to potentially harmful dusts, but also gets the job done faster. DeMarco has been the preferred supplier of industrial vacuum systems to the railcar industry for over 40 years.

To learn more about DeMarco’s capabilities, please speak to one of our vacuum engineers today!

Nov 25

Importance of Integrity in Business Execs (and Social Intelligence in Middle Managers)

IntegrityToday’s increasingly conscience-focused marketplace and workplace demands more ethical business processes and performance than ever. As such, it’s no surprise that a 2012 paper by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) indicates that integrity is the key criteria in determining success by top executives. “Interestingly, however, integrity is not the key criteria for success by middle managers according to performance ratings. For them, the study indicates that social intelligence – understanding the people and situations around them – is key,” the Globe & Mail says of the CCL paper’s findings. “And this means many organizations, when promoting their best middle managers to the executive suite, may be putting their weight behind people whose integrity has not yet been tested – and may even be missing.”

Rather than highlight the role of character flaws in organizational or personal failures, the CCL research examines the importance of character strengths – integrity, bravery, perspective and social intelligence, in particular – in the performance of leaders in organizations.

Unsurprisingly, the paper concluded that all four traits are important and relate positively to performance. However, when the researchers looked at different levels of the organization to determine relative importance of the four aforementioned strengths, they found that some character strengths are more important than others, depending on leadership level.

For instance, the research suggests that social intelligence – the awareness of the motives and feelings of yourself and others around you – is the most important factor for success in the middle of the organization, requiring that middle management be able to get along, read other people and smooth over differences.

“[Middle managers] are tasked with communicating the vision of those at the top to others at lower levels in an organization,” the report states. “Simultaneously, they have to engage with lower-level employees in the day-to-day, ground-level work of organizations and communicate the thoughts, information, and feedback of those employees to top-level executives.”

Meanwhile, integrity and bravery were found to be more important at the top of the organization.

“The two may go hand-in-hand,” the report continues. “Integrity is needed when deciding what action should be taken. Bravery is needed to take actions that might be unpopular.”

Much as Silicon Valley became the center of the tech revolution, many metropolitan areas are beginning to see clusters of engineers, whose ingenuity and capacity for innovation will no doubt set a path for the future.

Nov 18

Industrial Vacuums Infographic: It Pays To Be Clean

Having a manufacturing plant, production facility, or any other operations building requires ongoing maintenance and upkeep. Permitting facilities to become dirty and filled with dust and debris can lead to serious issues over time. One way to maintain the cleanliness of a manufacturing plant is to have a regularly scheduled maintenance and cleaning schedule. In addition, regularly checking, updating, and servicing industrial vacuum and ventilation systems can save money by avoiding costly issues.

Our “It Pays to be Clean” infographic provides information that can help you add to your bottom line!

Check out the following 6 quick and easy facts about maintaining a clean work environment. Improve profitability through clean work environments!

From our infographic, you’ll learn about some of the following:

  • Clean manufacturing areas equals parts passing QC.
  • Spotless machining areas lead to higher efficiency.
  • Clean environments can lead to less employee health issues.
  • Proper maintenance can prevent dangerous situations

industrial vacuums infographic

Nov 12

Be Aware of OSHA Guidelines for Combustible Dust Mitigation

Be Aware of OSHA Guidelines for Combustible Dust MitigationOne of the worst-case scenarios for a business owner is an industrial accident causing property damage or personal injury to workers. One possibility could be an industrial accident caused by combustible dust, or tiny airborne particulates that can suddenly explode under the particular circumstances.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines combustible dust as: “Any finely divided solid material that is 420 microns or smaller in diameter (material passing a U.S. No. 40 Standard Sieve) and presents a fire or explosion hazard when dispersed and ignited in air.” Some typically well-known sources of combustible dust include: wheat grain, powdered sugar, lactose, powdered aluminum, and plastic resins.

As leaders in industrial hazard mitigation, we’ve been championing the practice of routine dust removal by vacuuming for years. Recently, in this space, we’ve even been blogging about the subject to get the word out. Here are a few examples:

The threat of a combustible dust accident is so alarming that the U.S. government has also gone to great lengths to educate the private sector about ways that businesses can mitigate the risks of one occurring. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued very detailed guidelines for combustible dust mitigation.

The latest Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB 07-31-2005) from OSHA on combustible dust, “Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosions,” lays out the agency’s oversight scope in the regulation of combustible dust in the workplace. It states in part: “This Safety and Health Information Bulletin is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations … Pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must comply with hazard-specific safety and health standards promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan … Employers can be cited for violating the General Duty Clause if there is a recognized hazard and they do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazard.”

To help our customers understand the ramifications of the OSHA standards, we’ve put together an e-book that offers you a detailed overview of them, called Meeting OSHA Recommendations for Combustible Dust. We hope it will answer many of the questions you may have on this important topic.

Want to learn more about OSHA Guidelines?

Nov 05

3 Reasons Why U.S. Manufacturing Is on the Rise

American manufacturers are showing signs of regaining their competitive edge. In August, the U.S. manufacturing sector grew at a faster rate over the previous month than at any other time during the last two years. Data from July show that the manufacturing sector expanded in July at the fastest pace in more than two years and remains one sector of the U.S. economy that is still hiring.

“The overall boost in manufacturing over the last two months has some economists hopeful that the country is headed for recovery,” according to The Week in September.

The weekly news magazine offers three key reasons for the sector’s recent improvement:

  • 3 Reasons Why U.S. Manufacturing Is on the RiseRising global demand – As the global economy heals, demand for American-made products is picking up. In fact, a new report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) indicates that, as a share of the U.S. economy, exports are at their highest point in 50 years, and U.S. manufacturing may gain up to $115 billion more in export business from rivals by 2020.
  • Rising Chinese costs – Wages in China have jumped dramatically, making it “only marginally cheaper for U.S. businesses to manufacture goods in China.” Once you consider the extra costs in terms of labor, energy and shipping, it’s clear that manufacturing in China isn’t as cheap as it used to be.
  • Affordable U.S. labor – Many factory jobs today are part-time, non-union jobs that demand specialized technical skills. Both the relatively low cost of labor and lax U.S. labor laws make it more cost-effective for some foreign companies to manufacture products in the U.S.

BCG’s analysis suggests that the U.S. is steadily becoming one of the most appealing countries for manufacturing in the developed world.

“By 2020, higher U.S. exports, combined with production work that will likely be ‘reshored’ from China, could create 2.5 million to 5 million American factory and service jobs associated with increased manufacturing,” the BCG report states.

Oct 28

Diligence and a Clean Workplace Prevented Larger Explosion

Diligence and a Clean Workplace Prevented Larger ExplosionAn explosion that injured a worker in a British Columbia sawmill in July could have had much more devastating results if it weren’t for the facility’s diligence in cleaning combustible dust, the mill owner said.

The incident, which sent a worker to the hospital with minor burns, occurred within a planer blower pipe being used to transport dry wood shavings into a cyclone located in a smaller building outside the facility.

“It was a primary blast contained within the pipe, and that’s all there was to the chain of events in this incident,” Bill Kordyban, president of Carrier Lumber, told the newspaper the Prince George Citizen.

A primary episode can disturb fine dust that has accumulated in hard-to-reach areas such as rafters, which can cause a secondary explosion once airborne. Kordyban credited regular daily and weekly wood dust cleanup with helping prevent a more-harmful secondary dust explosion at the company’s Prince George sawmill.

“The building is clean, so there was no secondary incident,” Kordyban said.

In addition to regular daily wood dust cleanup, crews clean wood dust from hard-to-reach spots when the mill is shut down for weekly maintenance.

“[Keeping the mill clear of dust] is very high on our priority list. So, of course for this to happen, it’s very frustrating,” Kordyban said in a Vancouver Sun report. “But I guess if there is a silver lining, it’s there was absolutely no secondary explosion, which is the one that seems to be the bad one.”

The last wood-dust inspection report for Carrier Lumber, seven months prior, showed combustible wood dust levels were below permissible levels.