Forklift Factory Shows How to Take Out the Trash
Crown Equipment, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of lift trucks and related equipment, has eight manufacturing plants in the United States, plus one each in Germany, Mexico and China.
In 2011, Crown facilities worldwide reclaimed or recycled: 2,833 tons of solid waste (styrofoam, cardboard, paper/magazines, plastics, wood, foam, power coat waste, gloves, rags and empty drums); 28,673 tons of scrap metal (iron, copper, aluminum and lead); 2,170 tons of actual lift trucks (recycled); 21,000 units of motors and drives (renewed); 1,460 tons of other items (small batteries, lift truck batteries, computers and circuit boards); and 552,000 gallons of machine coolants, oil and oily wastewater.
In March 2012, Crown Equipment Corporation’s retail branch in Dayton, Ohio, achieved zero landfill status. The facility was the first company-owned retail dealership and the third Crown facility (the other two being manufacturing facilities) to fully divert its waste from landfills through repurposing and recycling.
None of this happened overnight, though. It has been a long and fruitful journey for Crown. “We have been involved in sustainability over 20 years, although back then it was known as ‘environmental improvement,’” states Brian Duffy, director of corporate environmental and manufacturing safety. One reason for launching the initiatives was the location of the company’s plants. “In most cases, our facilities are located in small towns, and we have a strong community presence,” he explains. “It is incumbent on us to be good citizens and walk the walk.”
The two criteria that Crown adopted for environmental projects were that they need to provide an environmental benefit and also make good business sense. The company soon found that, in most cases, those two things went hand in hand anyway, which provided the incentive to stay with the effort for these past two decades-plus.
In terms of waste minimization specifically, Crown never formally announced that it would create such a program. Rather, the concept evolved organically from the facilities themselves, largely driven by employee interest and activity. “Over the last five to 10 years, the employees became interested in sustainability in general, and Crown began to find way to get them involved in these initiatives,” states Duffy. One of these was waste minimization. “We realized that the employees on the manufacturing floor were able to see some things that we didn’t see.”
Evolution in Four Phases
Waste minimization has evolved over the years through four phases. The first was a traditional recycling program, which was fairly easy to start, and a good way to get employees involved, because there was a lot of low-hanging fruit. “They would see cardboard, paper, and plastic, and decide to find ways to recycle it,” Duffy states.
As interest and activity in the program grew, Crown began to look for ways to eliminate as much of the waste as possible in the first place, as well as substitute or reuse the material that was required to be used. This required a higher level of involvement and analysis.
In the third phase, Crown has become involved in kaizen events in its manufacturing facilities for a variety of reasons. The kaizen events look at all aspects of waste, including quality concerns, safety concerns, shipping opportunities, manufacturing opportunities, and more. “As part of the kaizen events, employees are now looking for waste minimization opportunities,” he adds.
Now Crown is in the process of going down the path toward ISO 14001 certification and zero landfill certification. It currently has two facilities registered to ISO 14001, and, as noted earlier, three facilities (two manufacturing facilities and one dealership) that are zero landfill. One of the manufacturing plants recycles 96% of its waste and converts the remaining 4% to energy at a waste-to-energy facility.
A Systematic Approach to Initiatives
When looking at sustainability initiatives, Crown utilizes a five-step method: 1) Analyze the facility. 2) Develop a plan. 3) Establish internal communication and involvement with employees. 4) Evaluate results and share successes. 5) Extend benefits beyond the company’s bottom line.
One project involved looking at the paper towels in the restrooms. “It seemed small at first, but we soon realized that there was a large volume of waste paper towels,” states Duffy. “In a lot of facilities, we have eliminated these and gone to either hand dryers or washable cloth towel rolls.”
Crown facilities use rags for cleaning and absorbing oil. At one time, used rags were disposed of as waste. These days, they are collected, cleaned and reused.
In one facility, employees identified re-use opportunities for steel fasteners that were purchased from suppliers. “Employees found a way to separate these and reuse them, instead of having to repurchase them again from the supplier,” he continues. “This has ended up saving almost $60,000 a year.”
The company’s electronics facility uses sealable plastic bags for parts as a way to protect them from humidity. In the past, these bags were thrown away after one use. “Employees came up with the idea of either returning them to our supplier or actually reusing them in the facility as the electronic modules were moving from building to building,” states Duffy.
Crown is also working with suppliers on reusable packaging at its facilities in Mexico, Germany and China. For example, Crown Germany shreds some of its waste cardboard to reuse for packaging materials for shipping out.