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Liberty Tire Recycling: Reclaiming 140 Million Tires Per Year for Healthier, More Scenic Communities

  • April 15, 2015

The American countryside is becoming more scenic, thanks to companies that are working with local communities to rid their land of abandoned tires. Liberty Tire Recycling is the nation’s largest tire recycler, collecting an astounding total of 140 million tires each year, or about one-third of all scrap tires. That makes them the largest tire recycler in the country.

Reclaimed tires are processed and refined for alternative clean-rubber uses. Some are used by civil engineers as a substitute for stone aggregates. Some become feedstock for manufacturers, or as fuel to power kilns and mills, while others go into the manufacture of adhesives.

At five Liberty Tire plants, tires are converted to crumb rubber, which is often used in rubberized asphalt highways that resist cracking, improve nighttime visibility, and reduce noise. Crumb rubber is often used with synthetic turf (see the Great Manufacturing Story about Act Global), which is used for sports fields at the high school, college and professional levels, as well as playgrounds. Crumb rubber also goes into products like welcome mats and synthetic railroad ties. All of these uses encourage conservation.

Abandoned tires pose an environmental hazard (through chemical runoff) and a health risk, in addition to being an eyesore. By attracting mosquitoes and vermin, they can be a breeding ground for West Nile Virus. Liberty Tire partners with communities and property owners to address the problem. The firm has remediated 150 existing dump sites over seven years in Georgia, New York, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina, according to the company.

Liberty Tire is based in Pittsburgh, and has facilities in convenient locations around North America. Total employment is about 1,100 workers.  

Given the growing public recognition of the importance of conservation and recycling, and the wide variety of applications for clean, reclaimed rubber, demand for the services of Liberty Tire and other recyclers is expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Firmgreen: Converting Hydrocarbons from Renewable Resources to Electricity for Vehicles and Fuel Cells

  • April 12, 2015

Firmgreen is an example of a U.S.-based manufacturer that derives the vast majority of its sales revenue from overseas. Based in Newport Beach, the company makes products that convert solid, liquid, and gaseous hydrocarbons from renewable resources (such as biomass and landfill gas) into renewable electricity and clean biofuels to power vehicles and fuel cells.

The company relies on insurance from the Ex-Im Bank to back much of its overseas business. Company executives note that some European and Asian rivals have government-sponsored financing. Without Ex-Im Bank, the competitive playing field would be far from level.

Firmgreen’s web site notes that it is committed to developing facilities that generate value for the owners of landfills and water treatment plants; provide the best use of local waste, water, and solar resources; operate in an environmentally responsible manner; and generate job creation and an increased tax base. Not surprisingly, that commitment commands the attention of potential clients in a variety of countries, including the Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico. As countries strive to increase their renewable energy portfolios, companies like Firmgreen will continue to see opportunities for their advanced technologies.

Yokogawa: Measuring the Boom in Energy Production

  • January 9, 2015

In 2005, the U.S. produced 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In recent years, that total has risen to 24 trillion cubic feet. As domestic production has grown, one of the little-known manufacturers enabling that production has been Yokogawa, which has been making instrumentation products in Georgia for more than 30 years.

Yokogawa’s U.S. product line includes test, measurement, field instrumentation, process control, and information products for oil and gas applications.

The company, which was founded in Japan in 1915, opened its first U.S. production plant in Newnan, Georgia in 1980, when energy prices were peaking. Energy prices cratered several years later, but Yokogawa retained its U.S. presence, and in 2009, during the early stages of the most recent energy boom, moved their U.S. headquarters to Sugar Land, Texas, closer to their major customers.

The company also provides contract manufacturing services, using its 17 CNC and manual machining centers, 6 injection molding machines, and other equipment. The factory in Georgia 170,000 square feet of manufacturing space and another 50,000 square feet of warehouse space.

North American employment at Yokogawa tends to reflect demand, but has at times approached 1,000 employees, with positions in engineering, machining, information technology and sales. The company’s mix of employees is a reminder that modern manufacturing offers excellent careers for those with the right skills and training.

Roseburg: Committed to Sustainable Forestry

  • December 20, 2014

For more than 75 years, an Oregon-based manufacturer named Roseburg Forest Products has harvested and sustained the forests, maintaining the highest standards of sustainability and stewardship of natural resources.

The closely held company operates 12 manufacturing plants, all in the U.S. Its major product lines include composite panels, plywood, engineered wood, and lumber. Yet, the starting point for this GreatManufacturingStory is the forest.

Roseburg owns 650,000 acres of forest land in Oregon and northern California. Each year, the company plants and nurtures more than five million new trees. Protecting that renewable resource is a matter of personal commitment to Roseburg’s management team and its 3,000 employees. Their environmental stewardship applies not only to the trees, but also to the soil and to the wildlife that inhabits the forest.

Sustainability extends to Roseburg’s material-use practices. Some 150,000 tons of wood residual material are reused every year to make high-grade particleboard. Other residuals are sent to a biomass co-generation facility where they are converted into energy.

Architects, builders, designers and consumers purchase Roseburg’s products, confident that the company is making the optimal use of forest products and residuals. Roseburg voluntarily complies with the Eco-Certified Composition (ECC) Sustainability Standard, which was developed by the Composite Panel Association.

As the association’s web site explains, “ECC Certification is available to individual manufacturing plants and requires an on-site qualification audit and subsequent annual audits. Unfinished composite panel products must first comply with the stringent California Air Resources Board (CARB) formaldehyde emissions regulation before being considered for other ECC criteria.” 

Qualified plants must then meet at least three of five other stringent standards, dealing with carbon footprint, local and renewable resources, recycled/recovered, sustainability, and wood sourcing practices.

Roseburg’s products can be seen in decorative applications (such as shelving, wall paneling, and veneer-finishes for furniture); construction uses (joists, columns, studs, beams, and real wood siding); and other industrial and specialty applications.

Yet, beyond the environmental stewardship and quality products, there is another side to this company that is also commendable. In September 2014, a wildfire swept through Weed, California, destroying houses and businesses alike. Roseburg’s veneer plant in Weed sustained significant damage.

Not only did Roseburg immediately set about replacing the boiler, and rebuilding the plant, but it also made heroic efforts to keep the affected workers employed. The company even took the lead in raising funds to assist victims who had lost their homes. Remarkably, the plant was partially open again well before Thanksgiving, and local leaders were effusive in their praise for this great manufacturing company.  

Gilbarco: The People behind the High-Tech Service Station Fuel Pumps

  • May 6, 2014

The automobile not only changed the way Americans live, work, and travel, but it also created new industries, including fuel pumps and service stations. Old-time fuel pumps are now collectors’ items and command a pretty penny at antique stores and auctions.

But today’s ultra-modern versions of the device do much more than pump gasoline. They determine the price, collect payment on a secure basis, and offer consumers options such as paying for a car wash, buying lottery tickets, or purchasing a fuel additive, which the pumps deliver on demand. Modern fuel pumps also include media components that deliver video entertainment, stereo sound music, and digital advertising messages.

One of the two primary manufacturers of today’s sleek fuel pumps is Gilbarco Veeder-Root, whose parent company is Danaher. Gilbarco is based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Gilbarco saw so much potential for the video display applications that they purchased a California-based video-display company in early 2014. Gilbarco pumps can be synchronized with security cameras that enable store personnel to monitor a transaction in progress and match it to video footage to help prevent fraud or correct any errors.

In addition to gasoline pumps, Gilbarco makes compressed natural gas (CNG) dispensers with fast fill rates and advanced safety features. These new machines are helping pave the way for the growing use of natural gas vehicles, which offer the promise of reduced emissions and cleaner air.  

Gilbarco also manufactures the Insite360, which is a cloud-based platform that allows retailers to monitor and control all of their Gilbarco pumps from a single remote web dashboard, enterprise-wide.

Gilbarco’s primary competitor is Wayne, which is a General Electric company. It was formerly known as Dresser-Wayne. Wayne manufactured its first fuel pumps, which dispensed kerosene, in 1891, and has been making gasoline pumps since 1907. The company introduced its first blending pumps in 1956. Their manufacturing facility is in Round Rock, Texas, where they employ several hundred workers, and also offer a broad variety of technological innovations for their customers around the country and around the world.

AESYS Technologies: Advanced Boiler System Helps Ensure Clean Water in New York City

  • February 10, 2014

This great manufacturing, engineering, and construction story involving AESYS Technologies dates back to 2006, and is worth retelling because of the scope of the challenge that was met, and the importance of the product – clean water – involved in the project.

In New York City, the North River Water Pollution Control Plant was processing 170 million to 340 million gallons of raw sewage each day. Through the sludge-processing equivalent of wear and tear, the original process hot-water system pipes throughout the plant experienced serious corrosion and leaks. More than 10,000 gallons of hot water were being lost daily, and the plant was frequently forced into expensive piping system drain-downs to permit repairs to be made. The plant’s boilers were fatigued after operating at temperature differentials beyond their design capability.

A project team was assembled involving the New York Power Authority, AESYS Technologies, Harris/AECOM, and Dynamic Mechanical Constructors. A project of this scope could easily have shut down processing for four to six years, but through careful coordination between the plant managers and the companies involved in the project, it was achieved with no interruption of service.

AESYS Technologies provided four new boilers with boiler feedwater/deaerator and condensate transfer systems, blowdown tanks, and chemical-feed systems. More than 25,000 feet of welded hot-water distribution piping were installed. New approaches to technical challenges were developed to address the specific requirements of this project.  A deaerator system ensures feedwater oxygen removal to prevent future boiler corrosion.

The result is a low-pressure process steam-boiler plant controlled by a programmable lead-lag control system, with optimal operational-system redundancy going forward.

For more Great Manufacturing Stories, click here.

Statoil, NASA and CalTech: Synergies between Space Technologies and Energy Exploration

  • February 7, 2014

At first blush, space technologies might not seem especially applicable to oil and gas exploration and production. But energy development is increasingly moving into frontier regions with harsh conditions, and no entity knows more about exploring frontier areas than NASA.

With that in mind, Norway-based Statoil – one of the world’s leaders in energy exploration and production, with a significant presence in North America and offices in Houston – in 2013 signed a five-year, renewable agreement with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, to explore a range of technologies that could have applications at Statoil. Playing a key role in implementation will be the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), which administers the Jet Propulsion Lab.

Both Statoil and NASA could potentially benefit greatly from the collaborative research. Areas of research under the agreement include materials that can protect both energy and aerospace equipment in harsh conditions, robotics, supercomputing, new tool development, and communications.

The agreement is not at all out of character for Statoil, which is an exceptionally technology-intensive energy producer. It invests about $550 million per year (USD) on research, development, and innovation endeavors. Such investments have made it possible to access energy reserves once thought impossible or impractical to develop, both on offshore and tight-shale locales. Nor is the agreement out of character for NASA, which is increasingly focused on transferring technologies with commercial potential to the private sector.

Today’s global share of fossil fuels in the total energy mix is 82 percent, the same as it was a generation ago. Even with the growth of renewables, oil and gas will continue to play an incredibly important role in the energy mix, and in enabling our quality of life, for decades to come. Given that reality, the innovative work coming from energy companies like Statoil is a Great Manufacturing Story.  

Schlumberger: Microseismic Surface Acquisition System is Another Advance in Energy Exploration and Recovery

  • February 7, 2014

The processes used in the exploration, development, and production of oil and gas are continually being improved. A recent example came in February 2014, when Schlumberger introduced a new, high-fidelity micro-seismic acquisition system for surface and shallow-grid microseismic surveys.

Why is this development significant? The new system provides improved imaging of hydraulic fracture geometry. It does so by optimizing the microseismic signal quality. These improvements were demonstrated at a well site in Texas, where the new system and a conventional system were deployed head-to-head to monitor hydraulic fracture treatments in a horizontal shale completion. The new system improved the sensitivity to smaller microseismic events by boosting the signal-to-noise ratio more than two-fold, according to the company.  

This enables the detection of more micro-seismic events, thereby allowing those engaged in energy development to better understand their stimulation operations, refine their completion design, and potentially increase production.

Schlumberger, which traces its roots to the Alsace region near the French-German border in the 1870s, is a global leader in supplying technology, integrated project management, and information solutions to the oil and gas industry. It operates 125 research and engineering facilities around the world, and is at the cutting edge of making the energy industry more productive and efficient. 

In the case of the new microseismic system, an industry-first geophone accelerometer and ultra-low noise electronics produce an exceptionally wide range of signal detectability. A nodal-based wireless acquisition system also offers increased flexibility in designing and deploying the surface and near-surface arrays. GPS-synchronized data are continuously transmitted to an operations support center, providing customers with real-time data processing and interpretation.

To read more Great Manufacturing Stories, click here.

ExxonMobil: Jobs, Investment, and Waste-to-Energy Conversion at One of World's Top Petrochemical Hubs

  • February 6, 2014

One of the world’s largest and most integrated petrochemical hubs can be found around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In fact, ExxonMobil’s operations there include a refinery, chemical plant, plastics plant, resins facility, and polyolefins plant, plus a lubricants facility across the river in Port Allen. Together, the company’s local operations produce 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline and billions of pounds of petrochemical products every year.

Not surprisingly, ExxonMobil is the largest manufacturing employer in the state, with more than 5,000 employees and contractors. The Louisiana economy also benefits from 41,500 jobs supported indirectly by the company’s operations.

Between 2010 and 2013, ExxonMobil made nearly $1 billion in capital investments in Louisiana, according to Paul Stratford, manager of its Baton Rouge chemical plant. Such investments are necessary to ensure that the company remains in a position to respond to the needs of its customers. For example, ExxonMobil is now investing $215 million, split between a synthetic lubricants project in the chemical plant, and a center for manufacturing, blending, and distributing synthetic aviation oil in Port Allen.

The polyoelfins plant is noteworthy from a waste-to-energy perspective. In 1998, ExxonMobil purchased the plant, which produces high-density polyethylene and polypropylene used in making containers for food, shampoo, and detergents, as well as carpet backing, diapers, hospital gowns, automotive fuel tanks, hula hoops, shipping pallets and non-corrosive fuel tanks. The plant was one of the industry’s first to achieve ISO 9000 status.

The manufacturing process there uses steam produced by three boilers, which historically were fueled only by natural gas. Today, methane from a local landfill supplies 90 percent of the energy needed to operate one of the three boilers. Using this “waste gas” to provide energy at ExxonMobil and a second company, Novolyte, instead of burning the gas, is the equivalent, in terms of CO2 reduction, of removing 59,000 cars from the roads, according to local officials. That is a significant environmental benefit, thanks to the waste-to-energy project, which was implemented without any direct investment of taxpayer funds, after two years of R&D and an investment of $1.8 million by ExxonMobil.

Therein lies a Great Manufacturing Story of jobs, capital investment, and emissions reductions. For more great stories, click here.  

GrafTech International: Keeping the Curiosity Cool on the Way to Mars

  • December 31, 2013

In November of 2011, NASA launched the unmanned Curiosity rover aboard an Atlas V rocket on a mission to Mars. It landed there seven months and 350 million miles later. One of the many challenges NASA overcame was protecting Curiosity from the intense heat (estimated at 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit) generated as it penetrated the Martian atmosphere.

A Parma, Ohio-based manufacturer, GrafTech International, developed and manufactured the thermal solutions that were integrated by LockheedMartin into a nearly 15-foot heat shield that was attached to Curiosity. This technology made possible the rover’s 98-week mission, which is helping scientists understand the past and current environment on Mars by exploring the Gale Crater, and sending back stunning images.

The Mars-voyage application may be one of the most exotic for GrafTech. But the company is a longtime technology leader, and traces its roots to the formation of the National Carbon Company in 1886, when the thought of exploring Mars was little more than a dream. National Carbon later merged with Union Carbide. The graphite/carbon division took the name of GrafTech International in 2002.

Today, GrafTech still uses the innate properties of graphite to provide thermal management solutions for advanced energy technologies. Its markets include aerospace, defense, energy generation and storage, fluid sealing, fuel cells, industrial heat management, lighting thermal management, nuclear power, oil and gas, semiconductor manufacturing, solar technology, and steelmaking, among others. It has embraced lean principles in its operations for many years.

GrafTech has customers in more than 50 countries, and keeps a close eye on global GDP. In late 2013, citing the IMF’s fourth straight quarterly downward revision in global GDP projections, management announced it will reduce costs through changes in inventory practices and by closing production facilities in Brazil, South Africa, and Russia. Its remaining, state-of-the-art plants will be prepared to increase capacity as the graphite-electrode market improves. Their plan is a good example of the constant fine-tuning that manufacturing companies must do to compete in the fast-changing global marketplace.

Meanwhile, the achievements continue. GrafTech was chosen to provide advanced-material components for NASA’s Orion manned space vehicle, which is slated to make its first test flight in September 2014. And a specialized, modern manufacturing facility dedicated to making a thermal management product used in advanced electronics, including tablets and smart phones, opened in Sharon Center, Ohio, in 2013, creating 45 jobs. Graphite can pull heat away from the electronics in tablets, laptops, and smart phones, thereby allowing industrial designers to make electronic devices thinner.

As new techologies are developed in the years to come, the thermal-management uses for graphite will continue to grow, and GrafTech will be well positioned to redefine limits and drive those advances.