June 5, 2023, marks the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day. Each year, this passion project of the United Nations brings together more than 150 countries working toward one theme. The theme has been different every year, with this year’s theme being “Solutions to Plastic Pollution.” Consumers have many options when it comes to protecting the environment and reducing waste (recycling being the foremost). But what can manufacturers do? One of the biggest trends in manufacturing right now is going “green.”
There are many ways to go green as a manufacturer including:
Implement an Environmental Management System (EMS) — With an EMS in place, manufacturers can store, organize, review, and evaluate their environmental impact and performance as it relates to regulatory requirements as well as internal objectives and goals related to compliance, pollution prevention, resource conservation as well as reduced costs and increased efficiencies too. Leverage Renewable Energy — Renewable energy isn’t just solar power. There are many options for renewable resource options including rain, wind, ocean power, bio energy, etc. When utilized, all have the ability to reduce the use of non-renewable resources such as coal, oil, or gas. Partner with Eco-Friendly Suppliers — Uniting with other eco-friendly companies not only promotes internal goals of going green but also promotes the business of the partners and suppliers with the same objective. General Energy-Saving Practices — These are easier to implement and follow if going green as a manufacturer seems like a big chore.
Turn equipment off when not operating.
Open up windows and doors for natural light.
Switch to LED lights.
Make sure there are recycling options in lunch and breakrooms.
Consider implementing earlier work hours in the summer to avoid additional operating costs with the AC turned on.
Work to ensure predictive maintenance is a #1 goal for increasing the lifetime value and durability of production machinery.
Go digital. Auto deposit paychecks where possible or use electronic apps for internal messaging and communications.
Check out these manufacturers who have found ways to go green and are seeing the positive results from it!
SC Johnson closed down 2019 on a high when 100% of their factories sent zero waste to landfills.
Patagonia uses recycled materials in over 60% of their fabrics and is working to remove all nylon from their clothing since it’s made with petrochemicals.
Hudson Technologies “spent two years and over $2 million in research, development, capital costs, and training to ensure all our operations and products met stringent environmental standards” including replacing traditional chlorinated lubricants with biodegradable lubricants and removing solvent-based metal cleaners from their operations.
Bombardier has pledged over 50% of their R&D investments toward the goal of greener aircraft, among many other activities in their ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) plan.
We’re not the only ones talking about increased sustainability across the industry either. We heard so much about it at industry events over the last year that we’ve previously written about how early adopters are already reaping the benefits. The list goes on and on! Find more Green Manufacturers here and here!
A reader of our How It’s Made articles asked if we could share our knowledge about recycling. As a result, we adapted our How It’s Made article this month to an article titled “How It’s Done.”
In recognition of National Recycling Day on November 15, this edition will focus on what happens in a recycling facility. Before (or after) you read on, check out an earlier article we posted to help you understand just What Can Be Recycled.
As you read through the process below, keep in mind that states and cities vary in their abilities to recycle. However, the general process outlined here can be followed for mixed material recycling centers.
Step 1: Collection
Recyclables are collected from curbside or drop-off locations then delivered to the recycling/recovery facility.
Step 2: Facility Arrival
The trucks unload recyclables into a yard or storage area.
Heavy equipment pushes the material onto a conveyor belt or into a hopper which then feeds a conveyor belt.
Step 3: Presort
In this area, workers manually remove materials that are not recyclable or would damage the facility equipment.
Throughout the entire process, large rollers screen out materials. These rollers are essentially augers with blades. The build, size, and spacing of the blades pushes forward desired recyclable materials and undesired materials downward.
Often, the first material screened is large cardboard. These screens can also filter out materials considered too small for recycling.
Step 5: Sorting
Workers manually sort non-recyclable products from mixed materials. Workers will also pull out any materials that are difficult for equipment operations.
As a result, we have sorted various products into specific materials. These products are now moving on a series of conveyors to specific places within the facility. Those products include:
So, what else is left? Glass and metals.
Step 7: Metal Magnification
Giant magnets pull tin cans, iron containers, or steel containers from the conveyor belt. After this, another conveyor belt takes these containers to a specific area of the plant. Plastic, aluminum, and glass containers continue down the line.
Step 8: Screening
In this step, screens break the glass and separate it from plastic. A conveyor takes the broken glass to the glass processing department. This department breaks the glass down even further for additional processing or shipment out.
Step 9: Eddy Current Separator
This sorts aluminum from the mixed product through the use of an electric current. In addition, a conveyor takes the aluminum product to another area of the plant for processing.
Step 10: Sorting
More manual sorting by operators within the facility occurs here to gather any other products which are not recyclable.
At this point, plastic containers and small pieces of paper or film are all we have left.
Step 11: Optical Sorting
In this area, machines determine different types of unsorted materials. The machines identify different materials based on how light reflects from the material’s surface. This step determines the material type, color, and shape. Air pulls recognized material downward (or upward) onto another conveyor belt.
This step uses optical sorting machinery. One sorter will target paper. Another sorter will target plastic film. Upon completion of optical sorting, we should be left with just plastic containers. Therefore, each type of product or material has been sent to its own storage area. For instance, plastic bottles and containers are in one area. Similarly, cardboard is in another area.
So, what happens next?
Step 12: Baling
Baling machines operate with very high levels of pressure to compact materials into bales. Yes, like hay bales but made of different materials and square in shape. Wire wrapped around ensures the bales stay together.
Fun fact: These bales can weigh as much as 1 ton!
Baled product is ready for pickup and delivery to recyclers specialized in the materials. For an understanding of those processes, check out the links below:
We’re free . What an interesting concept. We choose where we step foot, Our identities draped in linens , Our hobbies prancing through the air. We sit at our desks Falling into the rhythm of each mechanical clicking key. We gather with loved ones Pondering today’s status as the sun greets our skin with infinite warmth. The grill hisses with anticipation As the wind guides us. While the burgers sing Laughter fills the air. Then, we remember All of those before us, Fighting invisible forces , Dreaming of a future Driven by love. We remember Our family and friends Filled with bravery as they left what they knew To fight for the unknown. We remember the lives That gave the ultimate sacrifice. We remember the families, Healing from loss , Celebrating each return. We remember we are free. They gave us this reality, Shaped by their care.
Most importantly, We are thankful.
Thanks to you,
We are free.
As wild as it seems, we can trace back the invention of jet engines to 150 BC with the development of the aeolipile. And it is truly the aeolipile’s technology that allowed Dr. Hans von Ohain and Sir Frank Whittle to invent the jet engine as we know it today, albeit it separately and unbeknownst to each other. Additionally, it was Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine that provided the United States of America the initial technology to build their own jet engines.
Sir Frank Whittle was an English aviation engineer as well as a test pilot in the Royal Air Force. It was in 1930 that he received his first patent on turbojet propulsion and, in just ten short years, he was able to construct, prove out, and secure his first contract of purchase for what was then called the W1 Whittle engine. It was May 1941 when the first historic flight with this new technology occurred.
This leads us to the fall of 1941 when a group of GE engineers in Lynn, Massachusetts received a secret present from King George VI via wooden crates on aircraft, as part of a contract from the U.S. War Department. Inside of the crates were parts of the first jet engine ever flown by the allies; a Whittle engine. The goal of this gift? To improve the handmade engine, bring it to mass production and help win the war.
Over 1000 people worked on the clandestine project, but only a select few knew the goal and what was being built. Those that did know were told they couldn’t talk to anyone about the work being performed. If they did, the consequence was death. As a result, they were called the “Hush-Hush Boys.”
With a timeline of 6 months, the team of engineers and technicians were tasked with redesigning the jet engine for commercialization. The accomplishment was completed in five months and in the fall of 1942, the first official aircraft flight occurred, powered by two jet engines, producing a total of 2,600 pounds of thrust.
Interested in learning more? I highly recommend the following.
Read here about Joseph Sorota, the last of the Hush-Hush boys and a key player in this engineering feat.
Find an image of the first US Jet Engine here as well as a magnificent video made by GE.
The Jet Story:
Every technician has a toolbox, but what do you NEED to have in it? While there’s no “right” answer, here is a list of tools that FlexTrades’ most successful technicians always have in their toolboxes – and some recommendations for the average Joe, too.
Chisels & Punches
Files & Deburring Tools
Drills & Drivers
Cutters & Saws
Grinders & Sanders
Calipers & Micrometers
Indicators & Edge Finders
Markers & Soapstone
Hand Tools for Your Toolbox
Machinists and maintenance technicians need a good set of wrenches, ratchets, and sockets in typical SAE and metric sizes. A good adjustable wrench and a set of Allen wrenches are also must haves. Most also carry a quality torx set because of their prevalence in industrial settings.
Hand drivers may be the toothbrush of tools; rarely appreciated though used every day, but that’s what makes them essential. Every technician prefers a power tool for any job, but sometimes you can’t get power tools where they need to be. A good selection of hand drivers with varied lengths and a multitude of heads (slotted, Philips, square, etc.) can often be a big job saver.
Whether used for holding work pieces, trimming and stripping wires or turning the nut a wrench can’t reach, a technician can never have too many pliers. From slip-joint to locking and needle-nose to linesman’s, make sure this tool is well represented in your bag.
Technician or not, everybody knows about hammers, but those used in manufacturing aren’t your father’s claw hammer. It doesn’t matter if you need to set tooling and fixtures, make repairs, fine adjustments, or just knock something loose. A good collection of specialty hammers such as ball peens, brass, and dead blows will more than pull their weight in the shop.
Sets of up to 1” for chisels and punches can go a long way for working on tooling, fixtures and finished work pieces. Having them may also be the difference between saving the machine, the tool, or your fingers from unnecessary damage in the process.
Files and deburring tools are integral for finish work on parts and features for both machinists and welders. Owning a great set of both is often all that separates a tedious job from an impossible one especially when dealing with fine materials or high tolerance pieces.
Drills and drivers replace hand tools, where appropriate, to save time and physical strain. Recent advancements in battery technology now allow many companies to make great entries in this field. However, regardless of brand, the choice will always be between power and physical profile (smaller drills = smaller, less powerful batteries). Be honest about the work you do most or be prepared to see this collection grow quickly.
Cutters and saws help make faster, more accurate, cuts more often than hand tools. You can choose from corded or cordless varieties, and both have their advantages. The convenience and portability of cordless versions normally win in most scenarios. Remember though, it’s still a battery tool. The same considerations apply to these as mentioned for drills and drivers.
A quality belt sander and an angle grinder, with both cutting and grinding heads, are essential for rough maintenance and fine finish work. It doesn’t matter if you’re a welder, machinist, or maintenance technician – you will have to clean up weld slag or tool chatter at some point. Pro tip, if you need to use either for more than a few minutes at a time, go with the corded version. Cordless sanders and grinders drain batteries quickly!
A quality 0-1” micrometer and a good 6” caliper will take any machinist a long way by accommodating most typical sized work pieces and features. If you need a bigger range for your daily work, then your toolbox is probably already in great shape without this list. Pro tip: Analog dials never have batteries die, but digitals have fewer parts that need cleaning to maintain accuracy over time.
Machinist square or combo square, both will help you start and check your work. You won’t get far without one or the other. When buying, go for sturdy over fancy.
A 6” scale is standard, and I recommend sticking with metal for durability and accuracy. Indicators and edge finders are essential for setting your axis, finding the edge of your part and fine-tuning settings. A scale is often overlooked, but you’re simply not a machinist without it. *Pros can get their measuring tools piece by piece or in a kit to meet all needs, like this one from Insize. But most Joes can get by with just a good tape measure like this classic from Stanley.
Flashlights make it easier to do work when you can see it. Get a few and make sure at least one has a flexible head. Magnetic bases frequently come in handy too.
Don’t use your phone as a calculator – there’s a greater chance you’ll wreck it. A calculator capable of performing trig functions is a must for multi-axis machining.
Being able to read your markings on greasy, oily metal is essential in production environments and being able to remove the markings after is a plus.
This is your most important tool as a technician because it allows you to reference work you’ve done and make sure you can apply that previous knowledge to the current job at hand.
When you go to the job, your tools need to come with you. FlexTrades’ traveling technicians all need a quality toolbox that is portable, adjustable, and lockable. This 22-inch rolling system from Husky is a great option! If you’re wondering what to do with the tools you decide to leave at home, they need to be stored properly as well. We suggest you watch this interview with Stor-Loc, a great American-made option, before deciding on your next tool chest!
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
Every work site has its own requirements for PPE, but they all begin with boots. Steel or composite safety toes are the standard, but built-in internal metatarsal protection boots are becoming more common all the time. Waterproofing, slip resistance, and electrical ratings are other things to consider when buying boots. Something like this pair from Red Wings checks all those boxes.
Hard hats or helmets, safety glasses, and hearing protection are often provided by the employer, but every technician has a favorite that works best for their job. When you find yours, buy two immediately!
Position specific equipment like auto-darkening visors for welders and respirators for painters are also PPE worth considering.
While this list is not definitive, it’s a great start to building your kit. See what your toolbox is lacking and consider adding some missing items.
If your collection already includes everything mentioned above, and you know how to use it, you’re probably ready for a career in the manufacturing industry. Send your resume to email@example.com and we’ll get you started!
The manufacturing industry is one of America’s great invisible strengths. They keep our stores stocked, our transportation systems running, and our people employed. And while this entire industry could use better recognition, today’s article will focus solely on Black Owned Manufacturing Companies that are experiencing tremendous growth.
Electro Soft Inc
Located in Pennsylvania, this family-owned manufacturer has over 35 years of experience creating customized electronics for a variety of industries including aviation, defense, and transit. They offer a plethora of services such as custom panel builds, cable assembly, wire harness assembly, PCB builds, and military electronics. They do all of this while highlighting Just In Time (JIT) Delivery to increase productivity.
James Wallace became an innovator at a young age after inventing his own air conditioner. How did he do it? He utilized his existing fridge and converted it into an air conditioner. Later in life, he pursued an engineering degree at Penn State and created his first design debugging secure communications equipment for the National Security Agency. His daughter also started her career at an early age. Karla would cut wires at home, making ten cents an hour, and later in life she worked at every business location her family opened. She graduated college with a focus on business, shipping operations, and logistics. The family legacy continued onward and is still expanding today. They are known for their specialty services and quality production.
This gem is right in the heart of Brooklyn, New York.
Howard Allen founded Maroon Sausage Company when he fell in love with the diverse populations surrounding him. As a result, he drafted a dream plan for the company to begin. His desire to bring Jamaican food to the local market while also offering it to surrounding markets online. To do just that, he created the perfect product… Jamaican Jerk Chicken Sausage.
Brooklyn has jerk chicken everywhere – the environment made it accessible, but Howard and his friend created the idea of having a mobile food business. The only requirement? It had to be sausage. They knew of a similar company, but they also knew they could take it to a whole new level. In 2014, the project became solely Howard’s as his friend stopped the project to follow a new path. Daily, Howard still tried to curate the beloved recipe they have on the market today. The esteemed judges (his children and mother-in-law) became quality testers until he took his product to the streets by hosting tables at local markets.
Did he have a cooking background? Nope, this creative director took his marketing skills to a new level by creating a holistic project. They held fundraisers during food truck events in support of halting human trafficking, and this turned into a weekly partnership as his company grew in the city.
While we’re on the topic of food, let’s talk about the Nigerian delight of Nerrido foods. Ufuoma Okharedia, a mother and wife, is the CEO and Founder of Nerrido. When she left Nigeria, she realized there was a gap with availability to traditional African meals. She sought to create accessible authentic African foods and sourced authentic ingredients locally. As a result, she shared her joy of cooking online while also selling blends of tomato stew for jollof rice. This sauce is all in one: pasta, curry, pizza, jollof rice, you name it!
Not only did she share her joy of cooking, but she also began to teach others how to make traditional and authentic dishes. This enabled her to bring the Nigerian tradition overseas while creating access for others to do the same. Ufuoma aims to inspire others to cook with confidence.
Manufacturing is truly for everyone, whether you start with an idea sketched onto a napkin or pursued a technical degree. As a society, we need to do a better job of acknowledging how greatly this industry affects each of us. Without modern manufacturing, our technology, education, and scientific knowledge would stall completely, our daily lives would look vastly different, and we wouldn’t be as connected as we are today.
Don’t be afraid to get started in the skilled trades world. Not sure where to start? Connect with us, and we’ll help get you there.