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It's always "Project Sunshine" in Summerville

Protecting the environment and the health of his colleagues is the job of HSE manager Max Vome. KION North America's "Project Sunshine" has been a success on many levels: it saves energy, conserves resources and improves the lighting in the production halls.


There is no shortage of eco-friendly concepts springing up at the KION plant in Summerville, South Carolina. It all began with a smart waste recycling system and LED lights in the production facility. Next up is a solar panel system for the roof that is designed to supply the bulk of the electricity needed to power the machinery.

Normally, Max Vome’s job does not call for him to climb on roofs. When it comes to protecting the environment, the KION manager is willing to make an exception. He makes the 30-minute trip to Alder Energy in Charleston to take a close look at the solar panels and learn more about them. Soon, solar modules will be installed on the flat roofs of the production facility at KION North America in Summerville. “Our local solar vendor told us about government tax breaks and funding for energy produced from renewable resources, which brought this idea to reality,” says Vome, who is the plant’s health, safety, environment and security manager.

Internally, the initiative is known as, "Project Sunshine". Daniel Schlegel, the vice president of Operations at KION North America, estimates solar energy will offset around 80 percent of the power needed for production when it is up and running. By demonstrating its green credentials, KION is playing a pioneering role in the US, where environmental protection is becoming increasingly important in the corporate world.

“Sustainability is a clear trend in the material handling industry and we see this with each new day in terms of greater customer interest in electric forklift trucks,” says Schlegel. “We are now in the position here in North America to offset our production line energy usage by creating energy with renewable resources.”

"Sustainability is a clear trend in the material handling industry"

Daniel Schlegel

Trucks with recyclable parts

But even without this eco-friendly production set-up, Linde’s trucks are a true recycling wonder: if the sturdy industrial trucks ever reach the end of their lifecycle, 70 percent of the cast iron used to make them can be re-used for new products. Other components such as plastic, hydraulic oil, batteries, filters and electronic cables can also be recycled.

KION has already implemented a number of eco-friendly ideas in the manufacturing halls at Summerville. Around 400 energy-saving LEDs have been installed in the production areas and offices. It has lowered power consumption and of course the electricity bill by around 25 percent. “And that’s at a time when truck production has actually increased here in the Summerville plant,” notes Vome.

"To make recycling easier, we have replaced our old waste containers with color-coded ones. We use blue for recycling, red for hazardous waste, green for wood and gray for metal."

Max Vome

LEDs for better lighting

But the LEDs have a number of other benefits. They generate less heat, which helps keep the plant cool during the hot and very humid summer months. “We need less energy for air conditioning,” says Vome. And for employees, the better distribution of light in the plant is a definite improvement to their work environment. It is less strain on their eyes than with conventional fluorescent lighting and they make significantly fewer errors when working with small parts.

With the new waste management system, employees had to really re-think the way they dispose of items. “We had to pretty much get rid of all standard waste baskets and replace them with colored receptacles,” says Vome. The bright colors stand out in the production aisles: blue for recycling, green for wood, gray for scrap metal and red for anything that belongs in a landfill. It initially caused some confusion among employees, who were used to placing all waste in the same waste bins, which were conveniently placed under their tables. . But following a few trainings and the implementation of the colored waste containers, the eco-friendly principles appear to have taken hold. And the employees in Summerville are proud to have achieved measurable success through their environmental awareness. More than 60 percent of production waste is now brought to recycling.


Project Sunshine for factory


Environmental protection plays an increasingly important role for companies, including KION North America. Many customers appreciate that.


Large solar collectors turn sunshine into energy. Daniel Schlegel (on the right) inspects them.


Better lighting is good for the employees' eyes.


The new LED lamps ensure there is plenty of light.


Since Project Sunshine, the principle of sustainability has become an integral element of day-to-day work.


More than 60 per cent of production waste is now recycled...


...because everyone is working to conserve resources.