Project Sunshine for factory

2018-03-01 – Protecting the environment and the health of his colleagues is the job of HSE manager Max Vome. For him, Project Sunshine has been a success on many levels – it saves energy, conserves resources, and improves the lighting in the factory.

Tags of the article: #sustainability #environment

There is no shortage of eco-friendly concepts springing up at the KION plant in Summerville in the American Deep South. It all began with a smart waste recycling system and LED lamps in production. Next up are solar panels on the factory roof that are designed to supply the bulk of the electricity needed to power the machines.

It is not normally Max Vome’s job to climb around on roofs. But when it comes to protecting the environment, the KION employee is willing to make an exception. He makes special visits to Alder Energy in Charleston in the US state of South Carolina to take a close look at the solar panels and find out what he needs to know. Soon, solar modules will be installed on the flat roofs of the factory at KION North America in Summerville. “Our local solar vendor informed us of government tax breaks and funding for energy produced from renewable resources that brought this idea to reality,” says Vome, who is the plant’s health, safety, environment and security manager.

Internally, the initiative is called Project Sunshine. Daniel Schlegel, Vice President of Operations at KION North America, estimates that solar energy will offset around 80 per cent of the power needed for production when everything is up and running. By demonstrating its green credentials in this way, 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 – we experience this with each new day in the shape of greater customer interest in electric forklift trucks,” says Schlegel. “Now we are even in the position here in North America to offset our production line energy usage by creating energy through renewable resources.”

Daniel Schlegel
Vice President Operations - KION North America

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

Recycling materials

But even without this eco-friendly production set-up, Linde’s trucks are a true recycling wonder: should the sturdy industrial trucks ever come to the end of their time, 70 per cent of the cast iron used to make them can be reused 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 factory halls at Summerville. For example, around 400 energy-saving LEDs have been installed in the production areas and offices. This has lowered power consumption – and of course the electricity bill – by around a quarter. “And that’s at a time when truck production has actually increased here in the Summerville plant,” says Max Vome.

Max Vome
HSE Manager - KION North America

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

New lamps for better light

But the LEDs have a number of other advantages. They generate less heat, for example, which helps to keep the factory cool in the hot summer months. “This means we need less energy for air conditioning,” says Vome. And for the employees, the more even distribution of light in the factory is a definite improvement in their working conditions. Their eyes come under less strain than with conventional fluorescent lighting and they are making demonstrably fewer errors when working with small parts.

The new waste management system required employees to really rethink the way they do things. “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 factory aisles: blue for recycling, green for wood, grey for scrap metal and red for anything that belongs in landfill. This initially caused some confusion among employees, who were used to throwing everything in the same waste bins that were handily positioned under their tables. “Now they need to stand up all of a sudden when, say, they need to dispose of the paper from their lunchtime sandwiches,” reports Vome. But since training courses were held and the coloured receptacles implemented, the eco-friendly principles appear to have taken hold. And the employees of KION in Summerville are proud to have achieved measurable success through their environmental awareness. More than 60 per cent of production waste is now transported for recycling.