Material Handling Becomes Green Resource

By John T. Phelan

Whether the economy is up or down, most companies with a distribution center have a single set of goals: increase productivity, reduce energy costs and improve the work environment. This is why many companies and their distribution center managers are turning to eco-friendly, energy-saving equipment such as the 24-volt motorized drive roller (MDR) conveyor to move their products.

Along with being 60 percent more energy efficient than traditional conveyors, this conveyor has the advantage of reducing noise on the warehouse floor by putting out only 55 to 60 decibels, just about the level of a soft rock radio station. This makes it 45 percent quieter than traditional conveyor systems, which creates a positive effect on employees, who are now working in a fully functioning warehouse environment with the noise level of a library.

“This conveyor system is insanely quiet,” says Kevin Godwin, director of consumer operations for Exactech Inc., a Florida-based based manufacturer and distributor of orthopedic implant devices and surgical instrumentation to hospitals and physicians, who is now using the equipment in his warehouse. “I can walk through the warehouse and have a normal conversation with people and be heard perfectly. They should call it the ‘stealth conveyor.’”

The low noise levels combined with a blend of natural and artificial lighting make for a very comfortable workspace. In addition to being tremendously eco-friendly, it can also save the company money over the long term.

It’s also important to look at innovative lighting to manage energy consumption, whether its motion detectors or programmable lighting that automatically saves power by dimming when workers are in and out of the area.

Still, going green can sometimes go beyond utilizing new equipment and new technology. Occasionally, it’s letting something as simple as Mother Nature do some of the work. This can be accomplished by strategically placing skylights in a facility that allows sunlight to come in during the day. You can also install a high-gloss floor to reflect more light, making it possible to reduce the amount of overhead lighting being used.

Even when capital outlays are limited, making limited improvements can result in an appropriate ROI and taking these steps helps meet the goal of creating an environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, more productive and cost effective distribution center.
John T. Phelan Jr. is chief operating officer of TriFactor LLC and a material handling systems integrator based in Lakeland, Fla.

© 2016 Institute of Industrial Engineers. All rights reserved.