Having a view of our world that includes being a sustainable member of the business community has increased over the past few years. Throughout the manufacturing and engineering fields, companies are working to make contributions toward a cleaner environment and a sustainable future. Everything from new approaches to manufacturing that reduce demand for resources that are scarce to the development of alternative energy sources like solar and wind are being tested and used by companies small and large.
We’ve seen companies use new advances in technology to use energy in a smart manner via automation systems. Engineers are constantly re-engineering systems and equipment in order to eliminate wasted materials, energy consumption, and even motion.
Here are a few of the things that we at Harvan Engineering have taken on over the past few years to become a more sustainable operation:
- Recycle all of our scraps.
- Recycling initiatives throughout our operations.
- Reduce amount of paper that we use.
- We have been working to ensure that any chemicals we use in processes are as environmentally safe as is available on the market.
- We continually work to remove processes if they are unhealthy to our employees, our neighbors and to the environment in general.
- Our lighting has been upgraded in the shop to save energy.
- We have instituted an Environmental Policy, as part of our Health and Safety Management System, in order to have guiding principles to work from each day.
We are committed to becoming more sustainable for our employees, our community, and especially for our customers. We believe that we can develop and build products that are as good if not better via sustainable methodologies and practices. We look forward to progressing forward down this path in the New Year. Happy 2014!
Automation is utilized in many processes of today’s manufacturing sector. Many factories that are creating components and parts for a variety of industries have some type of the process automated. Robots are often used in more hazardous applications or in extremely repetitive actions that can be ergonomically problematic for human workers.
What are the advantages of automation and what are some of the disadvantages? Below is a list of advantages, with more information in this article, with some caveats to why each may be also a disadvantage if viewed from a larger perspective.
1. Decreased Overhead Costs – When a manufacturing company adds some element of automation into its production or fabrication of products, the competitive advantage is increased for the company. Through automation, the company will be able to reduce costs through elimination of staff and an increase in productivity (many robots can run 24/7). However, it is important to note that many automated systems and equipment are expensive, so these additional costs will have to be compared to the overall reduction of cost in the long run.
2. Increased Productivity – As mentioned above, many automated systems can work long hours, into the night and on weekends, which provides an overall increase in productivity. This increase in productivity, although beneficial, may be slowed by other non-automated factors, such as product finishing, final packaging, and shipping. A cost comparison of skilled workers versus an automated system with all the factors from start to finish is the best analysis to determine if increased productivity can offset any human staff-related costs.
3. Consistency, Reliability, and Accuracy – Automated equipment and robotics can manufacture and continually repeat consistent final product results. The addition of automation eliminates the common issue of human error that may detract from the overall quality of production. Manufacturing processes can be carefully regulated and manipulated in order to maintain overall quality. This is a key advantage of automated equipment—the human error element is greatly reduced providing assurance that parts and components will be of consistent high quality.
4. High Volume Production – Automation is a valuable resource when a manufacturer is producing high volumes of components or parts. However, it isn’t very useful for lower volume production, as the expense for tooling and operating the machines can often outweigh the overall cost of the finished product.
5. Increase in Safety – The use of robotics and automated equipment is an effective way to prevent worker injuries. Many of today’s automated production devices keep workers a safe distance from the more hazardous areas of work. Human staff is still needed to operate and program the equipment, but the actual hands-on work is left to the machine, protecting the health and safety of staff. In addition, robots are able to work in extreme environments such as very hot or cold areas of a manufacturing plant. This allows workers to be free of additional harm from elements harmful to humans.
Today’s manufacturing incorporates the skills of trained workers with the precision of automated equipment and robotics. This combination of automation and a skilled work force provides a strong operational base for North American companies to be competitive both here and overseas. What do you think? Is automation providing advantages for manufacturing or are there long-term potential disadvantages? Let us know!
In less than a decade, North America has under gone a massive economic transformation thanks to the boom in the natural gas and oil industries. A recent report from the influential global information company IHS gives some insight into just how big the changes have been in the past six years. According to the IHS, this seismic shift in the global energy landscape gets credit for adding an average of $1,200 of discretionary income to the U.S. families, along with supporting upwards of 1.2 million jobs and contributing $284 billion to the GDP. In Canada, the oil and gas industry currently supports 550,000 jobs across the country and should create close to another 1 million jobs by 2035, according to this article.
With all of this oil close to home, what is the best way to distribute it across North America? Does it make more sense for the oil to be refined more locally and then distributed at that point? For years, North America’s relatively moribund domestic energy industry had little need for new infrastructure. However, that has all changed, and it has changed in a blink of an eye. Energy giant Exxon believes that North America will be exporting 15% of its natural gas and 5% of its oil by 2040. The two main forms of transporting oil and gas from the field to North America’s ports and transportation hubs are through pipelines and via rail or truck. Both forms of product movement have their benefits and their limitations.
Rail and Road
The first thing to point out is that there is already a vast network of rails and road throughout North America. Everyday 42% of our ton/miles of U.S. freight travels by rail, as seen in this article, while trucking freight saw a 3.9% jump in 2012 alone. As far as safety, while train accidents have declined 26% since 2000, they still occur. As we witnessed with Canada’s recent July train disaster, they can create high levels of doubt in the communities that they run through.
As of 2013, there are 409,000 miles of pipelines in the U.S. alone. This vast network of above ground and below ground pipelines carries roughly 17% of all ton/miles of U.S. freight. Pipelines do have some downsides, like higher initial expense; however, their pros generally outweigh the cons. The positives include:
- Dedicated use and cost-effectiveness
- Ability to transport large volumes
- Unaffected by weather and can operate 24-7
- Can reach more isolated oil and gas fields
Of course, as we mentioned, the cost of constructing a pipeline can be quite high, but they do provide less of a risk than rail transport.
In the end, both pipelines and rail/road transportation will continue to play critical roles in supporting the ever-growing North American oil and gas industries as long as they can maintain their feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and ultimately, a high-level of safety.