Safety is today’s trump card. If an operation isn’t safe for plant workers or customers, a better way had best be found. Fast.
A better way is what Tomra of North America (www.tomra.com) was looking for in handling glass destined for recycling. The company’s U.S. operations, headquartered in Shelton, Conn., needed a safer, injury-reducing solution to handling the heavy material not only in its own facilities, but in the backroom operations of its customers who collect the recyclables.
Tomra is a global leader in helping people recycle and reuse natural resources. In fact, its stated mission is “Helping the world recycle.” And in its material transport and processing group, the goal is two-fold — to preserve natural resources, but also to provide safe working conditions for the people needed for an effective recycling program.
Tomra managers were concerned about the risk involved in handling heavy containers of broken glass. Too much physical exertion was being required to man-handle bins of broken glass — exertion that could mean injury.
Price Chopper maintenance employee Matthew Roberts operates the Tomra Lift at Store #184 in Malta, N.Y. “It definitely makes the job easier,” says Nick Falkenberg, evening manager, “and it creates a safer work environment.”
“We didn’t want our customers’ employees lifting heavy bins and tipping them manually,” said Kevin Schroder, Tomra North America’s service manager for its upstate New York facilities. “Our customers, particularly Price Chopper stores in the Northeast, needed a better way to empty smaller, portable containers of broken glass into larger bins for transport to our recycling center.”
Tomra turned to materials handling expert Valley Craft, Lake City, Minn. (www.ovation-solutions.com), for help. Over the course of three years, the companies worked together to design safer solutions through the Ovation by Valley Craft customization service.
The Ovation service is a concept that brings new levels of speed and efficiency to materials movement — especially lean operations. It’s done with customized solutions that reflect the unique micro-environment of each materials flow problem or manufacturing line.
A critical element in the success of the working relationship between Tomra and Valley Craft is the involvement of the customer in the solution. “We invite the customer to be as involved in the design and solution development process as they want to be,” said Ovation engineer Josh Smith.
The two companies collaborated on a solution. “We landed on a portable unit that would dump heavy containers of glass into larger containers for transport with a minimum of physical effort,” says Doug McDonough, Tomra director of service.
The equipment was designed to dump into a minimum height of 48 inches to reach the largest bin, and handle at least 500 pounds. The chute features an enclosed hood, with a plexiglass guard between the chute and operator for added safety and protection. Operating on a hydraulic-driven chain and sprocket system, the chute rotates 135 degrees. Overall the unit stands 93 inches high, 38 inches wide and 42.25 inches deep.
The equipment is performing well in the field, according to Schroder. “We are seeing excellent durability and strength,” Schroder said, adding that the equipment is providing safer working conditions for employees of both Tomra and its customers.
Smith is proud of the long working relationship with Tomra. “Sometimes the customer wants us to go find the solution,” Smith said. “But Tomra had an idea about how to solve the problem, and we forged a partnership to make that vision come alive,” he said.
Smith said the Ovation process for Tomra included:
- A detailed needs analysis
- Concept sketches for initial review
- 3-D computer-generated drawings and automations
- Prototypes that were studied and fine-tuned
- Production using Ovation’s own lean manufacturing process
According to McDonough, the process to acquire the tipping equipment was smooth. “Faced with a hard deadline and a rigorous rollout schedule, we initially turned to Valley Craft to design and deliver 26 custom units for us,” he says. “The coordination and logistics required to bring all the resources and assets together, coupled with the hands-on execution, was truly a monumental job.”
The original lifts are still performing as designed, and Schroder says that new units continue to be placed in customer locations. A total of 31 units have been shipped.