Green Materials Handling; Industry Outlook Survey

From conveyors to pallets, industry leaders make the case for how their products can make a difference to companies focused on the green supply chain
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
April 01, 2010 - MMH Editorial

Calculate the savings
Automated materials handling delivers sustainable benefits that aren't yet credited by certification organizations, contends Bob Gorman, business development lead for HK Systems (800-457-9783, “AGVs are more efficient than lift trucks, which means you're consuming less electricity,” says Gorman. ”An automated storage system allows you to get by with a smaller building. That means less concrete and less water runoff that might disturb the surrounding habitat.” For companies weighing the tradeoffs between energy efficient technologies, like AGVs and conventional materials handling solutions, HK offers an energy calculator on their website. Systems designers can perform what-if scenarios to compare various solutions, using variables like motor consumption rates for AGVs, cranes and lift trucks, to find the most economical and energy efficient solutions.

Reuse and regenerate
Viastore Systems (616-977-3950, is working on the next generation of automation technology to deliver even more savings over conventional automated equipment, says company director Ken Lewis. Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are now equipped with an energy reuse or recovery unit that captures the energy generated by a braking unit when a load is lowered and sends that energy back into a drive motor. “Depending on the level of use, you can realize up to 30% energy savings over a conventional AS/RS,” says Lewis. In Europe, Viastore is installing energy re-feed units on its machines that put that power back into the energy company's electrical grid. Finally, Viastore is analyzing and redesigning its customers' materials handling systems and throughput requirements to operate with smaller, energy-saving motors or to run at slower speeds to conserve energy.

Sustainable design
There are a number of ways an end user can reduce the carbon footprint of their operations, says Joe O'Connor, director of marketing for Wynright (847-595-9400, One is to design a system with sustainability in mind. That starts with a working understanding of the availability of rebates and incentives to adopt alternative energy as well as the energy costs in different areas in the country. In addition, the systems integrator offers an after market service to analyze how effectively active and reactive electric power is being used within a facility. “If the two are out of balance, we can correct that with capacitors that allow you to rely less on your utility,” says O'Connor. 

Lift trucks

Sustainable manufacturing
“Sustainability has been a way of life for Crown for over 20 years,” says Brian Duffy, director of environmental health and safety for Crown (419-629-2311, “When we design our products, we choose materials and technology that have a long material life and that have another use at the end of their usable life.” At the end of the first life of a truck, Crown uses the materials to remanufacture lift trucks under the Encore brand. “We will reuse, rebuild and remanufacture as much of the content of our trucks as we can,” says Duffy. “If a component can't be reused, we will break it down and reuse the component parts. What we can't reuse, we dispose of in an appropriate manner.” Remanufacturing and reusing parts has kept 7,000 tons of parts out of landfills. What's more, the company has added over 1 million square feet of industrial space by using abandoned or under utilized buildings.

Reducing energy usage
Raymond (800-235-7200, is helping its customers be more energy efficient by designing its products to operate with as little battery power as possible. “Our ACR system relies on a motor technology and controls that allows the truck to be more energy efficient while driving and lifting,” says Joe LaFergola, manager of business and information systems. The system combines an AC-powered motor with a traction control system that is tuned to the motor to get the most efficiency out of the system. “If you have a multiple shift operation, you can use two batteries instead of three,” says LaFergola. “Spread that over a fleet of 150 trucks, and that represents a significant number of kilowatt hours over the course of a year.”

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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