Manufacturers discuss environmental issues
As emissions regulations become more stringent, the issue of environmental protection is becoming more critical for manufacturers of lift trucks. The MHEDA Journal talked with Chuck Moratz, vice president of truck operations at Clark Material Handling Company; Greg Mason, general manager of products and training at Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corporation; Ilidio Alves, director of marketing and product development at Nissan Forklift Corporation; Dr. Shankar Basu, president of Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc.; and Don Chance, president of Yale Materials Handling Corporation.
TMJ: What is your definition of “green”?
Basu: Toyota’s definition of “green” requires us to provide clean and safe products while enhancing the quality of life through our business activities.
Mason: Very simply put, Jungheinrich defines green as the conducting of business in the form of policies and practices that are mindful of the environment.
Moratz: Clark defines green as environmentally friendly, both in terms of how the product performs and also what goes into the products and the processes we use.
Chance: At Yale Materials Handling Corporation, green refers to environmental stewardship. That is, how can we either minimize or eliminate our negative impacts on this planet?
Alves: Nissan has put green into action by reducing CO2 and other emissions and increasing recycling efforts. Nissan launched the Nissan Green Program with specific objectives to realize this goal and is pursuing it energetically.
How is this trend affecting the industry?
Chance: Any good business is interested in environmental stewardship, and the lift truck industry isn’t any different. Most lift truck manufacturers at least have their eyes open to how our environment might be changing. We ensure that all our products meet or exceed current emissions regulations.
Mason: I agree that a lot of the trend is being driven by government mandate, but we see customers creating demand for greener equipment, often on their own accord because they are conscientious about the environment.
Basu: The environmentally friendly trend has forced the industry to acknowledge and comply with customer demands for products that limit harm to the environment.
Chance: The trend is continuing because in addition to improving our environment, it saves money for customers as products consume less energy.
Mason: As we are encouraged to produce more efficient equipment, we are developing other technologies and hybrid vehicles that use resources a little more effectively.
Basu: Toyota believes environmental responsibility is becoming just as important as quality, value and customer service.
Moratz: Over the long term, there will be a trend away from IC trucks and toward electric trucks.
Why start green programs?
Chance: We all have to live on this planet. By taking a responsible position on the subject, it creates a positive example for others within our industry.
Alves: The Nissan Green Program of 2010 is a worldwide company initiative of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. As a subsidiary, Nissan Forklift is following that initiative. The company seeks to contribute to the creation of a sustainable mobile society, striving to preserve our global environment.
What are you doing at your company to make your products greener?
Mason: Jungheinrich wants to help customers reduce their costs of operation. The more efficient a truck is, the lower its operational costs. At the same time, our products are also supporting the customers’ desires to go green.
Alves: A change in the design of cylinder heads and the pistons in our forklift engines are examples of the many improvements our engineering and product development team have made to help Nissan Forklift meet the EPA requirements for exhaust emissions.
Chance: Yale is working very hard to make our engine-powered products fuel-efficient without compromising productivity. In addition, we have moved to AC motors and controls for improved efficiency, including technologies such as regenerative braking and regenerative lowering.
Mason: Jungheinrich also has energy reclamation through braking and lowering, which is a big contributor to our trucks’ energy performance.
Chance: We are reducing the noise of the equipment, which has an impact on the environment and the equipment users, and we’re striving for longer service intervals on our products, meaning less frequent fluid changes and fewer oils going into landfills. We also remanufacture many components or use plastic components designed for recycling.
Basu: Toyota was the first lift truck manufacturer to offer UL-listed, EPA and CARB-certified compressed natural gas (CNG) powered lift trucks. In 2006, we unveiled the 8-Series line of internal combustion and pneumatic tire models that meet California’s 2010 emissions standards.
Chance: We’re also are focusing on rapid charging, resulting in fewer batteries. Much of what we do costs more in development and production, but results in lower operating costs for customers.
Mason: Over the last five years, we have invested between $40-54 million a year in R&D. That’s not specifically for green, but it is specifically for improved product performance and new technologies.
Basu: We have targeted all Tier 1 suppliers to become ISO 14001 certified or have an equivalent environmental management system by March 2008. In doing this, we’re working with suppliers to identify and eliminate various “substances of concern” from our lift trucks.
Chance: Looking forward, we’re working with fuel cells and other advanced technologies along with renewable energy sources.
How is your company “greening” your manufacturing processes?
Basu: Millions of dollars are being invested in environmental improvements. Every chemical or product change goes through an environmental impact assessment process before it can be implemented. If there are potential adverse affects to the environment, it will not be used.
Mason: We use laser cutters to cut steel, and we try to kit the components on a plate of steel as closely and as tightly as possible to minimize the waste.
Chance: All of our plants are certified to ISO 14001, which means we track and continually make improvements to minimize pollution. Specifically, we try to put less into landfills, recycle more, use returnable or reusable containers, use less energy, use less water, clean water before disposing of it, control storm water and reduce the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in our paint.
Alves: Part of Nissan’s initiative is to reduce CO2 emissions from global manufacturing plants by 7 percent in 2010 compared to 2005.
Mason: Our packaging waste has been reduced by 40 percent from 2002 to 2007. Factory lighting energy consumption has been cut in half in the last two years.
Moratz: At our Lexington, Kentucky, plant we have installed state-of-the-art wash stations that meet all of the statutory requirements.
Basu: Our manufacturing plant was received the 2005 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for Five Years Continuous Improvement, reducing VOC emissions by 33 percent, hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions by 80 percent, energy consumption by 40 percent and natural gas by 65 percent.
How are these initiatives affecting your bottom line?
Alves: At this point in time, it’s difficult to make a statement as to what the effect on the bottom line will be, until long-term effects are determined.
Mason: Any manufacturer is looking for ways to reduce the cost of making their product. We must have efficiencies in our factories in order to support new product demand and product lead times.
Moratz: The changing requirements require research and development investments to stay current.
Mason: We’ve seen very high demand for Jungheinrich products in California. Our customers are pulling our products through the system as much as we have to push them. Any time sales increase, it’s going to help the bottom line.
Basu: Toyota has accommodated for investments in the environment in our business plan, while ensuring we continue to stay focused on our customers needs.
Alves: Nissan’s ultimate goal is to manage the environmental impact generated by our corporate initiatives, customer use of Nissan vehicles and our use of resources to a level that is within nature’s capacity to absorb.
What challenges does green manufacturing present?
Chance: Developing these products takes longer and costs more, which must be offset by productivity enhancements and efficiencies that the customer is willing to pay for when purchasing our product.
Moratz: The biggest challenge is staying abreast of the regulations.
Mason: What’s green in Mexico may be completely different than what’s green in the United States. The challenge is designing and manufacturing products that comply with the needs of various markets while also minimizing differentiations.
Basu: As VOCs become more abundant, new solutions for reduction of ground level ozone formatives becomes more critical. One of the biggest obstacles to eliminating this common byproduct of factories, motor vehicles and power plants that burn fossil fuels is the paint process.
How can you overcome those challenges?
Basu: Paint improvements include 50 percent conversion to powder coat and the addition of paint robots to improve transfer efficiency of solvent-based paints. These are both significant financial investments for us.
Chance: It’s critical to have partners and suppliers at the forefront of providing systems and components. They’re kind of growing along with us in these areas.
Mason: You must have people who are very knowledgeable about the regional requirements and are aware of changes that are coming down the pike with regulations. There must be regular communication with the product designers as changes take place to meet new requirements.
Are there any government incentives that you receive to manufacture green?
Mason: Jungheinrich does not, but from the customer and dealer perspectives, there are incentives from various states to replace high-emission products with more efficient products. We do help our dealers and our customers receive grant money or some incentive funds when they are made available.
Basu: Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, the company that makes Toyota lift trucks, was named a charter member of the Environmental Stewardship Program, a distinction for a few Indiana manufacturing facilities that have shown voluntary environmental leadership within the state. There are incentives for attaining this recognition, including some reduced reporting and expedited permit changes when necessary.
Are you involved with any sort of energy-efficiency research?
Mason: Yes. Jungheinrich has roughly 360 people who are dedicated to ongoing research and development projects, so it’s a very big part of what we do as a company.
Chance: A lot of development activity is taking place. Yale is working with partners in technology to develop products, including fuel cells, which are energy-saving and offer some other environmental benefits to the marketplace.
Basu: Toyota is involved in the testing and evaluation of fuel cell technology.
You mentioned fuel cells. How are you investigating that technology?
Alves: Nissan began full-scale development of fuel cell vehicle technology in 2001. Nissan Forklift displayed a fuel cell concept forklift at Logis-Tech in Tokyo in September 2006. This was a concept electric forklift rated at 2,500-kilogram capacity and 36 volts.
Mason: We have been working in partnership with researchers at the largest research center in Europe, Research Center JÅlich, to develop a methanol fuel cell and research how to utilize it in forklifts. It is different from the hydrogen fuel cells that are being researched a lot here in the states.
Alves: Nissan is currently conducting a trial of Nissan forklifts powered by hydrogen fuel cells at their vehicle assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Although the tests are scheduled to be completed in early 2008, preliminary feedback is encouraging.
Basu: People use the term “fuel cell” very differently. In our case, we are referring to an integrated fuel cell in the forklift that works on hydrogen and can switch to electric. It’s very different than many of the other fuel cells being tested in the market that replace a battery with a fuel cell.
Alves: Nissan Forklift has developed an AC Class III product here in Marengo that can also work with fuel cells. It is currently under review by a large customer, and results have been very positive.
Basu: We exhibited our fuel cell forklift at this past year’s ProMat. It’s an operating forklift but the price is such that it’s not marketable. The biggest problem with these forklifts will be creating the hydrogen infrastructure for use. That will be a huge hindrance.
What can distributors do to take advantage of and promote green initiatives?
Alves: Our green initiative will help our dealers have access to products that are environmentally friendly and that their customers need, further strengthening our partnership with our dealers.
Basu: We are committed to improving environmental stewardship, and we ask our partners to share that commitment by instituting recycling programs, minimizing pollution and promoting the advantages of electric-powered lift trucks.
Moratz: The biggest trend for distributors will be the conversion to electric forklifts along with the rapid charge technology. As dealers learn about the green products, they will find applications where that technology would be suitable—typically, large warehouse applications or customers who understand the lifecycle cost benefits.
What are distributors doing now?
Alves: Some dealers are pursuing these projects more than others as they identify the needs of their customers.
Chance: Our California dealers have been more in tune or aware of all the initiatives because California seems to be a leader in all these environmental initiatives. The dealers address environmental standards within their facilities and look to the manufacturer as it relates to products. We provide direction through our dealer development group to support and make aware environmental standards both in place today and areas of focus down the road.
Basu: In Texas, many Toyota lift truck dealers have customers who participate in the Texas Railroad Commission Forklift Grant Initiative, which offers significant savings to consumers who switch out pre-2004 lift trucks for propane-powered models.
What training is required for selling green forklifts?
Moratz: A fair amount of training is required to stay on top of the emissions requirements. Plus, more service techs will need laptops as there are more fault codes to diagnose and troubleshoot.
Chance: Dealers need to be aware of and understand the benefits and be able to explain them to their customers when they market environmentally friendly products.
Mason: Salespeople must be capable of discussing the efficiency advantages with their customer, to prevent that customer from just picking the lowest-priced product.
Basu: In addition, it is important for dealers to promote local incentive programs that reward customers for buying green—the current propane rebates, for example.
What about service? Is any special training needed?
Chance: I wouldn’t necessarily call it special, just a little bit different focus. In the future, there may be levels of certification testing that is still being defined.
Mason: Improper maintenance can lead to poorer performance or damage, so, of course, it’s essential to have the service support to maintain that equipment properly.
Basu: It is imperative that the technicians working on these units fully understand how the fuel and exhaust systems operate and how to adjust these systems correctly.
How long before the market sees 100 percent conversion to green products?
Basu: Toyota expects fuel cell trucks to be marketable within 5-7 years. After that, it is hard to predict.
Chance: I don’t know that we’ll ever get there. It will just be a constant state of change. Perhaps within 10 years, there won’t be a need for engine-powered trucks, but there still is a need right now and we continue to address the challenge each and every day.
Mason: It takes a long time for the old equipment to age out and go away. But the adoption rate will really be driven by what’s regulated.
Moratz: The emissions regulations have a mandated timeframe, but that will be one of the challenges as time goes on.
Alves: I think it may take some time. There are still issues that must be overcome before companies will start adopting fuel cells at a faster pace than they are today.
Mason: It certainly depends on what the cost of conversion is. If it’s easy to convert, I think people are inclined to do what’s right, provided it doesn’t cost them any money to do so.
Chance: Lift trucks are much more environmentally friendly than they were even 10 years ago. I think there will continue to be an evolution of further improvement rather than a point at which everybody kind of pats themselves on the back and says, “We did it.”