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The day-to-day demands of operating a manufacturing facility can make it difficult for staff to explore and implement process and equipment changes. Recognizing this, since 2000 the Maryland Department of the Environment and the University of Maryland Technology Extension Service have partnered to place engineering students as summer interns at nine Maryland manufacturers to research and implement cost-saving, waste reduction opportunities. Participating companies have included General Die Finishing, Automated Coatings, Egide, Stone Industrial, Victor Graphics, Rhodia, Alcore, Kop-Flex, and current participant, EU Services.
In 2006, Ben Lebron, then an engineering student at the University of Maryland, interned at Hanover-based Kop-Flex, part of Emerson Power Transmission, a producer of coupling parts used at petroleum refineries, paper mills, and steel mills. With 220,000 square feet of manufacturing space, Kop-Flex is the world’s largest facility dedicated to couplings.
Kop-Flex identified three areas that needed attention: finding alternatives to chemically stripping paint, degreasing bolt holes, and implementing an online material safety data sheet management system. First Lebron researched alternatives to Peel-Away, a chemical Kop-Flex was using to strip paint from parts sent to them for refurbishing. Of the three options he researched, Lebron found baking soda and steam applied by a pressure washer to be the best option because it produces no hazardous waste, reduces the time needed to strip the paint by half, removes rust as well as paint, eliminates VOC emissions, and saves money.
By switching to the sodium bicarbonate blasting process, each year Kop-Flex will reduce hazardous waste by about 59 gallons and save approximately $500.
To find a substitute for degreasing bolt holes in the parts washer, Lebron researched bioremediation-based parts washing technology that uses grease-degrading bacteria to mineralize the grease into CO2 and water. Further analysis determined that the return on investment would take considerable time. Kop-Flex decided to continue to use an enzymatic cleaner in their parts washers but will continue to explore other options.
The final task was the application of an online material safety data sheet management system. Material safety data sheets are critical tools to ensure that materials, including chemicals, are properly handled. In addition to providing information on precautions and personal protective equipment necessary for handling certain chemicals, online systems provide such benefits as tracking the location, quantity, and hazard ratings of each chemical container. These systems can also improve inventory control thereby reducing the amount of materials that become outdated and need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Management decided to implement an online management system throughout all Emerson Power Transmission facilities in order to ensure a coordinated system. “Kop-Flex was looking for a better way to manage their chemicals and the MSDS online management system is a perfect solution,” Lebron said.
While Kop-Flex benefited from the research and resources provided by the intern program, it was clearly beneficial to Lebron as well. As he said, “The program gave me the ability to do things on my own and the confidence to communicate my ideas with people.”
Kop-Flex has continued to take advantage of services offered by the MDE/MTES partnership and has recently completed the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Implementation Assistance. EMSs help organizations systematically identify and manage their regulated as well as unregulated environmental impacts. The company plans to use the EMS they develop at their Hanover facility as a template for other Emerson Power Transmission facilities. Click here for more information on the EMS program, summer pollution prevention intern program and other services or call Laura Armstrong at 410-537-4119