“Our challenges are further compounded by the regulatory environment for a ‘green’ industry devoted to recycling a product that intrinsically has challenging characteristics,” he continues.
At the start of this process, Mark says,“Liberty began looking at safety issues in other industries about three years ago, and we saw the need for substantial improvement in our own dust collection, and air pollution control strategies.” He adds,“With safety, we intend to be proactive.”
Identifying Targets & Teams
According to Mark, it took high-level commitment within the company to launch the new dust collection initiative. “Once we focused on the health and safety concerns related to air quality, and considered the pressure to improve fire protection by eliminating combustible dust, the argument for new dust collection systems became compelling for Liberty,” Mark reports.
This decision was also aligned with Liberty’s corporate policy of continuously upgrading technology to ensure safety, and to enhance the work environment for employees. As a result, Mark says, more resources were made available, and “we embarked on a lot of research and engineering assessments – it was a steep learning curve for everybody involved.”
After reviewing criteria for a beta-site, the Liberty Tire crumb rubber processing facility in Braddock, PA, (Pittsburgh area), was selected as an ideal “incubator”, in Mark’s words, for engineering, designing, and fine-tuning a rubber dust and fiber collection system that could potentially be replicated within other Liberty operations.
The Braddock facility also provided the project with experienced front-line team members: Mark Stewart, General Manager; Bill Sharkey, Operations Manager; and James Maust, Technical Consultant. Mark explains that these individuals “would be in the trenches from the due diligence stage through the phases of implementation, and you have to have a great team to reach your system goals with new technology.”
Liberty was also looking for a partnership with a design, manufacturing, and installation service provider to supply a complete turnkey system for rubber dust filtration and collection at the Braddock operation. “For us to succeed this system has to succeed,” Bill Sharkey says, adding the observation that “dust collection is an ongoing project, it’s not a one-off, and as you reconfigure technology, you need to expand dust collection system capabilities accordingly.”
Imperial Systems, Inc., Jackson Center, PA, a supplier with previous Liberty Tire applications experience, was chosen for the project. Mark notes that Liberty and Imperial needed to “ask the right questions, be detail-oriented, and to engineer a good balanced system.”
The technical challenges of moving rubber dust include accommodating the weight of this material and factoring-in additional suction requirements. “You also need to calculate airflow demands, and anticipate drop points in order to handle system expansions,” Mark says. From his perspective, Imperial “dedicated enough time to critical engineering – made enough visits – and attacked the unique challenges presented by our materials to make it a good team effort with a seamless start-up, and great results.”
A Turnaround with Unexpected Benefits
Prior to the system installation, Bill says,“Braddock was challenged to produce first-quality product without having to re-run material in order to meet Liberty’s own quality system expectations - a costly business interruption.” Housekeeping was also a struggle at the facility, Bill relates, and air quality within the work environment was a constant issue. “Everybody is affected, and it wasn’t helping morale,” Bill says.
After the new dust collection system came online in mid-2011,“our material quality sky-rocketed – it was a drastic improvement – night & day difference with virtually no rejects for fiber contamination,” Bill says. Liberty has gained with this project a fresh appreciation for the impact of high-quality dust collection, and its ultimate impact on material quality. “The work environment has improved for our employees, and the new system ensured that we are NFPA-compliant for fire safety, one of our initial goals for the project,” Bill adds.
Rewards from Lessons Learned
Liberty committed “lot’s of time and resources to Braddock, and it’s still a work in progress,” concludes Mark Patterson,“but we have proven to ourselves and to our customers that investing in better technology for dust and fiber collection is a win-win-win proposition.” He notes that in order to reap the rewards of dynamic change – productivity, quality, and safety, - “you have to really understand your challenges, do the research, put more time into front-end engineering, select the right partners, and be prepared for incremental improvements. ‘Piece-mealed’ dust collection solutions aren’t going to get the job done.”
Additional Liberty locations are being evaluated for dust collection systems, and, as Mark suggests,“when your operation runs better, produces cleaner product, creates a better presentation, maintains quality control, and benefits productivity – it’s not hard to justify an investment in this technology. Stay-tuned for more clean-tech results from Liberty Tire Recycling.”
About Imperial Systems, Inc.
Imperial Systems, Inc. (isystemsweb.com) is a leader in the industrial dust collection industry. We manufacture premium dust collection equipment that is designed and engineered to keep your employees and business safe. We specialize in offering custom design, fabrication and complete industrial dust collection systems and air pollution control equipment for nearly every industry. 800-918-3013.