11 Bulk Material Handling Headlines You May Have Missed in May

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New technology can bring about monumental change for a manufacturer in the bulk material handling world, but also can possess missed opportunities if not truly embraced by those implementing it. On the extreme side, the misuse of technology can even shut down a U.S. pipeline for days on end (see stories below). As multiple industries evolve side-by-side with new technologies, so too must manufacturers stay up-to-date on both how to stay competitive in the marketplace and how to protect their facilities simultaneously.

Here are 11 news items from May of 2021 that seem to echo that balance as the U.S. begins to handle the “new normal” of a post-pandemic world.  

April sees manufacturing growth start to slow compared to March

May 3

Disruptions in supply chains for components such as computer chips lead to a slowed growth in U.S. manufacturing during April, according to Industrial Equipment News. March made for a 37-year high in U.S. manufacturing, according to the Institute for Supply Chain Management. Even with the decline in April, experts maintained that the manufacturing index remained at a high level and was consistent with overall growth of the economy. 

Forbes op-ed delves into non-technological reasons smart manufacturing projects fail

May 3

Leveraging smart technologies to increase productivity and reduce costs can lead to many new possibilities for a manufacturer, but Forbes put together a long list of how this goal can fail to be met because of non-technological reasons. Some include a “Misunderstanding of Technology,” “The Budget Or Schedule Is Overrun” and “The Requirements are Misunderstood.” 

Survey finds 30% of food execs expecting another pandemic by 2025

May 10

325 senior-level North American executives from food and beverage manufacturing companies participated in an AIB International study that was released last month. 78% of these executives claimed they were already preparing for another pandemic at some point, with 30% of overall executives believing that such a colossal event would take place within the next four years. One way to make sure that the unknown doesn’t disrupt a business completely is to build flexibility into design (a topic AZO has covered in a free offering here). 

Technological advances in testing to ensure new levels of safety to food industry, says IEN op-ed

May 10

Understanding when and where potential sources of contamination may come from relates to an upcoming discussion AZO and two other market leaders are set to hold on June 15. This topic was also the focus of an Industrial Equipment News article about multimodal point-of-use testing. The automated “sample-to-answer” system described in the piece can “dramatically increase a business’s competitive edge” by ensuring consumer safety, according to the article’s author Tej Patel.  

“Since Sliced Bread” podcast sheds light on the ups and downs of morning food sales during pandemic

May 12

Breakfast foods may have been a new “juggernaut” of industry sales through the pandemic, but the May 12 episode of “Since Sliced Bread” (the Baking & Snack podcast) described how in-store bakery items fared far worse than their center-store cousins. Both Jonna Parker (team lead for fresh foods at IRI) and Luc Mongeau (president of Weston Foods, Toronto) were featured guests during the show. They discussed how the sales of donuts, Danish pastries, coffee cake and more were negatively affected by the pandemic.

“Donut showcases have been hit really hard in 2020,” Mongeau said during the show. “When they weren’t closed, consumers were going into grocery stores with a real sense of purpose and were not circulating through the store looking for fresh impressions or impulse sales … What’s promising is we’re seeing (as restrictions are eased in some areas) a healthy return to the donut showcases, and we’re working very closely with retailers to make sure that we provide consumers a safe and as importantly an extremely enjoyable experience. We’re looking for a gradual bounce-back in 2021.”

Executive order signed following news about ransomware gang

May 10, 13, 14 and 15

After it was reported that a criminal group of hackers known as “DarkSide” was behind the shutdown of a U.S. pipeline, an executive order was signed by President Joe Biden requiring all federal agencies to use commonplace cybersecurity measures. Though DarkSide claims they draw a Robin Hood-sequel comparison and donate the results of their cyber-extortions to charity, the president spoke at the white house pledging an aggressive response to those who “use such situations for financial gain.” 

In the end, 5,500 miles of pipeline triggered widespread fuel shortages in the Southeast United States before Colonial Pipeline returned its system to normal operations. With such a high-profile hack chronicled over the course of the month, a few notable news sources like Bloomberg shared opinion pieces related to safeguarding and connectivity.

Specialty chemical market volumes rose during April 

May 24

Data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) showed that U.S. specialty chemicals markets volumes rose 0.8% during April. Specialty chemicals are different than commodity chemicals, according to Powder Bulk Solids, because specialties may only have one or two uses. Commodity chemicals may have multiple or different applications and also make up most of the production volume in the global marketplace. Specialty chemicals make up most of the diversity in commerce at any given time and are relatively high value, according to Powder Bulk, with greater market growth rates.

How convenient foodservice met pandemic challenges focused on Food Engineering podcast

May 26

“Shifting” seemed to be the all-purpose verb at the forefront of the Food Engineering Podcast’s discussion in May with Messer’s vice president of applications, marketing and execution — Mark DiMaggio. Whether acknowledging the shift in consumer behavior during the past year of the pandemic (from eating out to purchasing quick-service meals), to highlighting some key shifts in business (such as how decreased ethanol usage led to a carbon dioxide shortage in frozen foods), the recent past of food service seems to already influence what is to come. 

“Right now the quick service industry is doing extremely well and that is a result of a quality product, convenience and also the fact that our nation is still not open for casual dining,” DiMaggio said during the episode. “We’re seeing the explosion of poultry processing again.”

DiMaggio shared that Messer consistently evaluates their technology portfolio by asking “Do we meet the needs of the marketplace today and in the future?” 

Cheetos lines bringing post-pandemic jobs to Connecticut

May 28

The Frito-Lay site in Killingly, CT, has already grown from 200 to 740 employees since the ’80s, but it was announced last month that a $235 million expansion project will create an additional 120 positions for the town’s residents. This marks the first time that the Cheetos brand will be manufactured in the state, and the project is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2024.

5 facilities faced fires in May 

May 3, 6, 7, 13 and 24

Unfortunately, May saw 5 facility fires affect various industries in the bulk ingredient handling world. As always, it is crucial for companies to do all that they can to prioritize keeping their employees safe. Dust mitigation is a critical concern that should be properly addressed in order to prevent these incidents from occurring. 

The NFPA sets critical guidelines for manufacturers in material handling industries, and AZO has compiled their work into various forms of content to be easily accessed on our site. Below are 5 cases of facility fires and when they were reported this past month

  • May 3 at a pork processing plant in Monmouth, IL. No injuries were reported at the plant, which produces 3 percent of the fresh pork supply in the U.S. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire. 
  • May 6 at a farms facility is Salisbury, MD. No injuries were documented from the incident, but the facility experienced a previous fire in February. The blaze ignited in a piece of soybean drying equipment, coverage by CBS News affiliate WBOC reported. 
  • May 7 at an ethanol production facility in Steward, IL. No injuries were logged. The Rochelle Fire Dept. Lieutenant told local news that a hammer mill and dust collector were involved in the incident.
  • May 13 at a storage silo in Temple, TX. No injuries occurred and the cause of the flames are currently under investigation.  
  • May 24 at a soybean storage site in Stuttgart, AR. No injuries were reported. The cause of the flames was not explicitly reported either, but the incident occurred while personnel was cleaning bins, according to a Little Rock-based news affiliate. 

5 facilities experienced explosions in May

May 3, 11, 13, 17 and 18 

In a month where 1,000 combustible dust-related incidents were chronicled as part of Dust Safety Science’s fifth annual review and analysis of these global occurrences, 5 facilities saw explosions in bulk material handling industries. Here are the explosions that took place during May 2021 and when they were reported:

  • May 3 at a biofuel firm in Brunswick, GA. No injuries were reported from the incident. A dust explosion caused the center of the structure to fall down during the incident. 
  • May 17 at a grain elevator in Jefferson, IA. No injuries were logged. An investigation is underway to determine the cause, but it has been reported that the incident was a dust-related explosion.
  • May 19 at a grain storage site near Mountain Home, ID. Local news reported that one person was injured during the explosion and was transported to a hospital. The cause of the explosion was related to “an industrial accident that occurred during normal maintenance operations,” as told by a sheriff’s office’s Facebook post.

Facility explosions outside of the U.S. included:

It's never a bad time to ask questions regarding dust mitigation, plant maintenance or how to upgrade your facility to increase efficiency. AZO has more than seven decades of experience in handling raw materials and shaping ingredient automation along the way. Feel free to contact our sales team for any questions on how to help your plant and processes run smoothly.

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