9 Bulk Material Handling Headlines that Made News in November

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 November 2020 was a month reflecting discrepancies in the bulk material handling world. Many trade shows have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but others found ways to adapt digitally. Some parts of the world suffered this month due to increases in facility fires, while others made way to release new guidelines to aid manufacturers in preventing them.

From the business insights of a co-op bakery to out-of-the-box confectionery marketing strategies, here are nine stories from November to fill you in on industry highs and lows across the board. 

Co-op bakery gives insight into unique business model during Baking and Snack podcast

Nov. 11

As the most recent season of “Since Sliced Bread” has focused on improving worker retention in the baking industry, the podcast by Baking & Snack took to interviewing the director of marketing for an unusual bakery -- one whose tenure averages at about 14 years. Alvarado Street Bakery in San Francisco operates as an employee-owned bakery where each worker is involved in key decisions and where the company makes contributions on each worker’s behalf to each worker’s 401(k).

“Some of the challenges that come with a co-op is that you might not be able to move as fast as you want because you really do need alignment around the majority of the owners, and sometimes you can’t be as efficient as you like,” Dae Lee said in the show. “The other part that comes with that is that when tough decisions are made, then everyone is in it together. They understand how we got here, and they feel like they are part of the decision.” 

Since 1977 the bakery has grown from 5 to 116 members who each own a part of the business, and it is optional for employees to opt in to member status. Those that do take an open book test on financial literacy and pass approval through votes by the current members. 

McCormick makes way to open giant Maryland warehouse

Nov. 17

The owner of spice brands Frank’s RedHot, Old Bay and French’s announced that a new distribution center in Sparrows Points, MD, is set to become the company’s largest warehouse in the world.

Thomas Net reported that McCormick & Company’s new distribution center is expected to open by the second half of 2022 and will cover 1.8 million square feet. McCormick said that advanced technologies within this center will “boost productivity and efficiencies through automation.”

Sales for McCormick increased 8% in the June-August period compared to the previous year, and the company shared that this was driven by consumers’ preferences related to cooking more at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Confectionery brand prints QR-codes on packaging to activate video game to consumers

Nov. 20

You’ve likely heard of the classic arcade video game “Snake,” but new to the interactive scene are Trolli’s sour worm characters. The confectionery brand (part of parent company Ferrara) unveiled packages of their gummy worms equipped with QR codes that gave access to a mobile game entitled “Deliciously Dark Escape” as well as a 14-day PlayStation Plus Trial.  

While Sony’s PlayStation 5 video game system released on the 12th of the same month and has been elusive to the average consumer, access through Trolli’s “Escape” also permitted access to a Trolli “Dynamic Theme” to spruce up their PlayStation 4 homescreen in the meantime.

Food automation and manufacturing conference shifts to virtual show

Nov. 30

After getting pushed from April to September, and then reconfigured into an online-only event, The 2020 Automation and Manufacturing Conference’s story sounds all too familiar to most anyone that has helped plan any trade show or other event in 2020.

The difference for this show was that, according to Food Engineering’s recap, a number of industry experts “provided valuable insights on topics that ranged from successful project management to the engineering challenges of alternative meat” (and everything in between).

The J.M. Smucker Co.’s plant in Longmont, Colo. took the Plant of The Year Award. A Women in Food Manufacturing Panel brought key issues to the forefront of the corporate world with discussions related to how women’s contributions to the industry strengthen and innovate various solutions.

Suzanne Kopcha, vice president, consumer products and retail industry of Siemens Digital Industries Software also shared how work/life balances have shifted since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with many coworkers focusing on childcare while working from home in more casual clothes to boot.

“It’s a redefinition of balance and the fact that we are whole human beings who have to deal with a lot more than just the tasks we’re responsible with at work,” she said on the panel. 

Global track and trace system design proposed in study by Japanese and French researchers 

Nov. 13

With researchers at the University of Tokyo and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique proposing in a research study a large track and trace system design that aims to provide full transparency from farm-to-table in food supply chains, Food Engineering Magazine sat down with the first author of the study (published in Nature Food) to address this plan and make comparisons for what could be implemented in the U.S.

“The best way for preventing food fraud is transparency and open access,” Kaiyuan Lin said in the Q & A portion of the article. “Anyone can access the data; it’s real-time and immutable. Data does not belong to servers but is randomly distributed. We believe a system should not require high computing power, but be kept simple and straightforward.”


COVID the culprit of further food and confectionery industry cancellations

Nov. 27 

The live portion of a “hybrid” in-person/digital plan for confectionery trade shows ProSweets Cologne and ISM has been canceled due to rising infection numbers and concerns surrounding the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement from chief operating officer of Koelnmesse, Oliver Frese, it was expressed that the show simply relied on the “large number of national and international industry experts who are responsible for the quality of the event.”

The two trade fairs are now planning an online campaign to present significant developments in the confectionery industry this year and have scheduled the 2022 iterations to take place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, 2022. Though ISM celebrated the 50th anniversary this year, 2021 will be the first year since that time that the show will not be held. 

UK supply chain organization issues new guidance for preventing fires and explosions

Nov. 30

In a particularly harrowing month for facility fires and explosions in the states, overseas a UK agricultural supply chain organization issued “Control of Fire & Explosion Risks in Animal Feed Manufacturing Plants and Processes.”

Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) aimed to assist manufacturers in complying with legal duties under the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulation 2002 (DEAR).

“We cannot simply rely on luck or become complacent,” Chartered safety practitioner Stephen Pope said in a statement. “Good practice is non-negotiable when it comes to safety. Following these guidelines will prevent disastrous fires and explosions.” 

11 facilities face explosions, 12 deaths occur in one warehouse

Nov. 2, 5, 9, 11, 19, 20

Unfortunately, November saw 11 different facility explosions. One single explosion led to the death of 12 workers in India. It is crucial for companies to do all that they can to prioritize keeping their employees safe, and events like these reflect that requirement. 

Dust mitigation is one key concern that should be properly addressed in order to prevent such tragic events. The NFPA sets critical guidelines for manufacturers in material handling industries, and we at AZO have compiled their work into various forms of content that can be easily accessed on our site. Here are 11 explosions that affected the industry this past month, serving as reminders for manufacturers to prioritize safety in the workforce:

  • Nov. 2 at a grain elevator in Superior, NE. Several injuries were reported, but none were serious. It was not confirmed by the local fire department or media outlets if dust was the cause of the incident. 
  • Nov. 9 at a warehouse owned by a cotton candy manufacturer in western India. 9 employees were injured, but 12 workers lost their lives and were only found in the aftermath of the blast. For several hours more than 50 firefighters worked to put out the fires resulting from the explosion. An investigation into the cause of the event is in progress.
  • Nov. 9 at a turkey processing plant in Tyler, TX. No worker injuries were reported, but the company's ability to ship their inventory in time for thanksgiving was completely wiped out. Firefighters noticed smoke coming from an area that housed freezers, but the cause of the explosion and resulting fires are under investigation. 
  • Nov. 9 at a cabinet production facility in Irwindale, CA. No one was injured and the cause still remains under investigation. 
  • Nov. 11 at a chemical plant in the Zhejiang province in China. No injuries were logged as a result of the event, but it took more than 500 firefighters to extinguish the flames. The cause is under investigation.
  • Nov. 19 at a wastewater treatment site in Hamilton, ON. Workers evacuated safely, but damages to the plant are estimated at $57,440. Dust created from processing and drying sewage sludge into fertilizer was confirmed to be the cause of the blast. 
  • Nov. 20 at a plastics plant in Scottsburg, IN. One injury was reported as a result of the incident. The fires took firefighters six hours to quelm after a fuel tank caused the initial explosion. 
  • Nov. 30 at a manufacturing plant in Atchison, KS. No injuries were a result of the event. The cause of the fire was still unknown at press time. 

6 facilities see fires in November 

Nov. 2, Nov. 5, Nov. 9, Nov. 17, Nov. 20 and Nov. 30 

In addition to explosions claiming lives in November, a fire caused 3 other workers to lose their lives as well. This and 5 nonfatal fires were reported in November:

  • Nov. 2 at an ethanol plant in Ashton, IA. Workers were able to avoid injuries, according to NWestIowa.com. The fire ignited while drying equipment was being used in a wet cake process.
  • Nov. 5 at a steel plant in Visakhapatnam, India. No injuries were specifically reported, but equipment was damaged. It is believed to be caused by an oil leak in the power plant’s lubrication system.
  • Nov. 9 at a box production plant in San Leandro, CA. No injuries came about because of the flames, though 50 firefighters were required to extinguish the threat. It occured in an outdoor area that is used to store completed goods. 
  • Nov. 17 at a plant owned by a supplier of lithium-ion batteries and lead-acid batteries. Employees were able to evacuate the facility unharmed, but an estimated $800,000 in damages occurred to the facility. The cause is believed to have originated from a dust collection system. The blaze reignited later in the day after fire crews had initially left the site. 
  • Nov. 20 at a South Korean cosmetics facility. 3 workers died as a result of the flames in Guzhan-dong, Namdong. Media has not detailed the cause of the fire, but over 100 firefighters and 40 trucks were called to the facility to help put out the flames. 
  • Nov. 30 at a paper mill in Menasha, WI. No injuries were reported. The facility was evacuated after personnel found that a paper machine was ablaze. 

For questions regarding dust mitigation, plant maintenance or how to upgrade your facility to increase efficiency, do not hesitate to turn to AZO for assistance. 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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