Manufacturing as a whole saw comfortable growth, yet labor shortages in various industries made July an interesting month as far as projections for the bulk material handling industry are concerned.
News of partnerships in control systems to dessert offerings also kept things interesting. Here are 9 stories to fill you in on what happened in bulk material handling last month.
U.S. manufacturing sector sees continued ‘historic’ growth
Though the manufacturing sector in the United States as a whole grew slower in July than it did in May, Barrons reported that it still “grew nicely” and represented what investors were hoping for. July marked the fifth consecutive month with a manufacturing purchasing managers’ index above 60 (from the Institute for Supply Management), which reportedly shows a healthy level for overall growth.
Senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics Michael Pearce was quoted stating that the readings are at “historically high levels,” and that “tightness is still feeding through to even stronger price gain.”
Forbes op-ed sees labor shortage as why supply chains struggle
Though manufacturing itself grew in July, labor shortages spelled supply chain issues for many manufacturers in the U.S. last month. In an editorial from Forbes senior contributor Bill Conerly laid the case that while economists generally “scoff” at business managers who suffer work shortages, skepticism has little place in the current situation.
“Companies are facing sharply higher demand for goods and services, with sharply less labor availability, and substantial uncertainty about their ability to pass higher costs on to their customers,” Conerly’s piece reads. “Businesses are offering higher wages and benefits but getting little response. It’s understandable that they are hesitant to offer extremely high wages to prospective employees, who may or may not turn out to be good workers.”
Rockwell Automation acquires cloud-based platform provider
In control system news, industrial automation and information technology provider Rockwell Automation has purchased Plex Systems for $2.22 billion. Plex is described by Thomas.net as a “software-as-a-service” platform provider specializing in cloud-based manufacturing execution systems. Rockwell seeks to enable faster decision-making by utilizing a boost in connections that the acquisition should provide.
Simmons Pet Foods debut first phase of new plant in Iowa
Near 300 new positions are expected to eventually be filled in Dubuque, IA, at a new Simmons canned pet food plant that began its first phase of commercial operations last month. A second production line is expected to be operational by April 2022 and the president and CEO of the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation was quoted as stating “Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, [those in Debuque] have under promised and over delivered on everything they have done.”
Those hoping to initiate such flexible plans as Simmons might be interested in free material from AZO that explains how a “hybrid” alternative between diversification and consolidation might just better prepare a company for disruption and economic uncertainty.
Kraft debuts ‘mac and cheese ice cream,’ consumers are divided
July 14 marked “National Mac and Cheese Day,” and Kraft Heinz spared no expenses to celebrate with the announcement of a partnership no one saw coming. Taking to Twitter to announce that they “had to do something cool” for the holiday, Kraft and VanLeeuwen Ice Cream debuted a picture of ‘mac and cheese-flavored ice cream.”
The post gained support from consumers like @AmyLNeeley who tweeted “I’m from Wisconsin so I think I’m required to try this!” as well as the official Wheat Thins account, suggesting that the two products would make a great “summer snack” paired together. Not all were excited as some users replied with gifs mimicking the action of throwing up, but the Kraft account shared on the very same day that the product had already sold out.
Scottish whiskey producer fuels trucks with low-emission fuel
A whiskey distillery that sells over 14 million bottles of single malt whiskey each year has found a way to initiate what they call a “closed-loop” sustainability initiative between their product and the automobiles that deliver it. Scottish whisky-maker Glenfiddich installed fueling stations in the northeast part of the country that convert production waste and residues into an “Ultra-Low Carbon Fuel (ULCF)” gas, according to Reuters.
Through what is known as “anaerobic digestion” (where bacteria break down organic matter producing “biogas”), Glenfiddich distillery now uses liquid waste from their production process to create this fuel that produces minimal carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions.
Monthly Chemical Activity Barometer rises in June and July
July saw the Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB) rising .5% on a three-month moving average basis that followed an .8% gain in June, according to Powder & Bulk Solids. The CAB was created by the American Chemistry Council and comprises indicators that relate to the production of materials such as chlorine, pigments, plastic resins and other selected basic industrial chemicals.
Chief economist at the ACC Kevin Swift was quoted stating that the latest CAB reading is “consistent with the expansion of commerce, trade and industry,” but added that such growth has likely peaked.
6 facilities faced fires in July
July 6, 12, 16, 26
Unfortunately, July saw 6 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 6 cases of facility fires and when they were reported this past month
- July 6 at a PVC manufacturing complex in Plaquemine, LA. A lighting strike reportedly contacted the facility, which ignited the blaze. Specifically, a transformer was wat the lighting contacted. No injuries were logged.
- July 16 at a plant in Roberta, GA. The fire’s origins stemmed from a chemical reaction in a tank, according to local media. There were no known injuries.
- July 16 at an animal nutrition feed mill in Caledonia, NY. An investigation into the cause was launched, and no injuries were explicitly reported.
- July 26 at a breakfast food product plant in Memphis, TN. Local news were informed that a rice dryer may have caused the incident. Two firefighters experienced heat exhaustion but received assistance.
- July 26 at a sunflower processing plant in Fargo, ND. A sunflower roasting oven was the cause of the fire, according to workers on the site. The entire cause was still under investigation at press time. One worker did have to be transported to an area hospital.
Facility fires outside of the U.S. included:
- July 12 at a food factory in Bangladesh. Chemicals and plastics fueled the fire, and 52 workers lost their lives because they were trapped behind an illegally locked door. Abul Hashem, the owner of Hashem Foods Ltd, was arrested and a separate investigation into child labor violations is also underway.
5 facilities experienced explosions in July
July 19, 22, 27, 29
In a month where a Missouri grain handling facility faced a proposed OSHA fine of $215,525 after an investigation into a dust explosion, ___ facilities experienced facility explosions themselves. Here are the seven explosions in manufacturing facilities that were widely reported in July 2021:
- July 19 at an asphalt plant in Ardmore, OK. One worker died in the incident and one firefighter was admitted to an area hospital. An investigation into the cause of the event was launched.
- July 22 at a candy manufacturing plant in Paducah, KY. A truck was unloading nitrogen during the event, but an investigation to determine the scope of the cause is under investigation by local police. Workers were injured and taken to an area hospital. It was reported that a previous explosion occurred at the plant in November 2019.
- July 29 at a chemical plant in Belle, WV. Local news reported that equipment exploded during maintenance work, but officials are still investigating the full cause. No injuries occurred during this incident, but a previous fire at the plant led to the death of an employee in December 2020.
- July 29 at an ethanol plant near Mt. Vernon, IN. No injuries were logged. It was confirmed that combustible dust played a part in the incident.
Facility explosions outside of the U.S. included:
- July 27 at a chemical complex in Leverkusen, Germany. One employee died and 16 were injured in the incident. The event was possibly caused by solvents within storage tanks, according to reports by Al Jazeera.
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.