9 Material Handling Stories You Might Have Skipped in September

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From a collegiate study on whiskey distillation to OSHA’s efforts in helping small businesses with grants and workplace training, September saw a number of pertinent news stories relate to material handling and ingredient automation. Here are 9 items you might have missed in the past month as part of our news wrap-up on the AZO blog:

Baking & Snack podcast guest shares how company handled COVID with experiences learned from Hurricane Katrina 

Sept. 2, 9 and 30

This month “Since Sliced Bread” (the Baking & Snack podcast) released three episodes to conclude their second season. During the second episode the president of Leidenheimer Baking Co, New Orleans, explained how his company’s previous experience in navigating a crisis prepared them to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Sandy Whann explained that though Leidenheimer’s employees were just as confused as their customers, taking the pandemic seriously and communicating helped.

“The grocery store business really popped, and I think that phenomenon happened throughout the United States,” he said. “We don’t have a large majority of our business in that environment, but I’m so glad we have some.”  

Whann said the most “striking” similarity between Hurricane Katrina and the coronavirus is that these events both affect people before they affect companies. 

“What I learned after Katrina was that any problems you want to address and solve for the company, you have to solve it for your people first,” he said. “That became very apparent to me early on in Katrina as we had our employees spread across shelters throughout central and south Louisiana. We had people in Houston and Atlanta -- Just trying to get in touch with them was a challenge.”

Hear more.

Fires disrupt 5 facilities during September

Sept. 3, 4, 14, 28, 24

Last month, we shared nine facility fires reported by Powder & Bulk Solids. In September, five fires represents a slightly better outcome. Not all of these facility fires are mishaps caused by dust accumulation, but at AZO, we frequently share our NFPA infographic to demonstrate that combustible fires are nonetheless extremely preventable. Here are the five instances of facility fires during September that we hope can serve as further reminders of how essential plant safety really is:

Study on whiskey distillation is published to help distillers achieve desired flavors

Sept. 4 

Advancements in the field of flavor science and marketing for whiskey were the focus of a study recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. A professor and graduate student of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture spearheaded "Changes in Tennessee Whiskey Odorants by the Lincoln County Process," which observed changes during charcoal filtration of whiskey.  

This specific filtration process happens to be a necessary step required for a whiskey to be labeled "Tennessee whiskey" and is also known as the “Lincoln County Process” or “charcoal mellowing.”

"By gaining a fundamental understanding of the changes in flavor chemistry occurring during whiskey production,” the team that released the study could “advise distillers about exactly what changes are needed to make their process produce their desired flavor goals.” The goal of the study was to “give distillers levers to pull, so they are not randomly or blindly attempting to get the precise flavor they want."

Residents of Swiss town noticed “chocolate snow” raining from malfunctioning chocolate factory’s ventilation system

Sept. 4

The town of Olten, Switzerland, saw cocoa powder blown from a Lindt and Sprüngli plant by particularly strong winds as a result of a “minor defect” in the cooling ventilation of a production line, according to Thomas.net. This line includes products like roasted cocoa nibs, fragments of crushed cocoa beans and the base for the chocolate recipe.

The chocolate particles were not harmful to the environment, with the exception that one car in the town was lightly coated. The company offered to pay the cleaning fees if necessary in a statement. The factory's ventilation system has since been repaired.

New meat and dairy substitute derived from hot springs in Yellowstone 

Sept. 7

A new ingredient that will substitute dairy in protein powder and be included in meatless burgers has been derived from fermented microbes from pools above the Yellowstone Caldera in Wyoming, according to UPI.

Fusarium str. Yellowstonensis, or “Fy,” is produced through fermentation similar to sourdough bread or kombucha. Food scientists working for Nature's Fynd (a small Chicago-based firm that opened its food-grade processing facility in March) feed sugar to the microbes on tray-based fermenting chambers to create this textured material. Unlike other alternative-protein products, Fy is an edible food and not simply a protein additive combined with other processed ingredients.

CEMA reports Conveying Equipment Orders Drop 75%

Sept. 17

For both the last two stories related to conveying equipment orders we’ve recapped on the AZO blog, sales have increased as reported by the Conveying Equipment Manufacturers Association (CEMA). Still, the group reported in September that its July 2020 booked orders decreased 4.8% when compared to July 2019 booked orders. July 2020 booked orders for Unit Handling Equipment also fell 81.19% when compared to May of 2020, according to CEMA. 

OSHA gives $11.2M for worker training, fines beef plant for COVID outbreak

Sept. 18 and 25 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) made headlines for two particular events in September. First, $11.2 million was awarded to 90 nonprofit organizations by OHSA through the Susan Harwood federal health training grants. These grants aim to provide education and training programs helping workers and employers label workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures and understand various responsibilities. Target trainees for this assistance include small-business employers and “underserved vulnerable workers” in high-hazard industries.

OSHA’s Iowa division also fined the Iowa Premium Beef Plant in Tama, IA, $957 following a COVID-19 outbreak at the plant in April. Close to 40% of the facility’s workers tested positive for COVID-19 (338 employees), according to Powder & Bulk Solids. This was 80 more cases than previously revealed to OSHA — the fine specifically was both for failing to keep a required log of workplace-related injuries and illnesses and for failing to provide the document to inspectors in a timely fashion.  

Kellogg reduces its organic waste by 13% through sustainability efforts

Sept. 24

Over the past four years, Kellogg has managed to decrease its total organic waste by 13.4%, according to Powder and Bulk Solids, and claimed to have lowered its waste per pound of food by 5.7% as well. 

Steps that helped the company reach this feat include utilizing more reusable packaging to keep foods fresher for longer as well as modifying equipment to boost efficiency in production. 

“We’re helping to eradicate hunger, fight climate change, and ensure there is enough nutritious food available for all by working across our supply chain to reduce waste from farm to family,” Kellogg’s Chief Sustainability Officer Amy Senter said in a press release.

Tragic explosion at chemical plant kills five workers in China 

Sept. 28

Five workers lost their lives in a chemical plant located in China's Tianmen City, Hubei Province, after an explosion occurred Sept. 28. Powder & Bulk Engineering reported that one other worker was injured at the plant, which creates compounds that are used in the manufacturing of drugs.

If you have any other questions or concerns regarding material handling, feel free to contact our sales team at AZO. Recently we’ve posted a variety of content related to keeping in line with critical dust hazard management practices. We have more than seven decades of experience in the ingredient automation world and have added tons of other topics also covered at length on our blog.

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