Industry News

Kinetic Energy: Powering the Future

Nikola Tesla once said, “Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point of the universe.” The current generation of engineers have taken great strides in making Tesla’s prediction become a reality. Kinetic Energy is being used in the design of amazing new innovations such as harnessing kinetic energy to power buildings and roads designed to provide electrical energy from the kinetic energy of moving vehicles.

One company (Pavegen) has engineered a technology that provides electrical power from the footsteps of people who walk across specialty designed flooring that converts kinetic energy into electrical power via a flywheel. This amazing technology can be used outside or inside. This is a great addition to any are that receives a high amount of foot traffic such as Airports, Malls, and Schools. Pavegen already has this technology being utilized in a few different places. Most notably is a soccer stadium in Brazil. When players and fans walk across the specialty designed flooring, the kinetic energy is converted into electrical energy which is used to power the lights of the soccer stadium. This technology is also being used in London’s Canary Wharf. All foot traffic around the wharf creates kinetic energy that is also converted into electrical energy to power the surrounding street lights.

Pavegen is going beyond just energy by also incorporating data transmitters into its products to track footsteps to help create “smart cities”. The Pavagen system allows the ability to be able to predict peak timing, prime locations, and movement patterns. They even went a step further (no pun intended) and incorporated a “Loyalty Program” in which people walking can use an app and earn digital currency for every step walked on their technology. This money can be used in a variety of ways to reward loyalty or be donated to charity.

Italian startup “Underground Power” is also getting in on the kinetic energy movement by taking this technology to the streets. Underground Power in partnership with the Polytechnic University of Milan, has developed a technology called Lybra which is a rubber paving that collects kinetic energy from moving vehicles and converts it into electrical energy. The way that Lybra works is that it takes the kinetic energy that is created by the force of a breaking vehicle and converts it into electrical energy that is sent to the electrical grid. Lybra is installed in places that have been strategically selected as spots that most drivers must reduce their speed. This makes sure that Lybra gathers the most kinetic energy possible. The technology also can help make the roadways safer because each of these strategically selected spots that gather electricity are marked so drivers will have an extra reminder to slow down. This makes Lybra a vital safety innovation as well as a creative way to produce electricity in an eco-friendly manner. This technology has serious potential in alternative power sourcing and makes vehicles give back instead of the normal complaints of vehicle pollution.

Both brilliant kinetic energy innovations provide multiple benefits for their respective uses. Kinetic energy is something that is going to be created regardless of whether it is being harnessed or not, so it would really be a waste to not utilize this energy to create a green form of electricity whenever possible.

While it may not be the exact idea that Nikola Tesla had when he made the previously mentioned quote, this technology really does have the potential to be used anywhere that kinetic energy can be gathered. This is not only great for the environment but also has cost saving benefits as well.

Industry News

Four Ways to Improve Warehouse Operations & Efficiency

To simplify business as a whole, regardless of industry, there are two ways to make more money for your company; increase revenue or lower costs. As with nearly everything in life – easier said than done. In our previous article, Insider Sales and Growth Tips, we listed a couple of different opportunities to increase revenue. Now it’s time to focus on the other direction of a firm’s cash flows – operations.
It’d be a rarity to find someone in operations that hasn’t heard the quote from Peter Drucker, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Although there are those that enjoy number-crunching and reading large excel spreadsheets of KPIs, we aren’t all blessed with that personality trait. However, in the instance of saving a firm money, it’s time to grin and bear it. This sets up a firm with the opportunity to compare its objective performance with other firms in the industry.
1. Organize Distribution Centers for Full Efficiency
There’s a reason why Industrial Engineers and Process Engineers always seem to be under high demand. Hiring a true professional to re-organize a plant or distribution center’s layout can save tens of thousands to millions (depending on the size) in operations costs. Shaving seconds off of a certain process makes an enormous difference when you’re repeating that process millions of times a year. In addition, defining a discounting or selling process for slow, non-moving, or return inventory will help open up more productive warehouse space.
You may have noticed that over the last few years, Wal-Mart has widened out most of its aisles. There are plenty of rumors for why, but the general consensus is that they were looking to have less inventory in their stores without looking like they have less. The opposite can be true for a firm’s warehouse. Using narrow-aisle fork trucks, aisle size can be reduced with an opportunity to fit more aisles/inventory in.
Cross-training associates allows much more flexibility within an operation as well. When an inventory clerk or a scheduler is able to hop on a forklift and assist in shipping/receiving in the event of being short-staffed, this avoids opportunity-bottlenecks. Not to mention that many employees enthusiastically welcome cross-training as it mixes up their functions and adds to their job scope altogether, which also makes a firm’s employees much stronger candidates for internal promotion when it comes to general management over multiple functions. The firm gets improved operational efficiencies meanwhile increasing employee morale. Whats not to love?
2. Implement the Power of Real-Time WMS Technology
Implementing a warehouse management system that integrates with your enterprise resource planning software will assist with managing your logistics and inventory in real-time in order to maximize throughput and analytical transparency. This will also improve tracking employee performance and lessen the amount of time necessary to onboard/train a new hire on KPIs & SKUs.
3. Develop & Maintain Analytics of Warehouse Order Status, Inventory & Labor
Using technology & software, a firm should look to shorten the amount of time it takes to update a product in its ERP system once the is received in the warehouse. In addition, maintaining these analytics will lower the amount of errors made on order changes, duplicate orders and time management/scheduling for operations & logistics managers.
4. Track Results, Outperform Previous Results
In an industry where continuous improvement, Six Sigma and Kaizen are all second nature, it is a necessity that firms continue to track and improve off of previous results. Big data isn’t just for IT companies anymore. Popular metrics to target for improvement are order fulfillment, inventory management & warehouse performance. In order fulfillment there is a focus on on-time delivery percentage, fill-rate percentages and order accuracy. For warehouse management there is a focus on inventory accuracy and warehouse productivity. By setting standards, employees know where they stand as far as objective performance goes.
Industry News

Wooden builds – the durability and beauty of natural materials

Timber frames are still incredibly popular when building new homes, especially as the frames can be constructed offsite, improving quality, and saving money on the build. Timber also has a lower environmental impact than many other materials – providing the wood is obtained from a sustainable source, and can even make you feel well. We’ve all experienced the ‘forest bathing’ effect of a walk in the woods (in fact, Japanese medics even prescribe this as therapy for a range of conditions), but high wood contents in schools and offices can even help to boost learning and productivity, and cut absenteeism.
Building beautiful and durable structures is nothing new – the Temple of the Flourishing Law in Japan has been standing for around 1,400 years, surviving weather, earthquakes, and fire. The wood would suggest that the trees were felled towards the end of the 6th century, and that the temple was built immediately after that.
In 2016, the exceptionally well-preserved remains of a Bronze Age village were examined and documented in the UK. The site in Cambridgeshire has been dubbed ‘Britain’s Pompeii’, as there is the same sense that the people that lived there have left in the middle of their day to day activities, and might return at any time. It would appear that a fire caused the residents to flee – and not return – but they left everything behind; half eaten meals in dishes, exceptionally finely-woven fabric, beads, tools, and even the remains of a cart with the spine of its unfortunate horse nearby. The houses were round, and of a close wooden construction. Like other ancient palisade discoveries, the wood that has survived in almost perfect condition would appear to have been heated to strengthen it before use – much like modern Brimstone.
Brimstone itself is British-grown wood which is subjected to kiln-heating to make it ideal for cladding and decking in particular, and fast-growing woods such as ash and sycamore make it sustainable as well as durable.
New techniques employing wood mean that the buildings are getting taller too. The Treet residential building in Bergen, Norway is 14 stories high, and currently the tallest wood building in the world. However, by the end of the year, it is due to be eclipsed by an 18-storey dormitory building for the University of British Columbia. Plans for a 21 storey build are also being made for the Haut building in Amsterdam, with Arup heading up the project. Architects are even planning wooden structures of skyscraper proportions; the Tratoppen (or ‘treetop’) is currently on the drawing board for Stockholm in Sweden, and at 40 floors, will be almost twice the height of the Haut.
There’s no doubt that wood is the best environmental choice, reducing the carbon footprint of builds like this by up to 75%. The reduced weight means that foundations can be more shallow, and the wood itself is not only sustainable, but a natural ‘sink’ for CO2 emissions. Hybrid forms such as CLT and concrete-jointed timber mean that builds are even more durable – perhaps one of the blocks in the planning might still be around in another 1,400 years!