As you might imagine, there’s a lot going on inside the facility at any given time. The process to create a cylinder starts with pressing and stamping the metal, then welding the pieces together. Valves are inserted, handles and foot rings are attached, and each cylinder undergoes rigorous quality testing before being finished with a durable, powder paint coating and shipped to customers.
Prior to May 2022, all 200 and 420-pound cylinders were sent through an additional step where the base of each cylinder was painted black. These large tanks are often set outdoors in remote areas, and the black bases helped to hide typical weathering and wear. But it was proving wasteful from an operational, financial and environmental standpoint.
“‘Black bottoming’ was always a lot of extra work on our end,” stated Shauna Peairs, paint area manager at Worthington’s Jefferson facility. “It wasn’t providing functional value to customers, so we wondered if it made sense to continue.”
With hundreds of tanks requiring black paint every day, this one additional step required quite a bit of manpower. An operator ran the booth where the latex paint, thinned with acetone, was sprayed onto the base of the cylinder as it passed through. Another employee would inspect each tank and manually touch up any imperfections using a can of black spray paint. General equipment maintenance took a lot of time, and the paint spray guns had to be cleaned multiple times a day.
Financially, expenses added up between the paint, acetone and replacement supplies like spray gun filters. There were also costs associated with appropriately disposing of the used acetone and leftover paint—amounting up to 15 gallons of hazardous waste daily.
Wanting to reevaluate the need for the black paint, Shauna reached out to Business Director of Industrial Products Bobby Weinberg, who, in turn, spoke with the commercial team. “I wanted to understand what consequences may result if we no longer provided black-bottomed tanks to our customers,” said Bobby.
The answer from the commercial team was pretty straightforward: There were no business concerns from stopping it.
Jefferson adjusted their process immediately. After using the last of the supplies on hand, the painting of bases ceased. Without the paint booth, operators could spend more time doing other meaningful work throughout the facility and, with one less step in the production process, product could be shipped out quicker. Eliminating the cleaning, disposing and inventory tracking for paint products was also a time saver.
Some impressive long-term results have been revealed as well. In a single year, Jefferson generated 5,400 pounds less hazardous waste and reduced volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 3,200 pounds. They even earned a green star award for the environmental improvements from this one simple change.
We’re proud of our teams for bringing these opportunities to light and embodying our Makers of Better motto.
Jefferson paint line crew, pictured left to right: Shelly DeGennaro, EH&S manager; Valerie Lawrence, paint line group leader; Jody Griffith, operator; Shauna Peairs, area manager; Jim Van Der Sluys Veer, operator