In recent years, large numbers of manufacturers have engaged the services of specialized consulting engineering firms to provide the equipment and labor necessary to manage and maintain their facilities. This type of business relationship is commonplace today due to its proven track record as a cost-saving measure that has positive effects on the manufacturer's bottom line. The freedom from certain daily operating tasks essentially grants the manufacturer the freedom to focus its resources on tasks that are more in line with what is in the best interest of the business, that is, to innovate and bring their products to market in a timely manner. Such is the case at Rehrig International's Richmond, Virginia manufacturing facility.
Rehrig, founded in 1975, is the world's largest manufacturer of plastic shopping carts. Their 317,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility employs over 500 workers. In addition to producing over a half a million traditional style plastic shopping carts annually, other product offerings now range from simple hand shopping baskets to heavy-duty platform carts used in material handling applications worldwide.
ProChem Incorporated, a consulting engineering firm located in Salem, Virginia was contracted by Rehrig to manage the day-to-day industrial wastewater related requirements at the Richmond facility. One of ProChem's duties was to provide a recommendation for a highly accurate flowmeter to monitor the plant's effluent on a daily basis. Debbie Harsh, Pro-Chem's on-site Environmental Support Representative, states, "The application was for a new installation to monitor the effluent leaving the plant." She adds, "The manufacturing process here requires a large amount of water use. Rehrig was being billed for their water use with the exception of any water used in the manufacture of their product. The plant also has high evaporative water losses that occur during the manufacturing process. The actual amount of discharge would be determined with this new flowmeter." The accurate accountability of wastewater discharges from a manufacturing facility is paramount because the manufacturer will be billed by their local jurisdiction for fees to process the wastewater at the local treatment plant.
With the cost of water increasingly on the rise, improved methods for determining actual water use and associated expenses are essential in the manufacturing environment. Recent statistics reveal that industrial water use accounts for approximately 23% of the world's water use, second only to agricultural use. Brian Kidd, Vice President of ProChem states, "We had spoken with your local representative, Coastal Products, who recommended the Flo-Dar meter." A competitors bubbler-type flowmeter that utilized a submerged sensor was also being considered however, Kidd states, "The bubbler meter was not selected due to its reputation of high maintenance due to sensor fouling." Harsh concurs by adding, "Bubbler type meters easily get clogged."
The Flo-Dar Open Channel Flowmeter is the world's first radar velocity/area flowmeter. The meter's uniqueness lies in its ability to remotely monitor flow from above the fluid eliminating fouling issues associated with submerged sensors. Flo-Dar combines digital doppler radar velocity sensing technology with ultrasonic pulse echo level sensing to accurately monitor flow in a wide variety of applications. The meter is virtually maintenance free and can be installed and removed from street level without the need for confined space entry costs and constraints.
The Flo-Dar flowmetermeter (sensor in manhole shown at left) has been in operation for over 2 years. Harsh adds, "The biggest benefit to Rehrig was the immediate cost savings. Costing data indicated that the payback (cost to recoup initial meter cost) for the meter was less than one year. The installation of the Flo-Dar on their effluent is really saving them so much money." For the first time ever, the Flo-Dar installation enabled the plant to accurately account for actual amount of water used in their product manufacturing process vs. the actual amount of wastewater being discharged from the facility. Harsh reads the meter and provides weekly reports to Rehrig management. Weekly reporting includes data on the percentage of savings based on the Flo-Dar flow data. "The meter has a high degree of accuracy and it's definitely easy to download", adds Harsh. When asked about the overall satisfaction with the meter, Kidd comments, "Flo-Dar works really well for us."
While Rehrig continues to focus on the business details that made them a leader in the material handling industry, they can rest assured that their facility's industrial wastewater issues are being judiciously addressed under ProChem's tutorage. Rehrig and ProChem collectively can count on the Flo-Dar flowmeter to continue to provide many years of accurate flow statistics for the Richmond manufacturing facility.