Georgia Tech Alumni, Researchers Author Comprehensive Book on Biomass Energy Systems

Installing biomass energy systems can greatly reduce a company’s operating costs, create a cost-effective and cleaner way to produce energy, and reduce its carbon footprint – if managers, engineers and environmental health and safety professionals understand renewable fuels and the equipment required to convert these fuels into energy. A group of Georgia Tech alumni and researchers now have in print a comprehensive book on this subject, Biomass and Alternate Fuel Systems: An Engineering and Economic Guide.

The book is a joint publication of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and John Wiley & Sons. It is an update and significant expansion of the Industrial Wood Energy Handbook written by the same Georgia Tech team in 1984.

“Knowledge about biomass energy is essential as the domestic economy moves toward an emphasis on sustainability, which requires the conversion to renewable energy sources like wood and biomass,” noted Mike Brown, one of the book’s editors and an energy specialist with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute. “Biomass energy, which is the greatest renewable energy resource, is of prime importance in the Southeast because other renewable resources like wind, geothermal and solar are available in only marginal quantities. In the United States, the potential sustainable amount of biomass rivals that of current nationwide use of coal.”

The book explains characteristics of renewable fuels, especially biomass and wood, and the cost-effective and environmentally friendly methods for handling, storing, burning and converting these fuels into heat, steam, power and chemicals. Wood refers to renewable fuel generated from trees and comes in forms that include bark, sawdust, shavings and whole tree chips. Biomass — a more general term referring to fuel generated from any type of plant life — includes trees, agricultural residue, biogas, and small, fast-growing plants like switch grass and algae.

The book also includes economic evaluation methods; information on furnaces, boilers and gasifiers; pollution control equipment to limit emissions from biomass combustion; production of liquid fuels from biomass; a case study and feasibility study; costing; and calculation methods for greenhouse gas and carbon emission comparisons between conventional and alternate fuels.

“People who would be interested in this book include upper managers who would make the decision to install the biomass system; operating personnel who must evaluate the technical feasibility of a system; environmental, health and safety staff that permit and support operations; and equipment manufacturers who want to educate potential customers on the details of the system,” said Thomas F. McGowan, the book’s co-editor and president of TMTS Associates, Inc., an engineering consulting firm specializing in combustion, air pollution control, solids handling and biomass energy. “This comprehensive book introduces new technologies and contains current cost and equipment vendor data. For those involved in the alternate fuels industry, this book contains a wealth of information.”

The editors of the book are all Georgia Tech alumni: McGowan (Industrial Management, 1985), Brown (Mechanical Engineering, 1973 and Management, 1987), William Bulpitt (Mechanical Engineering, 1970 and 1972) and Jim Walsh (Aerospace Engineering, 1969 and 1970) have more than 140 years of experience among them. McGowan was a senior research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) from 1978 to 1985, and Bulpitt recently retired as a senior research engineer with Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute. Brown and Walsh are both senior research engineers with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute.

For more information on the book, please contact Thomas McGowan (404-627-4722); E-mail: (moc.gnirpsdnimnull@nawogcmft). For more information on Georgia Tech’s services in energy management, please contact Bill Meffert (404-894-3844); E-mail: (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@treffem.llib). The book can be purchased from John Wiley & Sons at http://tinyurl.com/Wiley-biomass-book

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Insulation Manufacturer Improves Business with Georgia Tech Assistance

Thermal Ceramics, an Augusta-based insulation manufacturer, has always been at the forefront of its industry. It is a world leader in the production of ceramic fiber products and insulating firebricks, as well as specialty insulation products. With more than 3,000 employees in more than 30 locations worldwide, Thermal Ceramics supplies customers in the petrochemical, chemical, automotive and power generation industries.

In the early 1990s, the Augusta, Ga. facility became ISO certified, meaning it was independently audited and certified to be in conformance with quality management standards maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). However, by 2005 the system had begun to lose its relevance.

“In 2005, we recognized that our ISO system was the old version and it wasn’t functioning for us anymore. It was burdensome,” recalled Sherri Pettigrew, environmental health and safety/quality assurance manager for Thermal Ceramics. “We contacted Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute to see if it would help us revamp and streamline our ISO system to meet our current needs with our current level of staffing.”

Elliot Price, Deann Desai, Don Pital, Holly Grell-Lawe and Dennis Kelly, all Georgia Tech quality specialists, assisted Thermal Ceramics with re-tooling its quality management system. ISO 9001 is an international quality management system standard that presents fundamental management and quality assurance practices applicable to any organization. Companies that are ISO 9001 certified have a demonstrated baseline of managerial discipline and control, and they also have higher rates of customer satisfaction.

Throughout the process, the Georgia Tech team reviewed the company’s documentation, developed a system that had a more value-added process and identified training needs. Team members also conducted a gap audit, helped with the development of an implementation plan, assisted with initial internal audits and management review, conducted a pre-assessment audit and corrected any system issues prior to the registration audit.

“We threw out almost everything and started from the ground up,” Pettigrew said. “Then we decided we were going to be ISO 14001 certified, so Georgia Tech built that system from scratch for us as well.”

ISO 14001, the international specification for an environmental management system, helps organizations develop a process to reduce negative environmental impacts caused by their operations while also complying with applicable laws and regulations. Like ISO 9001, ISO 14001 focuses on the process rather than the end product. The Georgia Tech team helped Thermal Ceramics integrate the two standards into one, and served as the company’s internal auditors.

“Our employees thought of our ISO system as just a bunch of paper and manuals sitting on a shelf, and they didn’t understand the value. Truthfully, there really was no value in that old system,” Pettigrew noted. “The big hurdle that we overcame was getting people to understand that the new system was going to be helpful to them. We actually went from a burdensome paper system to something that’s online and totally electronic, so it’s easier to maintain.”

Pettigrew estimates that as a result of becoming ISO 9001 and 14001 certified, Thermal Ceramics was able to increase its sales by $6 million while saving $2 million in costs. The company, which employs a total of 450 people at its Augusta facility, was also able to add seven employees.

On the heels of its quality and environmental standards success, Thermal Ceramics also sought assistance from the Enterprise Innovation Institute in the area of lean management principles, a set of tools that helps organizations identify and steadily eliminate waste from their operations. Paul Todd, a Georgia Tech lean specialist, led an executive introduction to lean, a 5S overview and planning session and 5S training and implementation. 5S refers to five Japanese words: seiri (remove what is not needed and keep what is needed); seiton (place things in such a way that they can be easily reached whenever they are needed); seiso (keep things clean and polished); seiketsu (maintain cleanliness after cleaning); and shitsuke (sustain the improvements over time). In English, the steps become sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.

“We were very aggressive with the lean implementation. We had four teams that represented each of the three manufacturing areas plus a warehouse/shipping group,” Pettigrew explained. “We did everything from painting the lines for hoppers and pallets to getting rid of the clutter to implementing visual cues and labeling. We did it all.”

Currently, Thermal Ceramics is conducting lean projects in the areas of energy reduction, downtime reduction, safety, increasing melting efficiency, and shipping error reduction. Weekly 5S meetings are also held to maintain the momentum.

In December 2007, the Augusta operation of Thermal Ceramics – which spans 58 acres and 10 buildings – sought Georgia Tech’s assistance in the high-impact area of energy management. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program, Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute can provide energy, waste and productivity assessment at no charge to small- and mid-sized manufacturers.

Mike Brown and Pierpaolo Baldisserotto, Georgia Tech energy specialists, visited the Thermal Ceramics plant to evaluate the company’s challenges, problems and solutions. They studied the facility’s energy consumption history and measured the major energy-consuming equipment. Along with several Georgia Tech co-op students, they produced a report that included a number of recommendations, including recovering fiber waste, recovering heat from the kiln exhaust, repairing air leaks and replacing desiccant air dryers with refrigerated dryers. The report estimates that Thermal Ceramics could save more than $1.8 million – 22 percent of the facility’s annual energy costs – by implementing its recommendations.

“Having Georgia Tech come in and assist us in these different areas has really worked for us,” said Pettigrew. “We’re better now than we have ever been.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Jump-starting Growth in Glennville

Rotary Corporation, headquartered in Glennville, Ga., literally began from a car trunk when J.D. Nelson began selling replacement parts to auto parts stores and lawnmower dealers in 1956. By 1971, the company’s volume had increased to the point where Rotary began considering manufacturing its own lawnmower blades. To make an informed decision, it enlisted experts at Georgia Tech to conduct a feasibility study.

“They came back to us and suggested that we begin manufacturing lawnmower blades, so we found a company for sale in Toledo, Ohio, bought it, moved it down here and started making lawnmower blades,” recalled Ed Nelson, Rotary’s president. “I don’t know where we would be today if we hadn’t done that, because when we started manufacturing our business really started growing.”

Today, Rotary employs 450 people and delivers parts to 20,000 customers in all 50 states and more than 50 countries throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Canada, Australia and Africa.

“When my father bought the business from my great-uncle in ’66, we had seven employees and were selling $250,000 a year, and now we sell that before lunch on a good day,” Nelson said. “Last year we marked two milestones – our fiftieth year in business and our 150 millionth lawnmower blade.”

To support that growth over the years, Nelson continued to turn to Georgia Tech for assistance and guidance. Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute provides comprehensive services to improve the competitiveness of Georgia’s business and industry, including technical and engineering assistance, continuing education courses, facilitation of networks and connecting companies to Georgia Tech resources.

Since the initial feasibility study on lawnmower blade manufacturing, Rotary has tapped into nearly every service offered by the Enterprise Innovation Institute. In the mid-‘70s, Georgia Tech conducted another study to determine the best steel for blade manufacturing. Energy and environmental specialists have performed air sampling, noise monitoring, general safety audits and environmental audits, and assisted the company on better managing its energy costs.

Rotary has also thoroughly utilized Georgia Tech’s services in lean manufacturing, a process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System and known for reducing wasted time and effort. Alan Barfoot, a lean specialist and central Georgia region manager with the Enterprise Innovation Institute, led Rotary staff in a lean overview, helping participants learn the principles of lean manufacturing and how to apply them.

During a series of simulations, they applied lean concepts such as standardized work, visual signals, batch-size reduction and pull systems, among others. They experienced how lean improves quality, reduces cycle time, improves delivery performance and reduces work-in-process. The team also developed value stream maps – diagrams used to analyze the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer – to determine Rotary’s current and future states. Nelson estimates that Rotary’s available warehouse space increased by 20 percent as a result of these projects.

“When Georgia Tech has a long-term relationship with a client like Rotary, there is better synergy between us and the company,” noted Barfoot. “We are much more familiar with the business and are able to be a more valuable set of outside eyes to provide feedback.”

In 2007, the Enterprise Innovation Institute – through the U.S. Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) – began offering a program to help Georgia companies develop new strategies for growth. “Eureka! Winning Ways®,” an award-winning three-step process that includes idea engineering, success screening and action-plan coaching, was developed by Doug Hall, former master marketing inventor with Procter & Gamble and former host of the ABC television series American Inventor.

Eureka helps companies assess how to best jump-start growth through innovative and creative ideas. Projects, which are led by Georgia Tech experts who have been certified in the Eureka Ranch techniques, examine how companies can establish more effective marketing messages, capture new customers or markets, and develop new products, services or business models. In fall 2007, Rotary was invited to Eureka Ranch, Hall’s headquarters in Newtown, Ohio.

“We took 12 people from Rotary’s management team, sales people and trusted advisors to Eureka Ranch and we did the project from there. Doug Hall and his team were there, so we got to be in that environment,” recalled Bob Wray, a Georgia Tech project manager and Eureka specialist. “We went through the ideation day – a disciplined system for thinking smarter and more creatively about old and new ideas for top-line growth – and then tried to figure out which projects were worth pursuing. We came up with more than 150 ideas.”

Following the idea generation, the group refined and rewrote the top 12 ideas, and then senior management selected four to go into idea testing. That testing took place in the second phase of Eureka, which assesses ideas using Merwyn Research, a software program that evaluates the group’s ideas based on other ideas’ successes. The software generates a score for each idea and, based on that information, the client chooses two ideas on which to focus.

The third phase of Eureka – TrailBlazer – is a 30-day research-intensive coaching process to make a decision on whether to develop the two ideas. If the decision is “yes,” the idea will proceed into a development phase. Over time, the goal is for the company to have a continuous “idea pipeline,” with ideas in different stages of incubation and development.

“We saw a need for improvements on lawnmower blades within the industry, and we’re currently in the process of developing a unique blade,” Nelson noted. “However, that doesn’t happen overnight; it involves a lot of testing. Eureka really got us up and going with that project.”

Another project that was immediately identified by the Eureka process was an information technology project that remedied the problem of Rotary’s computer system being down during back-up. Now, the ordering system is always accessible, a big improvement for Rotary’s European customers in particular.

“The biggest advantage to Eureka is establishing a pipeline of ideas. With Rotary, there may have been 50 pretty good ideas out of those 150 that we identified at the Eureka Ranch. The next step was working through that list, prioritizing and executing,” said Wray. “Doug Hall says that if you’re not unique, you better be cheap. If you don’t have unique lawnmower blades, you’re selling commodities. But, if you have something no one else has, then you can charge a premium for it.”

Nelson says that Rotary has experienced a number of positive impacts as a result of the Eureka project, including $1.5 million in increased sales, $2 million in retained sales that would have otherwise been lost, 50 retained jobs and one job created. He also notes that Rotary avoided $262,000 in unnecessary investments as a result of Georgia Tech’s assistance.

“Eureka really opened our eyes to other ways of doing things, and helped us to take advantage of ideas as fast as we can. We’ve got a lot more ideas now than we had in the past,” Nelson said.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Rotary Corporation, headquartered in Glennville, Ga., literally began from a car trunk when J.D. Nelson began selling replacement parts to auto parts stores and lawnmower dealers in 1956. By 1971, the company’s volume had increased to the point where Rotary began considering manufacturing its own lawnmower blades. To make an informed decision, it enlisted experts at Georgia Tech to conduct a feasibility study.

“They came back to us and suggested that we begin manufacturing lawnmower blades, so we found a company for sale in Toledo, Ohio, bought it, moved it down here and started making lawnmower blades,” recalled Ed Nelson, Rotary’s president. “I don’t know where we would be today if we hadn’t done that, because when we started manufacturing our business really started growing.”

Today, Rotary employs 450 people and delivers parts to 20,000 customers in all 50 states and more than 50 countries throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Canada, Australia and Africa.

“When my father bought the business from my great-uncle in ’66, we had seven employees and were selling $250,000 a year, and now we sell that before lunch on a good day,” Nelson said. “Last year we marked two milestones – our fiftieth year in business and our 150 millionth lawnmower blade.”

To support that growth over the years, Nelson continued to turn to Georgia Tech for assistance and guidance. Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute provides comprehensive services to improve the competitiveness of Georgia’s business and industry, including technical and engineering assistance, continuing education courses, facilitation of networks and connecting companies to Georgia Tech resources.

Since the initial feasibility study on lawnmower blade manufacturing, Rotary has tapped into nearly every service offered by the Enterprise Innovation Institute. In the mid-‘70s, Georgia Tech conducted another study to determine the best steel for blade manufacturing. Energy and environmental specialists have performed air sampling, noise monitoring, general safety audits and environmental audits, and assisted the company on better managing its energy costs.

Rotary has also thoroughly utilized Georgia Tech’s services in lean manufacturing, a process management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System and known for reducing wasted time and effort. Alan Barfoot, a lean specialist and central Georgia region manager with the Enterprise Innovation Institute, led Rotary staff in a lean overview, helping participants learn the principles of lean manufacturing and how to apply them.

During a series of simulations, they applied lean concepts such as standardized work, visual signals, batch-size reduction and pull systems, among others. They experienced how lean improves quality, reduces cycle time, improves delivery performance and reduces work-in-process. The team also developed value stream maps – diagrams used to analyze the flow of materials and information required to bring a product or service to a consumer – to determine Rotary’s current and future states. Nelson estimates that Rotary’s available warehouse space increased by 20 percent as a result of these projects.

“When Georgia Tech has a long-term relationship with a client like Rotary, there is better synergy between us and the company,” noted Barfoot. “We are much more familiar with the business and are able to be a more valuable set of outside eyes to provide feedback.”

In 2007, the Enterprise Innovation Institute – through the U.S. Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) – began offering a program to help Georgia companies develop new strategies for growth. “Eureka! Winning Ways®,” an award-winning three-step process that includes idea engineering, success screening and action-plan coaching, was developed by Doug Hall, former master marketing inventor with Procter & Gamble and former host of the ABC television series American Inventor.

Eureka helps companies assess how to best jump-start growth through innovative and creative ideas. Projects, which are led by Georgia Tech experts who have been certified in the Eureka Ranch techniques, examine how companies can establish more effective marketing messages, capture new customers or markets, and develop new products, services or business models. In fall 2007, Rotary was invited to Eureka Ranch, Hall’s headquarters in Newtown, Ohio.

“We took 12 people from Rotary’s management team, sales people and trusted advisors to Eureka Ranch and we did the project from there. Doug Hall and his team were there, so we got to be in that environment,” recalled Bob Wray, a Georgia Tech project manager and Eureka specialist. “We went through the ideation day – a disciplined system for thinking smarter and more creatively about old and new ideas for top-line growth – and then tried to figure out which projects were worth pursuing. We came up with more than 150 ideas.”

Following the idea generation, the group refined and rewrote the top 12 ideas, and then senior management selected four to go into idea testing. That testing took place in the second phase of Eureka, which assesses ideas using Merwyn Research, a software program that evaluates the group’s ideas based on other ideas’ successes. The software generates a score for each idea and, based on that information, the client chooses two ideas on which to focus.

The third phase of Eureka – TrailBlazer – is a 30-day research-intensive coaching process to make a decision on whether to develop the two ideas. If the decision is “yes,” the idea will proceed into a development phase. Over time, the goal is for the company to have a continuous “idea pipeline,” with ideas in different stages of incubation and development.

“We saw a need for improvements on lawnmower blades within the industry, and we’re currently in the process of developing a unique blade,” Nelson noted. “However, that doesn’t happen overnight; it involves a lot of testing. Eureka really got us up and going with that project.”

Another project that was immediately identified by the Eureka process was an information technology project that remedied the problem of Rotary’s computer system being down during back-up. Now, the ordering system is always accessible, a big improvement for Rotary’s European customers in particular.

“The biggest advantage to Eureka is establishing a pipeline of ideas. With Rotary, there may have been 50 pretty good ideas out of those 150 that we identified at the Eureka Ranch. The next step was working through that list, prioritizing and executing,” said Wray. “Doug Hall says that if you’re not unique, you better be cheap. If you don’t have unique lawnmower blades, you’re selling commodities. But, if you have something no one else has, then you can charge a premium for it.”

Nelson says that Rotary has experienced a number of positive impacts as a result of the Eureka project, including $1.5 million in increased sales, $2 million in retained sales that would have otherwise been lost, 50 retained jobs and one job created. He also notes that Rotary avoided $262,000 in unnecessary investments as a result of Georgia Tech’s assistance.

“Eureka really opened our eyes to other ways of doing things, and helped us to take advantage of ideas as fast as we can. We’ve got a lot more ideas now than we had in the past,” Nelson said.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 100

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contacts: Nancy Fullbright (404-894-2214); E-mail: (email hidden; JavaScript is required) or John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright