At a Glance
ThyssenKrupp Elevator is committed to sustainability. Some examples include:
- Devoting a portion of its research & development budget to green innovations.
- Active member of the U.S. Green Building Council.
- Operating smaller, more efficient vehicles.
- Creating the "Five Cs of Analyzing Alternative-Fuel Vehicles."
- Partnering with Clean Cities.
Sustainability is the underlying philosophy that guides ThyssenKrupp Elevator's operations, including its fleet. The company's 2009-2012 Sustainability Report states: "Sustainability is progress. It's about stepping up and laying a secure path for future generations to follow. With transparency, conviction, and momentum, ThyssenKrupp Elevator is proud to share its sustainability story."
The elevator company, which has its Americas headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., has a fleet that consists of 3,150 vehicles, including light-duty vans (53 percent), pickup trucks (33 percent), medium-duty vehicles (11 percent), and conventional automobiles (3 percent).
Guiding ThyssenKrupp's fleet and sustainability initiatives are Tom Armstrong, director of fleet, and Brad Nemeth, director of sustainability.
Armstrong has been the company's director of fleet for the past 11 years with 20 years total fleet experience. His prior experience includes the operation and ownership of a freight company headquartered in Florida. Prior to this, he spent six years in the United States Air Force.
Nemeth was hired by ThyssenKrupp in October 2009 to act as the director of sustainability for the Americas business unit. Nemeth brought a quarter-century of sustainability knowledge to the organization. He holds degrees in business management and mining engineering.
Committing to Sustainability
ThyssenKrupp has committed to greening more than just its fleet. From creating the position of director of sustainability to its green building plan, the company has a published goal, devoting 15 percent of its research & development (R&D) budget to green innovation by 2012 and 30 percent by 2015. The company features two LEED APs (accredited professionals) on staff, both with BD+C (building design and construction) specialization as well as a LEED GA (green associate) training program, which currently includes 30 employees (including all regional VPs) preparing for their exam by the end of 2011.
The company is also an active member of the U.S. Green Building Council, and its products include the industry's only Underwriters Laboratories (UL) validated elevator cab for low emissions and indoor air quality. It has also moved to a powdercoat process for elevator cab interiors as well as the exclusive use of no added urea-formaldehyde wood products.
Most recently, ThyssenKrupp Elevator AG introduced its global commitment to sustainability through the "Sustainable Efficiency" program.
"This initiative further supports the company in its efforts to integrate sustainable practices throughout all of our processes worldwide," said Nemeth in the recent sustainability report. "To build upon this momentum, we recognize sustainable efficiency as the key driver to enhancing our performance."
To successfully carry out its vision and sustainability action plans, the company "strives to foster a sustainable culture that puts people first, valuing safety, integrity, innovation, and a commitment to healthy communities," Nemeth said.
ThyssenKrupp's sustainability goal is to optimize the efficient utilization of all resources by using each to its fullest potential and by wasting nothing.
The Transit Connect(ion)
In addition to utilizing alternative-fuel vehicles in its fleet, ThyssenKrupp has greatly reduced its fuel consumption by operating smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"By changing our core service vehicle to the four-cylinder Ford Transit Connect, we have improved our fuel economy by 8 mpg per vehicle," Armstrong said. "We currently operate 350 Transit Connects and have an additional 150 on order."
According to Armstrong, the company expects to be operating roughly 1,300 Transit Connect (or similar) models within five years, further reducing the company's fuel consumption by 1 million gallons per year, saving approximately $3.5 million annually.
"We have also installed GPS on all field vehicles to reduce wasteful driving. For example, it allows us to use less fuel by identifying the closest driver for a service call, which also reduces and improves our response time for our customers," Armstrong said. "In addition, we utilize a route optimization software to ensure our service routes are structured efficiently."
Cutting Through the Hype
Beyond downsizing to four-cylinder models, ThyssenKrupp also utilizes propane autogas-fueled vehicles in its fleet.
"With all the 'buzz' about alternative fuels and vehicles (marketing, politics, and suppliers pushing products), we needed a tool or process to cut through the hype and identify what truly makes sense for us as a company," Armstrong noted.
To accomplish this, Armstrong created "The Five Cs for Analyzing Alternative-Fuel Vehicles." This process asks five simple questions:
- Is it Clean?
- Is it Cost-effective?
- Does it Conserve?
- Does it make Common sense?
- Can you Commit?
"From our perspective, if it's clean, if it conserves, and is cost-effective, then it makes common sense; however, the final C, 'can you commit,' is very important," Armstrong said. "Can you commit to using it in your fleet? Everything could line up, but there might not be a product or vehicle that works for your fleet."
This approach allowed the company to effectively and objectively analyze each fuel/vehicle type for its fleet. "The Five Cs approach can work for any fleet. However, the end results would vary depending on a company's operation, available infrastructure, vehicle types, etc. For ThyssenKrupp, propane autogas was the only source that qualified in each of the five categories. Once we identified propane autogas, we were questioning if we could act on the fifth 'C' - can we commit?" Armstrong noted.
Since the company's vehicles are driven home by drivers each night, they were not returning to the office for refueling each evening. The company required a local autogas fueling infrastructure.
"Fueling a vehicle is different than fueling a barbecue tank: the vehicle requires an upgraded pump with a modified pump handle to fuel the vehicle in the same time frame as a normal gasoline pump," Armstrong said.
Working closely with ROUSH CleanTech, ThyssenKrupp found Ferrellgas and other autogas suppliers were aggressively targeting certain cities to improve the autogas fueling infrastructure.
"We quickly realized this was our pathway to deploying propane autogas-powered vehicles - follow the infrastructure. Now that we had a plan, we needed to identify the first branch to deploy propane vehicles," Armstrong explained.
After about six months of research, Phoenix surfaced as the best office for its beta site.
"Our Phoenix branch was excited to participate as they saw the potential savings in fuel costs, lower vehicle registration costs, and high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access for alternative-fuel vehicles," Armstrong said.
One aspect of fleet sustainability that Armstrong pointed out was that the return isn't always just monetary. "The HOV lane access was a tremendous bonus for our drivers' time," he said.
[PAGEBREAK]Launching the Program
It was critical that the first site be successful, as this would be the "launching pad" to expand this to other branches within the company.
Fortunately, Armstrong already had experience with propane autogas.
"I operated a small fleet of propane autogas-powered vans back in the mid '80s, therefore I was not concerned about the operating performance, safety, or longevity of propane autogas vehicles," he said. "The technology in the '80s was a bi-fuel system, where the propane portion was a vapor. Today's propane autogas is in liquid form, which performs even better. In addition, working with the ROUSH CleanTech system and Ford means our propane-powered vehicles are fully warrantied by the manufacturer, unlike other aftermarket propane-powered systems."
To ensure a successful launch, driver addresses were input into a mapping software program, and the company focused on where it noticed the best cluster of drivers. The reasoning behind this was if stations were provided in close proximity to these individuals' homes they would always have a sufficient amount of fuel, because they take the vehicles home each night.
"We then loaded in Ferrellgas' existing propane locations, most of which were regular gas stations that sold propane autogas on the side," Armstrong explained.
Ferrellgas could work with existing stations to upgrade their equipment, or find new locations to add propane autogas. ThyssenKrupp began with three vans and three stations, and now operates 17 vehicles and approximately eight stations in the Phoenix area.
Now one year into the program, ThyssenKrupp is gearing up to deliver vehicles to its Los Angeles, San Diego, and Seattle branches. "We will continue to expand the use of propane autogas as the fueling infrastructure continues to grow," Armstrong said.
In addition to deploying propane vehicles, the company recently took delivery of its first electric vehicle - the Transit Connect Electric from Azure.
"Even though the electric vehicle concept did not qualify under my 5 Cs analysis, we were intrigued and excited to test the vehicle and believe that electric vehicles will play a much greater role as technology advances," Armstrong said.
One challenge was the range of the electric vehicles.
"It was difficult to find a driver and route that would accommodate the Transit Connect Electric, given the operating range from a single charge is under 100 miles. In addition, as previously mentioned, our vehicles go home with our drivers, which means we needed to outfit his home with a vehicle charging station."
Flat ROI = Positive Results
One of the "Five Cs" asks if the alternative-fuel is cost effective.
Armstrong found that each city in which the company operates propane autogas vehicles achieves a different return-on-investment (ROI), therefore, each must be looked at differently.
"The most common factors found were federal grants, state incentives, HOV lane access, lower registration costs, tax credits, and last, but not least, lower fuel costs," Armstrong said. "For example, the benefits tied to Phoenix were lower fuel costs, lower registration costs, and, as mentioned earlier, HOV lane access. There may have been a few tax credits available, but we were not able to benefit from them."
According to Armstrong, the great thing he found with propane autogas is that "it can be self-sustaining, with little or no grant money; however, grants or incentives help deliver a positive ROI in a more reasonable amount of time."
Even if the ROI was flat, ThyssenKrupp displaced 2,000 gallons of gasoline per year, per vehicle and emitted 18-percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, 20-percent less nitrogen oxide, and 60-percent less carbon monoxide than gasoline-powered vehicles, according to studies funded by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). In addition, 90 percent of propane autogas used in the U.S. is domestically produced.
Even Elevators are 'Going Green'
ThyssenKrupp Elevator isn't just greening its fleet, it's ensuring all processes and procedures are sustainable and environmentally friendly. According to Brad Nemeth, director of sustainability for ThyssenKrupp Elevator, the company is moving from a solvent-based painting to a powercoat line, which reduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 70 percent within its Middleton, Tenn., manufacturing plant. The change also reduced the energy used by the paint line by 45 percent due to the elimination of the need for baking post-paint application.
Facility-wide, a 2011 lighting upgrade is projected to reduce energy by 40 percent. Manufacturing automation over the past few years has also led to a streamlined process for manufacturing entrances via the company's Salvagnini line of equipment, which has reduced scrap rates and improved efficiency.
ThyssenKrupp Elevator Partners with Clean Cities
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Clean Cities program announced that ThyssenKrupp Elevator has joined the National Clean Fleets Partnership. "The partnership will give us one point of contract to all the Clean Cities coalitions and help us streamline our efforts in identifying opportunities for clean fuels, supply data for information exchange through networking, and provide unbiased information for the benefit of all fleets in our efforts to reduce our petroleum use and improve the environment," said Tom Armstrong, director of fleet at ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas.
The partnership, housed within Clean Cities, provides support to large, private fleets seeking to reduce petroleum use through the deployment of alternative fuels, electric vehicles, fuel economy improvements, and other strategies.
About the Company
ThyssenKrupp Elevator is part of the ThyssenKrupp Group, based in Essen, Germany, which is a global materials and technology company, which consists of eight business areas. ThyssenKrupp Elevator Americas is the largest producer of elevators in the Americas, with more than 13,500 employees, more than 200 branches and service locations, and annual sales of more than $2.7 billion.