Back in 2016 Jacobi Carbons France became the first in the Jacobi Carbons group to remove all diesel forklift trucks, replacing the entire fleet with eight electric ones. The whole project was overseen by Usman Saeed, EMEA Manufacturing Director, who knew that the changeover would make a big difference in terms of both employees’ well-being and our effects on the planet.
The new trucks have made a sizable contribution to our aims to become the most sustainable supplier of carbon. Our goals are split into three categories: people, planet and product. This particular change has made a significant impact on both our people and our planet.
It seems like a simple change, but there are several aspects to its benefits (some of which you might not have thought of), all explained below:
Before the change over, the entire fleet of trucks used in the plant were powered by diesel. This means they emitted fumes, including CO2, straight out into the factory air. Whilst CO2 is present in the atmosphere and its sheer existence is not necessarily an enemy, higher amounts of the gas contribute to global warming. Whilst the trucks were parked up for things like bag handling, the engines would run idle meaning they’re still emitting fumes and wasting power. Running on a traditional engine means that they use transmission oil and coolant fluid which generates waste too.
The new trucks are powered by battery meaning our CO2 emissions in the production buildings and warehouses in France have drastically dropped. The CO2 emissions of a diesel forklift truck over five years is approximately 36 tonnes. Over the same time period, an electrical forklift will emit 0.99 tonnes of CO2 – a huge difference. The vast drop means our contribution to climate change is far smaller.
The lead-acid batteries used in the trucks are charged every night through the French national grid (which is powered by wind turbines and nuclear power stations throughout the country). Much like electric cars with a stop-start function, when the trucks aren’t in use no power is being used. This means no unnecessary emissions and no wasted power.
When these batteries reach the end of their life span, they can be fully recycled, meaning there’s no unnecessary waste leftover to litter our planet. We make sure they’re looked after correctly (i.e. topped up with water, cleaned well and charged properly) and so we will get around 10 years’ use out of them too.
Previous to getting the electric trucks, the staff working on the factory floor were exposed to engine fumes and, therefore, lower air quality. Jacobi factories are often filled with fine carbon dust. Operating diesel powered forklifts allows excessive air injection into the truck and then when the air is released from the exhaust, it agitates the dust in the air which in turn lowers the air quality further for staff.
As well as affecting the air quality, the old trucks created a lot of noise and exposed the operator to high vibration levels.
As mentioned above, the CO2 emissions have dropped drastically and this improves air quality for operators as well as being beneficial for the environment. Staff no longer have to worry about breathing in excessive amounts of dust either as the new trucks don’t agitate the fine carbon dust in the same way the diesel forklifts did.
There has also been a significant drop in noise and vibration levels. To make sure we could measure any improvements accurately, we collaborated with the French Health and Safety Association for Employers which works with companies on the well-being of their employees. A sensor was placed on the clothes of drivers when they were using diesel powered trucks, and then again when the electrical ones were being used and the results were compared. These sensors showed us a drop in vibration exposure by 60% and a drop in noise levels by 11%. This reduction in noise has meant that operators are now working in a safer environment as they are able to hear what’s going on much more clearly.
There’s been nothing but positive feedback from the Jacobi staff who are operating the trucks, with everyone appreciating the reduction in noise and dust. Following the success of this project in Vierzon, we have now leased an electrical boom lift too. This is another tool that allows us to work electronically and the benefits here are very similar to those of the forklifts.
With the electrical revolution at Vierzon being so well-received and successful, other companies within Jacobi are now looking into making the move from diesel to electric too. Each change over to electric, however small, brings Jacobi closer to its goal of becoming the most sustainable carbon supplier.