This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A tour of Donaldson's (part two of two)

In part one of the Donaldson's adventure, we had walked along the storage racks to the north end of the building and then walked east to the end of the storage area.

Turning back to the south we can see the doors of the shipping bays. There are 102 of them.

In the foreground below are recycling bins. Donaldson's recycles as much as it can, thereby cutting its disposal costs. Before it began aggressive recycling, it was filling a dumpster or two each week. Now it fills a dumpster in about six months.
 Loading Dock 3 had a UPS truck backed up to it. UPS is used for very small orders. I got distracted at this station by the machine that fills the little air pillows that we all get in packages. I never knew where they came from (and never really thought about it), but they are made by a machine in the packing line. You can see the plastic on the roll, which then is pulled up and magically filled with air.
 The machines weigh and measure the package and compute the cost that UPS will charge. The cost is not printed on the box but rather recorded and electronically attached to the shipping numbers so that UPS and Donaldson's knows what the charge for each package is.
 The truck is hand packed to fill it as tightly as possible. Usually two of these trucks are filled each day.
 Below is a look from near the truck back to the line. The dimensions of the box are computed with a laser and the conveyor belt has a scale built into it.
 Most of the distribution is not done with UPS but with semis. Here is a load waiting for a truck. Each pallet may be going to a different destination. The ability of Donaldson's and the trucking companies to route these shipments efficiently, minimizing cost and transportation time, is an under-appreciated aspect of American life. We all depend on it and yet we never think about it.
 These are orders that have been delivered by pickers but have not been inspected and wrapped. Notice that each order contains different sized boxes, which means that it contains a variety of different items.
 The pallets are wrapped in plastic by machine. The pallet is set on a rotating platform and as it rotates, it is wrapped. In the early days of this center, wrapping was done manually and a wrapper would walk for several miles a day in the process of walking around pallets and wrapping them.
 This pallet below contains only one type of filter. This type of shipment is usually what is made to OEMs,
The current Donaldson's building was built in three stages, We are now in the middle stage and the reason that the pallets look so neat and uniform is that these are pallets of product arriving from the factories.
 The pickers drive around in these funny looking contraptions. They tow pallets that are filled as they complete an order. The pickers work only from the lowest level of the shelves and the items that are above that level are usually not the same as the items at the lowest level.
Another machine, one that can put pallets up on the top shelves (which is the seventh level in the newest addition).
From the south end of the building international shipments are made. Donaldson's is a world-wide company with factories and distribution centers in Europe, China, South America, and Australia (among other places). Not only are finished products that are produced in the U.S. shipped abroad, but materials that the overseas factories use are shipped from Rensselaer.

About ten trucks a day depart for overseas destinations. The trucks travel to Chicago, where the containers are put on trains for either the West or East Coast, and from there to ships. My guide pointed out special packing material to keep the load secure for a boat trip that might not always be smooth.
 Things passing through Rensselaer will end up in all parts of the world. We are part of the global economy.

At the very south end of the building recycling materials were being packed up for shipment out of the plant. Donaldson's sells metal to Rensselaer Iron and Metal--you can see one of their blue dumpsters below. They also have to dispose of damaged or outdated product, and this they give to a dealer that will shred it and sort it. I was surprised to learn that filters are like food--they have a sell-by date, which is usually about four years after manufacture.

It was a fascinating tour and I only captured some of what I saw and heard in this post. I hope that my experience lets you know a bit more about what happens in the biggest building in Rensselaer.


Anonymous said...

I have been curious about the inside of that huge building. Thank you for another good tour. What a guide you are!

RoadRunner1117 said...

Awesome posts about Donaldson's. It's been here for years, but I didn't know anything about it.