Mhlnews 1350 Leed Gold Certification

Greening the Process

Feb. 1, 2009
Even inside the four walls, JohnsonDiversey’s massive facility stands for sustainability.

By Keith Schmitz

Well known for its household products, S.C. Johnson is also recognized for its environmental efforts, both in its home city of Racine, Wis., and around the world. A recently opened distribution center (DC) for one of the S.C. Johnson companies— JohnsonDiversey—is adding to that reputation.

S.C. Johnson Professional separated from S.C. Johnson, becoming a standalone company called Johnson Wax Professional in 1999. Johnson Wax Professional acquired Diversey-
Lever in 2002, forming Johnson-
Diversey. Through its sales locations in 160 countries, Johnson-
Diversey provides commercial cleaning and hygiene products and solutions for food safety, food and beverage hygiene, floor care, housekeeping and room care, laundry, hand hygiene and industrial cleaning.

The company’s massive facility in Sturtevant, Wis., measures 550,000 square feet, the equivalent of 11 football fields. The building earned LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, New Construction) Gold certification and is one of the largest industrial buildings to achieve the recognition.

But, JohnsonDiversey managers are not stopping there. Now that the building has been in operation for more than a year, they are working towards earning LEED-EB (Existing Building) Gold certification. Introduced in 2004, LEED-EB addresses a facility’s daily management issues as they relate to sustainability, energy management and indoor environment, making them, as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) puts it, “healthy, productive places to live and work.”

According to Bruce Maple, JohnsonDiversey’s regional warehouse operations manager for the North

After earning LEED Gold certification for new construction, the JohnsonDiversey DC is working on achieving LEED for existing buildings.

America value chain, “EB was part of our plan, and we started forming some of our procedures while planning construction of the building.”

Family Tradition
Getting a sense of this commitment to sustainability takes some understanding of how the mission motivates the Johnson family. More than a marketing strategy for their cleaning products, the green business practice has been the Johnson family credo for years. In 1975, Sam Johnson, then president of the company, said: “A sustainable enterprise is dependent on a sustainable environment. Management decisions that fail to reflect this put a company at grave future risk. Following the principles of sustainability is the only path to a viable enterprise and competitive advantage.”

Sustainability is a long-time tradition with the Johnson family. This value goes at least as far back as 1935 when Sam’s father, H.F. Johnson, flew to Brazil to study carnauba palms, which eventually became a natural raw material resource for Johnson Wax products. In the 1970s, to protect the ozone layer, the company voluntarily eliminated CFCs from its aerosol products. This action set the stage for a legislative ban of the propellant by the end of the decade.

Under One Roof
JohnsonDiversey managers combined the operations of four previous facilities into the Sturtevant DC. The facility has staging areas for 118 trailers and can house 47,000 product pallet loads.

JohnsonDiversey wanted to focus on what it does best— make commercial cleaning products—so the company partnered with UTI Worldwide to run the distribution operation and manage the facility’s 175 full-time employees.

At the onset, JohnsonDiversey brought together all of the participants in the building and management of the facility, including Liberty, Leonardo Academy, UTI, the contractor, Riley Construction, and the project architect, Steven Perry Smith, Epstein and JohnsonDiversey’s construction consultant so they could hit the ground running in pursuit of LEED-EB.

According to Maple, working toward LEED-EB is a lengthy process, involving extensive data collection and paperwork that can often take 18 to 21 months to complete. However, he added that the process makes the reward that much more special.

“The discipline provides a framework for the way to run the building, and much of this is already an extension of our existing corporate culture,” he said.

It also requires disciplines, emphasizing a spirit of continuous improvement that pervades through the organization. The LEED designation even requires tracking how many employees carpool and how often they do it.

JohnsonDiversey discovered, as a side benefit, that following the LEED criteria has had a positive impact on employee morale.

“When we hear people say, ‘It’s the nicest warehouse we’ve ever been in,’ then we know the value goes beyond saving money on energy costs,” says Maple.

JohnsonDiversey found that working with contractors also meant involving them in the process and teaching the basics of LEED.

Contractors were educated about LEED so that they would use materials with recycled content or source from as close to the site as possible. Thanks to the combined efforts, 85% of the material used in the building is recycled.

Lift Trucks

Processes and procedures in the facility’s operation managed by UTI are scrutinized diligently. “We are looking closely at lift truck usage as a means of reducing energy consumption,” says Jeff Dudzik, UTI operations manager at the site.

The fleet of 75 Crown lift trucks operates three shifts a day, typically five days a week, with the crew working weekends during high-demand periods. Maple notes that Crown observed the JohnsonDiversey operation and suggested improvements.

Crown battery chargers are used with the Enersys batteries that power the vehicles. “We use the chargers to fast charge the batteries,” says Dudzik.

Crown also developed a high-frequency system that detects when the battery is fully charged. At that point, it shuts off.

In addition, employees process batteries in stages so that during certain hours of the day, they can shut down the chargers completely. When the building is shut down on weekends and holidays, they power down the charger units.

At dock areas, double-wide lift trucks remove two pallets at a time from trailers, which cuts energy-consuming trips in half.

Management also optimizes traffic patterns of lift trucks as they make their way through the racks.

“We set up routes that don't jump racks, so lift trucks go from the front of the building to the back, where the docks are in the opposite direction, depending upon placement of the pallet, to shorten travel distance,” says Dudzik.

The WMS, which acts as a traffic controller, was developed by UTI at its South Carolina location.


Lift truck operations are optimized to conserve energy.

Dock areas also play major roles in energy management. Maple says JohnsonDiversey considered several factors while setting up the docks.

Conventional dock doors can vent out precious energy if not properly sealed, and the building has 55 of them. Energy escape can cost thousands of dollars.

To work in concert with the LEED program and guard against energy loss, the facility set up the dock equipment to work in a predetermined sequence. Kelley hydraulic dock levelers, APS Resource APS-2000 vehicle restraints, Kelley TS rigid-frame dock shelters with an AquaShield rain sealing system, along with standard dock doors and loading dock lights are all coordinated by Kelley master control panels.

All of these components are coordinated, creating a controlled sequence, for reliable operation. The restraint secures the trailer, then the door opens, which then allows the leveler to operate, and lastly, the dock light turns on.

“We used our dock equipment to reinforce the energy-saving part of our mission,” says Maple. “What we did was integrate our dock lights so that a trailer must be in place and the door up before the light comes on. When the overhead door closes, the light goes off.”

As a positively pressured building, the air is kept as clean as possible. Air comes in through the roof filtered, then is pushed out through the sides using supply fans on the roof.

“We positively pressurize the building, which helps with indoor air quality and LEED certification,” says Maple. “For air quality, this is an important piece. So, you won’t see the doors open for ventilation. They are only open when trailers are present.”

Rick Weblein, project manager with Liberty, says USGBC wanted the building to use medium-efficiency MERV-13 filters in the ventilation system.

“We would have had to beef up our air system with more horsepower on our circulation system and would need bigger fans,” says Weblein. “That meant spending another $100,000 in annual energy costs and another $100,000 a year on filters. Working with USGBC, we agreed to use low-efficiency MERV-8 filters. We were able to convince them that positive pressure would work. The system changes the air in the building once an hour.”

That system also helps keep diesel exhaust fumes from coming into the building. The closed-door concept means the dock doors are only open when a trailer is present, stopping contaminants at the doorway while preventing the escape of energy.

“Our energy-saving program is reinforced by the master control panel program at the dock,” says Maple. “The dock workers would have to override the vehicle restraints, and then, all the bells and whistles go off if they attempt to open the door without locking a trailer.”

Looking Forward

Dock doors, lights and master control panels work together to save energy costs.

Though the Sturtevant facility is massive, it holds the promise of growing even larger. The property around the building allows JohnsonDiversey the option to expand to a total of 800,000 square feet as the company continues to grow.

“When you think about it, the LEED process is what this company is all about,” says Maple.

Because JohnsonDiversey is a cleaning and hygiene company, it is only appropriate that it should adopt green cleaning systems.

“A green cleaning system is not something you can apply to construction,” says Maple. “However, it is something you do as a part of operating a LEED-EB building. It helps us promote our company when we tell customers, or potential customers, that we have a LEED headquarters and LEED DC.”

Many of those customers happen to be manufacturers. JohnsonDiversery invites them to Sturtevant and shows them sustainable aspects of the facility.

“They’re intrigued,” relates Maple. “They have their own house to clean, so many of them come wanting to know how we built a LEED-certified DC.”

So, JohnsonDiversey’s story teaches us that applying discipline and self improvement can go a long way—both in advancing a company and sustaining resources.

Keith Schmitz, a freelance writer based in the Midwest, is president of KR/PR Inc. He covers a variety of topics in material handling, manufacturing, quality assurance and processing. He can be reached at 414-963-0847 or [email protected].

Flash Points

• Batteries for lift trucks are charged in stages during certain hours of the day to limit energy costs.
• Double-wide lift trucks remove two pallets at a time from trailers, cutting trips in half.
• Dock levelers, shelters and lights, along with vehicle restraints, are coordinated in controlled sequences, maximizing energy use and safety.
• Dock doors are only open when trailers are present, stopping contaminants at the doorway and preventing energy escape.

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