Thursday, November 6th, 2014

As Manufacturing Renaissance Continues, Hackers Take Note

SPI continues to fight the misconception of manufacturing as a dated, old-fashioned industry, an image of the sector that’s as potent as it is false. But unfortunately for many manufacturers, there’s at least one constituency that’s become fully aware of the technological complexity and inherent value contained within the modern factory: hackers.

When guessing what industry is most frequently targeted by hackers, most people would probably guess banking or financial services, and that might be close, PackExpoMainbut it’d also be wrong. “Manufacturing is the most hacked industry right now,” said Doug Bellin of Cisco, delivering a presentation on the Internet of Things in the Center for Trends & Technology at this year’s PACK Expo. Citing a report published in the Wall Street Journal, Bellin said that 75% of all major manufacturing companies had admitted to being hacked at some point, but noted that he felt the problem was in all likelihood much worse. “There’s a key word in that statistic: ‘admit,’” he said. “The number is probably closer to 100%.”

Security has become paramount for all manufacturers as they’ve become more technologically advanced and adopted “Internet of Things” philosophies that aim to find value in a form of intra-organizational connectedness that goes beyond mere machine-to-machine communication to include items like marketing, human resources and health and safety management, among others.

“Three years ago if I said ‘security’ no one would care, but security now is key to anything that we say,” Bellin said. “Previously manufacturing had security by obscurity because it wasn’t connected. The door wasn’t open. Now you’re saying you need to have the connectivity because you’re going to see value from that,” he added, noting that efforts to facilitate this sort of value-driven connectivity between a company’s systems can amount to a doubling of critical infrastructure, which in turn increases entry points for hackers who in many ways have come to replace intellectual property (IP) thieves. “It’s no longer about IP theft,” Bellin said. “They don’t steal the plans. They use information from the PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and they reverse engineer the code on there to create the same thing.”

Nonetheless, preventing attacks like this isn’t hopeless and the benefits of interconnectivity can often yield immensely positive results, so long as the company in question remains continually diligent about its safeguards. “What scares people is that, in theory, this is now on the internet, ensuring that you can get to the data,” Bellin added. “But security’s not something you implement once and it’s done.”

As the manufacturer maintains and constantly stays on top of its security procedures, however, applying the concept of connectivity can help address many manufacturers most seemingly intractable problems, leading to increased efficiency, increased customer satisfaction and even increased employee loyalty and better hiring and retention practices. Bellin noted that, in many ways, manufacturing as an industry is aging, and that fewer young people are entering to take their place, but that the reasons and realities behind this phenomenon can be put to use as valuable pieces of intelligence in order to keep that process moving forward, ensuring that the older employees’ knowledge and experience are being used to their fullest and that the new people entering the company are able to learn and grow as well.

In a way the advent of big data allows manufacturers to apply older philosophies to plant optimization on an organization-wide basis, to their and their customers’ benefit. “The reality is that manufacturing has been doing sensors for a long time. The problem was they weren’t connected and you had islands of information out there,” Bellin said. “Now just getting to the data isn’t enough. You need to add a layer of intelligence.”

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

SPI: EPS Foam Can Be Recycled, Easily and Profitably

SPI and its Recycling Committee are, once again, out to correct another misconception about plastics.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), the kind that’s found in coolers, in takeout food packaging, in shipped cardboard boxes filled with packaging peanuts and in many other contexts, is a material that’s widely misunderstood and, in more than one corner of the consumer world, mistakenly thought to be unrecyclable.

“EPS serves many important roles in our lives,” said the SPI Recycling Committee in a new paper, titled “Unlocking the EPS Recovery Potential: Technologies Enabling Efficient Collection and Recovery.” “It insulates. It protects. It has a fraction of the environmental impact in the full life cycle compared to other non-resin alternatives. The greatest challenge for this material at end-of-life is, however, also a symptom of its best feature; it is light, creating a unique set of challenges for collection and processing.” However, as the paper outlines, when paired with the right technology solutions, these challenges are easily overcome.

Dart Container’s PS foam recycling support includes collection/shipping containers.

In the just over a year that it’s been in existence, the SPI Recycling Committee has already notched success after success in moving the needle on plastics recycling, and its EPS paper is the latest effort to prolong its winning streak. “Unlocking the EPS Recovery Potential: Technologies Enabling Efficient Collection and Recovery” finds that “lack of awareness and infrastructure to support the collection of EPS has been cited as a significant barrier to expanding the collection of EPS products,” but that “having the right technology in place to support efficient collection and processing of EPS products is key to unlocking the recovery potential of these valuable materials.”

As such, the paper provides a primer to recyclers working domestically and internationally on what technologies are available to make EPS recycling possible and profitable. In addition to broadly discussing the EPS market and opportunities contained therein, “Unlocking the EPS Recovery Potential: Technologies Enabling Efficient Collection and Recovery” also includes a list, complete with information on equipment capacity and availability, of technologies recyclers can use to expand their EPS processing capability.

“Investing in technology to expand the recovery and processing of EPS can enable plastics recyclers to meet both an economic and environmental need,” said SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux. “Increasing recycling rates for all types of PCR plastic materials is both good business and good corporate citizenship, and the SPI Recycling Committee continues to do an excellent job leveraging its unique position in SPI, and throughout the entire $374-billion plastics industry, to expand end-use opportunities for recycled plastics, including EPS.”

spi_logo_2000x1007Facts, figures and intelligence such as that contained within the Recycling Committee’s EPS report do more than just serve as valuable business tools for companies in the plastics industry. They also combat the misconceptions that keep plastic materials like EPS and others from being recycled. “People just don’t realize all the options in recycling that are out there,” said Jon Stephens, senior vice president of Avangard Innovative and chairman of the SPI Recycling Committee’s Technology and Equipment subcommittee. “Half the people don’t even know they can take their grocery bags back to the grocery store to be recycled. Once we can get this education piece out and promote recycling and let citizens know that they can recycle this material, more communities will collect it, keep it out of landfills, reduce the space and create a revenue stream for the product.”

“It’s a huge environmental benefit,” he added. “Like any other plastics packaging material, it does serve a purpose, if not for the plastics industry then for the food industry or for the packaging industry. It all serves a purpose.”

Friday, October 31st, 2014

SPI 2014 Student Video Contest Offers Biggest Prize Package in Contest History

$8,500 in Cash, All-Expense-Paid Trip to NPE2015 Still Up For Grabs

Entrants in the Plastic Industry’s 2014 Student Video Contest, hosted by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and the Future of Plastics Foundation, aren’t just competing to create the best video that smartly and creatively explores the plastics industry’s bright future. They’re also competing for the largest prize package in contest history.

SPI and the Future of Plastics Foundation, along with the contest’s generous sponsors, will award prizes to the top three submissions. Third place gets $3,500, second place gets $5,000 and, if offering the biggest prize pool in the contest’s history wasn’t a big enough milestone, for the first time ever, the grand prize winner of the Student Video Contest will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Orlando, Fla. for NPE2015, the premier event for the entire plastics industry.NPE_logo

This year’s contest asks students to submit 2-4 minute videos on the theme of “Innovating in the 21st Century,” challenging graduate and undergraduate students, as teams and/or as individuals, to explore the future of plastics in the realms of innovation, design freedom and the economics of plastics. Prior contests have focused on the history of plastics and how the world’s brightest minds have relied on these materials to carry society into the modern era, like 2012’s first and second place winners.

“But the truth is that the story of plastic’s past has already been told; we want students to tell us the story of plastic’s future,” said SPI President and CEO William R. Carteaux when this year’s contest launched. “Many of the items that we take for granted today seemed like science fiction even a decade ago, but what innovations in plastic will we be saying that about in 10, 25 or even 50 years from now? That’s the question we want our best and brightest to answer in the 2014 Student Video Contest and its theme of ‘Innovating in the 21st Century.’”

Entries will be accepted until Nov. 30. If you’re a full-time undergraduate or graduate student in a plastics program, and want a shot at $3,500, $5,000 or an all-expenses-paid trip to the world’s largest plastics trade show and conference, click over to SPI’s Student Video Contest website for details, and let us know what you think the future holds in store for the plastics industry.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Atlanta Fashion Students Create Couture From Recycled Plastics

One-of-a-Kind Designs to Take Center Stage at SPI’s NPE2015  Trade Show

As society becomes more environmentally conscious, the fashion industry – like the plastics manufacturing industry – is rethinking some of its recycling rituals to ensure that Mother Earth doesn’t feel negative effects from its presence, thanks to SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association’s partnership with the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta. Together, industry and academia create clothing worthy of Vogue and Bazaar with a twist – that is, the designs will be made from repurposed plastic products and resin-based fabrics made from post-consumer recycled content.

Savannah College of Art and Design students who are working with SPI to create high-fashion designs made from repurposed post-consumer plastics.

Savannah College of Art and Design students who are working with SPI to create high-fashion designs made from repurposed post-consumer plastics.

Kim Holmes, SPI’s recycling expert, is advising the students about the use of appropriate materials as well as helping the designers locate the recycled materials, which include bubble wrap, plastic bags, a parachute, bicycle tire inner tubes, vinyl, Frisbees and many, many yoga mats (a student suggested cutting up yoga mats for pockets and other textured designs). Each one-of-a-kind design will premiere during the opening ceremony at NPE2015 March 23-27, 2015, in Orlando, Fla., and will be displayed throughout the show in SPI’s Zero Waste Zone.

“In 2012, when SPI expanded its mission to include the pursuit of zero waste, the idea was to engage its members in addressing the issues of sustainability and recycling through sound solutions” said Holmes. “The SCAD project demonstrates SPI’s commitment to zero waste by giving plastic materials more than one life.”

“Plastics manufacturing professionals who attend SPI’s international trade show are likely to be surprised at the level of creativity students are using to transform recovered plastics materials into fashionable clothing,” Holmes said. In a recent video conference with Holmes, nine SCAD students used PowerPoint slides to present draft sketches of the designs, which will be accompanied by accessories like jewelry and hats. The students described the recovered plastics they intend to use along with a plan to collect the materials.

As a group, the SCAD students have been working on campus since mid-September to collect certain plastic items such as plastic forks, spoons, bags and cups. Beyond campus searches, they have perused the likes of ebay, second-hand shops and their own homes for a used parachute, playpen plastic balls and parlor beads. One student mentioned rummaging through her grandmother’s house for plastic doilies.

“There’s no end to the imagination the SCAD students use in their designs,” Holmes added.

Student Aida Bajramovic, a refuge from Bosnia, “wants to create something beautiful out of something ugly and harsh.” For inspiration, she offered a photograph from the war which shows a beautifully dressed Bosnian woman against the backdrop of a warzone to show contrast. As Bajramovic described, “The strength is evident as this lovely woman is determined to carry on life despite the condition surrounding her.”

Bajramovic’s sketch illustrated a gown with white plastic mesh around the waist to represent a belt and a flying disc as a head accessory.

Classmate Latonya Lark, a self-described “natural girl,” is not accustomed to working with plastics, yet she’s found that the materials are forgiving and lend themselves to different shapes and uses. Along with her peers, she presented the idea of melting plastic spoons together to create flowered accessories, among other interesting uses of plastics materials. Lark, a sculpture major, will experiment with fosshape, polystrol and wonderflex to give her recycled fashion structure.

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A SCAD student creatively positions a strip of post-consumer plastic.

Meanwhile, and Siobhan Mulhern is weighing the use of plastic shopping bags and playpen plastic balls as another student talked about using pieces of an old chandelier to add texture to her designs.

According to Holmes, each student will create sketches and a design plan for two outfits during the 10-week course. SPI expects the excitement and interest associated with this program will showcase another alternative use of plastic materials. Follow us on Twitter at SPI_4_Plastics and feel free to Tweet/Retweet using #SCADNPE.

We look forward to seeing the student’s final designs in Orlando.  To view our video click here.

Monday, October 27th, 2014

SPI, APBA Help Students Clean Up Anacostia River

The Anacostia River

The Anacostia River

Nearly 30 years ago, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association was on the beaches of Texas spearheading the country’s first beach cleanup. On Friday SPI staff joined with the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) and a group of 180 fourth- and fifth-grade students to help clean up Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia River on Debris Day, an annual event hosted by the Living Classrooms Foundation.

Kids from Watkins Elementary and Tyler Elementary Schools in Washington, D.C. trekked to Kingman and Heritage Islands where they scoured the banks and areas surrounding the Anacostia, wielding plastic trash bags to collect discarded litter and debris. In just a few hours the students collected several bags’ worth of paper, glass, cardboard and even a rusty old spare tire. SPI and APBA staff helped as well, putting their organizations’ zero-waste and pro-recycling bona fides into action by rolling up their sleeves and helping to make the Anacostia cleaner.IMG_5395

Captain Clean Sweep, reporting for duty!

Captain Clean Sweep, reporting for duty!

 

“The U.S. plastics industry understands the importance and value of clean, healthy waterways,” says SPI President & CEO William R. Carteaux. “Litter and marine debris impacts our environment, the economy and even the food we eat. That’s why SPI continues its 40-year legacy of promoting zero waste.”

SPI was among the first industry trade groups to adopt education and outreach programs associated with material and product loss to the oceans and waterways. In 1985 SPI created the industry’s guidelines and best practices for pellet containment: Operation Clean Sweep (OCS). Now an international program, OCS spans across every continent and is endorsed by thousands of manufacturing plants across the world.

SPI and the APBA look forward to participating in future events to support environmental education and continually working to move the needle on recycling and litter reduction.

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The SPI and APBA team.