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Business as Unusual: Skolnik Industries

April 7th, 2020 by Dean Ricker

Filed under: Industry News, Safety, Skolnik Newsletter

Emergency situations have a habit of sneaking up on those affected, but being prepared for various unknowns can set you up for success during a crisis. Chicago-based, specialty steel drum manufacturer, Skolnik Industries understands this better than most. Through years of business continuity strategizing, careful planning and communication, this essential industrial packaging manufacturer positioned itself to survive and thrive throughout a myriad of disastrous mishaps, including a global pandemic like Coronavirus (COVID-19). Both Chairman, Howard Skolnik and President, Dean Ricker, gave their invaluable insights on what the company has done to prepare for the current crisis we’re in and how it’s managing through it.

Early on, Skolnik Ind. recognized the importance of having contingency plans in place, should an emergency occur. In the spirit of preparedness, they partnered with Integrated People Solution’s, John Estrada, an executive coach and HR consultant, to further this endeavor of business continuity planning. Estrada regularly provided guidance on developing a more robust organization effectiveness and performance during a crisis. This helped leadership to better manage their talent, building a stronger rapport between them and all the employees — especially when devising drills and emergency scenarios the company might encounter. Through constant communication and care given to the workforce on all levels, the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis has been met with a smooth and purposeful, company-wide transition led by Dean Ricker. Recognizing the threat to health, Ricker proactively shifted the company to a mode of social distancing and applicable remote work to ensure a safer environment for all. Constant communication with employees throughout the crisis has helped to alleviate unnecessary stresses that managerial silence would bring.

No stranger to disaster, Skolnik Industries has realized the importance of preparing for the unpredictable. After the company suffered a devastating fire in 1987, it eventually bounced back stronger and with a renewed sense of paramountcy placed on the people that would run it. As they began to regain their footing as a company, Howard Skolnik came to see the incident as an opportunity that would not only help to create jobs, but also identify and obtain key talent that would help guide the business with informed experience. From this, a culture of safety and forward thinking was born, and subsequently came with the need for building out a contingency plan, should another crisis emerge. For decades, they’ve practiced some sort of disaster response training, emphasizing proactivity over reactivity. Ultimately, through the increased sense of teamwork and proactivity expressed within the company, they’ve not only identified better processes to work by, but set themselves up for a better adapted future.

Planning for business continuity is part of our corporate culture. For almost a decade, John Estrada, (john@ipeoplesolutions.com) of Integrated People Solution’s, has guided us in preparing for unexpected business interruption.

This interview was conducted by Ian Fortune (fortunewrit@gmail.com).

Canada Slows Trains

March 24th, 2020 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: HazMat, Industry News, Safety, Skolnik Newsletter

To protect Canadians who live along rail corridors, it is critical that the transport of dangerous goods by rail is done safely. Following the derailment of an important, or key, train on February 6th, 2020, in Guernsey Saskatchewan, a Ministerial Order was issued for the immediate slowdown of key trains. A key train is one carrying 20 or more cars containing dangerous goods like petroleum crude oil; or a train carrying one or more cars of toxic inhalation gas. Since then, Transport Canada officials have worked diligently with large railway companies to further assess the causes of recent derailments, and to develop plans to address the areas of greatest concern. New measures are being implemented to reduce the speed of the higher risk key trains traveling through areas of greatest concern.

The speed limit for key trains is now limited to 35 mph in metropolitan areas. Outside of metropolitan areas where there are no track signals, the speed is limited to 40 mph. Higher risk key trains are trains where tank cars are loaded with a single dangerous goods commodity moving to the same point of destination; or trains that include any combination of 80 or more tank cars containing dangerous goods.
For now, the speed limit for higher risk key trains is now limited to 25 mph where there are no track signals. For metropolitan areas, the speed limit is 30 mph unless the metropolitan area is in a non-signal territory where the speed limit will be maintain at a maximum 25 mph.

This new Order was effective immediately and will remain in place until April 1, 2020. Transport Canada is working with the railways to develop a more comprehensive set of safety measures, which will include permanent measures such as track infrastructure maintenance and renewal, review of winter operations, safety practices of the railway companies, and other actions necessary to keep Canadians safe. Rail safety is the Minister of Transport’s top priority, and the Government of Canada is continuously looking for ways to make their railway system safer for Canadians.

Drum Components that are UN Certified are not Interchangeable.

March 17th, 2020 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: DOT/UN, Safety, Skolnik Newsletter

While steel drums may look alike, once they are United Nations certified for hazardous materials, they are as unique as the manufacturer. The entire design of a UN drum, and all its components (metal thickness of the body and heads, ring type, gasket, bolt, nut, plugs), is set and defined when being subjected to the Performance Oriented Packaging Standards per CFR 178.600, the US Code of Federal Regulations. The specific components used to perform the test comprise a drum type, or certification, that must meet a designated test standard for classified HazMat products. Once in the field, shippers cannot alter or interchange any of these components, even though they may appear similar, changing these features will impact the ability of the drum to perform as certified. This also applies to the required Closure Instructions per CFR 178.2(c), which are required to be given to the shipper by the specific packaging manufacturer. If replacement parts are needed, fillers must make sure that they get the originally tested components from the manufacturer. Once a drum enters transportation, compliance with the UN Certification is the responsibility of the shipper. Failure to comply with the UN certification may result in a fine from the DOT.

“Lightweight” Oak Wine Barrels

March 10th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

We have all witnessed consumer packaging opting for “lightweight” solutions: thin walled water bottles, flexible pouches for detergents, and even thinner wine bottles. At the recent Unified Wine Symposium in Sacramento, I was surprised to hear of another trend in the wine industry: lightweight oak wine barrels, made with thinner wood staves. Many people know wine is often fermented in oak barrels. Oak barrels do three things to wine. They allow for oxygen exposure, which assists with maturation. They also provide tannins that give the wine structure. Finally, depending on the level of toast and age of the barrel, they also impart certain flavors. How these factors are managed depends on the winemaker.

The effect of oak barrels gets further complicated by the thickness of barrel staves, which can have a profound impact. Thinner staves increase the amount of oxygen the wine is exposed to, while thicker staves lessen oxidization.

“The most important things that barrels do for a wine are provide oxygen and stabilization,” says James Mantone, co-owner and winemaker at Syncline Wine Cellars. Mantone, who works heavily with Rhône varieties, among other grapes. “I think that the least important thing that barrels do for wine is flavor.” For his wines, Mantone is looking to limit flavor impact as much as possible. “Why work really hard in the vineyards to produce something distinctive and then add a bunch of purchased flavors?” Some varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, often see a larger percentage of new oak, which has a stronger impact on the wine than used oak. “Cabernet can integrate that new oak tannin and flavor, certainly better than Rhône varietals, but I think you still have to be conservative with it if you want to project the sense of the vineyard,” says Morgan Lee, co-owner and winemaker at Two Vintners.

Stainless steel as an option:
Many winemakers ferment their wines in open-top stainless steel squares or perhaps open or closed stainless steel tanks. But, in addition to fermentation, some also choose to age their wines in stainless steel. This is particularly true of white wines. “I use stainless steel on my white wines to capture the essence of the fruit in a cleaner, brighter fashion than, say, using something that would mask some of those flavors a bit, like oak,” says Sean Boyd, owner and winemaker at Sightglass Cellars. Here at Skolnik Industries, we know that people ferment and age wine in our stainless steel wine barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here.

Get Ready to Receive a DOT Inspection

February 18th, 2020 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: DOT/UN, Skolnik Newsletter

If you are shipping or receiving any type of dangerous goods or hazardous materials, it is likely that one day, when you are in the midst of a special project, a DOT inspector could show up at your front door and begin the formal Inspection process. The inspection will include validation of your hazmat employee training, tool calibration, product certification testing and much more. Some people believe that if this happens, you are to try to evade the inspector, say you are on vacation or just lie and say you are not there. In fact, this is the worst thing that you can do, and frankly, if you have prepared for the visit, you should be able to confidently welcome the inspector into your company. To be prepared, the Council on the Safe Transport of Hazardous Articles (COSTHA) is offering a NEW and REVISED free booklet of suggestions that will help you prepare for the visit. Before an inspection, all companies should establish and define procedures for dealing with any regulatory inspector when they arrive.
For a free copy of the revised booklet, Click Here.

The Three R’s in Wine

February 11th, 2020 by Jon Stein

Filed under: Skolnik Newsletter, Wine

The three R’s in wine are not “Rose, Riesling, and Rioja”. Rather, I have been interested in how the traditional three “R’s” of the environmental movement: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, are being addressed by the wine industry. For years, winemakers have been touting sustainability initiatives in their vineyards and fields, and through energy-saving efforts in their facilities. But now consumers want more, especially as they begin to understand how much of wine’s carbon footprint stems from packaging and shipping. When it comes to wine’s impact on the environment, glass bottles contribute 29 percent to its total impact, according to a 2011 carbon footprint assessment of the California wine industry commissioned by the Wine Institute and conducted by sustainability consultant PE International.

        <p> A similar assessment in Oregon, conducted by the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, found packaging contributes 23 percent to a wine’s carbon footprint. In comparison, planting and growing grapes contributes 24 percent, and transporting the bottled wine to retailers accounts for 13 percent.</p>
        <p> Many winemakers have switched to at least partially organic and sustainable growing practices in recent decades; some have also moved to reign in wasteful packaging practices. In California, Paso Robles’ Tablas Creek Vineyard grows its grapes biodynamically and organically, so it’s no surprise that sustainable packaging is a priority. The winery has always used soy-based inks, eliminated Styrofoam in direct shipments in favor of recycled (and recyclable) pulp inserts, and in 2012, switched away from bottling some wines in 6-bottle cases in favor of 12-bottle cases (because the 12-bottle case uses significantly less than twice the packaging material of the 6-bottle case). In addition to the immediate environmental benefit of producing a lighter bottle, the winery also sends out fewer trucks for delivery (22 pallets can fit in one, versus 19 pallets previously). “We send about 10,000 cases of wine per year to wine club members and for DTC orders that we receive,” says Jason Haas. “Those are all sent via UPS, FedEx, or GSO. Each case weighs between two and 11 pounds less than it would have with the old bottles. That’s a big footprint—and cost—savings.” So are the days finally gone, when heavy bottles are equated with wealth and luxury? “I would say there’s more room in the marketplace for quality wines in lighter-weight bottles, as well as a backlash against some of the heavy ones,” says Tablas Creek’s Haas.</p>
           <p> He continues: “We thought the heavy bottles we were using were the equivalent of a luxury SUV, signifying solid respectability. But we came to believe they were more like a Hummer—with that same overlay of environmental tone-deafness. Particularly for a winery like us, which works so hard to farm the right way, it felt like the wrong choice.”</p>
        <p>Here at Skolnik Industries, we know that people like the reusability of our stainless steel wine barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out <a href="http://skolnikwine.com/stainless-steel-wine-barrels/">the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums here</a>. </p>