Beer Distributor 'All-In' with Eaton and Going Green
“We are close to where we want to be in terms of fuel consumption improvements. And Eaton and the OEMs have been very supportive; with the Eaton guys making certain all new software has been uploaded.”
Powers Distributing was started in 1939 and is currently owned and operated by co-presidents Robert and Gerald Powers. The management team also includes Gary Thompson, vice president and general manager; and Joseph Dinverno, delivery/ fleet, responsibility and quality manager.
The company has more than 200 employees and 45 trucks delivering roughly 45 brands of beer from around the world through 30 different supplier relationships. With some 2,400 retail customers, Powers will typically deliver around 5 million cases of beer a year to customers throughout southeastern Michigan.
Every one of those customers, as well as the general public in the communities in which Powers operates, benefits from the company's deep commitment to social responsibility. As a member of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Powers is diligent in supporting education initiatives to eliminate illegal underage consumption of alcohol and also sponsoring numerous programs that promote responsible and moderate consumption of alcohol.
That same social responsibility has prompted the company over the years to implement a number of sustainable business practices.
"We are not doing it because of any dollar value," says Dinverno. "We are doing it because we feel it is the right thing to do."
Among the company's many eco-friendly activities is a recycling operation that includes glass bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard, plastic bottles, used stretch film, office paper, shop metal and wooden pallets. Grounds surrounding the company's warehouse are irrigated by a storm water run-off collection system. Efforts are also underway to install solar panels and windmills as alternative power sources.
"The whole company in general is taking a greener approach to conducting business," adds Dinverno.
That approach has extended to Dinverno's fleet.
As one of the first wholesale beer distributors in the country to investigate the use of hybrid technology, Powers now has 21 Class 8 trucks with Eaton hybrid electric power systems. Dinverno hopes to eventually convert the entire fleet.
"When we took our first delivery of hybrid tractors we were not the first wholesaler in the country to do so, but we were the second," boasts Dinverno. "And the company that purchased the first unit only bought one. We bought fifteen. So, you might say, we were all-in."
Eaton employs diesel-electric hybrid architecture that incorporates an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and the input of an automated transmission. The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores the energy in batteries.
The setup is ideal for stopand- go applications like those encountered with the Powers fleet. The stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only.
As a global leader in the application of hybrid power to commercial vehicles, Eaton now has its systems in service at companies such as FedEx Express, UPS, Coca-Cola Enterprises and PepsiCo. Customers of Eaton hybrid systems have collectively accumulated hundreds of millions of miles of service, reducing fuel consumption by several million gallons of diesel fuel and harmful emissions by tens of thousands of metric tons.
Dinverno says that, depending on the make and model of truck, he is getting from 18 to 25 percent better fuel consumption. That's validation enough to justify additional hybrid purchases.
"We are close to where we want to be in terms of fuel consumption improvements," notes Dinverno. "And Eaton and the OEMs have been very supportive; with the Eaton guys making certain all new software has been uploaded.
"We have since bought and ordered four more units. We had a demo here and it was a 2010 model that was getting 10 miles to the gallon. That would put us about 30 percent better than what we had, and well above where we had hoped to be."
Dinverno complements his hybrid investment with extensive use of bio-diesel fuel, pouring B5 in the warmer summer months and B20 in the winter. The company's sales fleet of four-wheel vehicles is also being transitioned into either hybrid or bio units.
"I know of no one in the metro Detroit area who is doing what we are doing," adds Dinverno.
In summarizing his work with Eaton to help reach Powers' sustainability objectives, Dinverno says, "They have given us tremendous support over the years, and Eaton has always been available to take care of everything from day one."
That, in part, is due to the fact that Eaton – like Powers – has been all-in since day one to make hybrid systems a viable, effective and clean transportation solution.