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Unarco Industries, CareerTech Champion, ‘goes green’ one shopping cart at a time

In 1936, when Sylvan Nathan Goldman invented the first “folding basket carrier” from a folding chair, a basket and wheels, greenhouse gases were unheard of. Goldman’s Folding Carrier Basket Company, established in 1937, is now known as Unarco Industries.

Located in Wagoner, Okla. Unarco Industries is the world’s largest shopping cart manufacturer. Unarco manufactures shopping carts for Wal-Mart and other mass producers. The Wagoner plant produces approximately 700,000 carts per year.Early Unarco Industries cart

“In the 1970s, Unarco was located in Oklahoma City,” said Terry Crawford, environmental director at Unarco Industries. “In 1985, we purchased the existing International Harvester Company facility in Wagoner with five employees. We now have about 300 employees. An expansion to the existing building nearly doubling this space was completed in 1990.”

While IHC was still in operation, CareerTech’s Indian Capital Technology Center set up a training center and helped IHC with the Training for Industry program.

Unarco used CareerTech services in the setup and training of its employees. Today, Unarco continues to partner wherever it is possible.

Crawford credits Unarco’s partnership with Indian Capital technology Center for its success. That’s why Unarco is being recognized as one of Oklahoma’s CareerTech Business Champions, according to Phil Berkenbile CareerTech state director.

“CareerTech Business Champions attribute much of their economic success to the partnerships they have formed with the local technology centers,” Berkenbile said.

OUnarco signne benefit of working with ICTC is being able to train local people on machines and equipment at the job site.

“Many of the past training efforts have been on-the-job training in our facility,” Crawford said.  We have conducted Spanish to English classes, blueprint reading, electrical, electronics, fork lift driver training, machine training, and safety training on a variety of topics.”

In 2006, Unarco Industries started to think green by starting a sustainability initiative. By 2010, several creative and impactful energy saving measures were in effect including the installation of an innovative “green” roof on the shopping cart facility.

According to EPA calculations, over the life of the Unarco roof 3,475 metric tons of carbon dioxide will be removed from the air - equivalent to 626 cars taken off the road or 88,960 trees planted.

“Unarco wants to be a good supplier, good customer, offer a safe working environment for our employees, be a good partner in the community and a responsible steward of the environment,” Crawford said.

The sustainability goals and commitment is a work in progress to attain sustainability through lean and clean manufacturing process improvements while not polluting the environment and contributing to Unarco’s customers, employees and community.

“Our "sustainability" program has helped us reduce all energy consumption. We operate a community recycling center that is open to the public two days a week,” Crawford said.

With the help of Lean Manufacturing training lead through a partnership of ICTC and Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, Unarco is better able to be both lean and green.

Lean Manufacturing is the systemic elimination of waste from the company’s operation. According to Lean Manufacturing experts, between 30 and 40 percent of all U.S. manufacturers claim to have implemented lean methods.

“To be lean and green has its challenges,” Crawford said. “Originally, all carts were chrome plated and now they are powder coated, and a few are plastic baskets.”

“By switching from chrome plating to powder coating, Unarco saved 28 million lbs. of coal, nearly 183 million lbs. of iron ore, about 24 million gallons of water and more than 851 million lbs. of released carbon dioxide per year,” Crawford said.

Training conducted by ICTC helped Unarco surpass their goals and expectations for the sustainability initiative. Unarco’s goal was to reduce non-hazardous zinc phosphate sludge by 38,000 lbs. Unarco reduce non-hazardous zinc phosphate by 67,613 lbs. Unarco’s objective was to reduce water use by 1,000 gallons a day. The reduction far exceeded expectations with a savings of approximately 13, 756 gallons a day.

“We no longer use any hazardous chemicals in our processes, which has helped remove us from some environmental rules and regulations,” Crawford said. “We won the Platinum level Oklahoma Star award from Oklahoma Department of Environmental Equality in 2008 for our efforts in compliance with ODEQ's P2 program.”Unarco carts

Topping off the sustainability initiative, the installation on a new energy-efficient white PVC membrane roof for Unarco’s shopping cart facility will be completed in early 2011.

The new 400,000-square-foot flat roof will bounce back 90 percent of the sun’s heat and ultraviolet rays, making it 24 percent more energy efficient than normal roofing projects. The longevity and durability of the PVC membrane provides the option to utilize expanded green solutions, such as roof mounted solar and vegetative roof gardens, years after installation.

“ICTC has always been very cooperative to work with when we had a need,” Crawford said. “I regard my experience with CareerTech / ICTC as very rewarding, and look forward to the future.”

For more information about CareerTech system, please visit For more information about Unarco Industries, please visit

-Written by Liz Golliver

Publish date: November 15, 2010

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