Northlake Auto Recyclers CAR Member of the Year
With the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) 74th Annual Convention and Expo in Dallas, Texas rapidly approaching, we would be remiss to not recognize the remarkable achievement of one of Indiana’s own automotive recyclers. As the environmental managers of the Indiana Certified Automotive Recyclers Exemplary Standards (INCARES) program, VET Environmental Engineering (VET) could not be prouder of the achievements of Marty Hollingshead and his team at Northlake Auto Recyclers in Hammond, Indiana. ARA named Northlake the 2016 Certified Automotive Recycler (CAR) Member of the Year. Northlake has proudly displayed the trophy in its lobby area since last year’s convention. The trophy now sits atop a gorgeous oak stand, made by Marty himself, with plaques honoring all past CAR Member of the Year awardees.
At the conclusion of the 2016 INCARES Audit cycle, Sandy Blalock and I briefly discussed our nominees for the CAR Member of the Year award. It was a brief discussion because it was a no-brainer. We are blessed in Indiana to have a number of extremely conscientious, environmentally friendly, and safe facilities that participate in INCARES. That said there is always one facility that stands out. And frankly, of every automotive facility I have ever consulted for or toured, there is still one that stands out – Northlake.
If you have heard me speak before about this facility you have heard my catch phrase - that I would eat a five-course meal off the ground at Northlake. I would do it because the place is spotless. I have actually searched and failed to find drips of oil on the ground. Northlake has scored a 102% on the INCARES Audit two years in a row. They earned a perfect score on the audit and earned an additional 2% for being recognized by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) as an Indiana Clean Yard. I thought and even said that no facility would ever get a perfect score, but boy was I wrong.
When you approach Northlake, you are welcomed by their logo proudly painted on the front of the building overlooking a well-maintained and spacious parking area. The fences are clean and in good condition. Their front lobby is decked out in gorgeous dark woodwork and boasts a professional sales counter. There are tasteful automotive industry and hockey memorabilia displayed throughout the lobby area for customers to admire while they wait. At Christmas, the front lobby is decorated to the hilt.
As you move through the warehouses, the floors are swept. There are no puddles of oil. You can tell that there were a few drips here and there on the concrete floor in the engine and transmission warehouse, but they are all cleaned up and the absorbent has been swept up and disposed. The racks are filled with parts that are clean, nicely organized, and the tags face the aisle ways for easy access. Most of the tags boast red stars because management has audited the part to ensure it is inventoried and stored correctly. There are fire extinguishers and oil spill kits readily available and properly charged in each warehouse area.
In the dismantling and shop areas there are no piles of parts. The workspaces are clean. The employees have nicely organized and fully stocked toolboxes. The shelves are filled with materials the employees may need and they are organized. The battery recharging area has a plastic tub for each battery and there is baking soda in the bottom of the tubs to neutralize any leaked acid. The dismantling checklist forms are filled out for every vehicle. Fluids are drained on a rack with containment to prevent any fluids from spilling onto the ground. The fluids are then stored inside properly labeled tanks stored inside secondary containment structures with roofs to keep the rain out. Freon is completely evacuated and mercury switches, if present, are removed. When asked questions the employees are proud to explain and demonstrate their job and help us learn what they do.
The yard boasts a number of different types of racking that store parts in an organized and efficient manner. No vehicles are crushed with drivelines to further prevent automotive fluids from contacting the ground. The body plugs are removed from every vehicle on the facility to prevent water from pooling in the cars – I know, I’ve checked. The ground surface in the yard is regularly graded. There are no mud puddles. There are no weeds. There is no debris on the ground in the access roads or between cars. As we walk the yard, without fail, Marty is picking up any loose trash as we go. Northlake’s fleet of vehicles is clean, well maintained, and project a professional image.
I could go on, but ultimately, those that know this industry get the point. We see a lot of facilities and almost all do a lot right. Very few do it almost all right. And no one that I know does it like Northlake. There once was a time that I found a vehicle on Marty’s yard that did not have a body plug removed. “Big deal”, you say? In the scheme of things, one rogue body plug is not a big deal. But to Marty it was. He pulled his dismantler aside and pointed out that the plug on this vehicle was not removed. He reiterated that this is his expectation. He was not rude or belligerent. He was a leader. He was a leader that cares deeply about his business, its image, and expects it to be done right.
I catch a lot of flack from other recyclers about Northlake being at the top every year. There is not another facility that I hear about more. There is also not another business that I have learned more from. I have learned that excellence is not an unrealistic expectation. I have learned that active management and good leadership pays off. So, today, I would like to thank Marty and the Northlake team for all they do for on behalf of VET, the INCARES Program, and the industry as a whole. Thank you!
Junkyard? I think not.
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