Nowadays, the use of fuels plays an important role in the lives of people. Gas and oil is used mostly for vehicles and industry machinery, heating, and plastic production. Unfortunately, this element naturally present in the environment is not an unlimited resource.
Regardless of the great repercussions of natural oil and gas on the environment, the humankind has become so dependent on this limited element. The question is what would happen if we exhaust this resource. Foreseeing this situation, we are in need of an alternative source of fuel; one of these alternatives is the Biodiesel.
Biodiesel is defined as a fuel produced from feedstock or “materials derived from a living or recently living organism, including plants, grains, vegetable oils, and animal-based oils” (Richards, 2013). There are different types of biodiesel, being the most common ones the Ethanol, generally produced with corn; and methanol, produced from vegetable oils.
Biodiesel is meant to be used in standard diesel engines, its economic and environmental impact have both been witnessed by the industry. Though debate has been ongoing since people argue that nations with large economies will require large tracts of land to transition fully to biofuels, the environmental influence by producing and using biodiesel –reduction of waste and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions - cannot be ignored. (Biodiesel, 2014)
Biodiesel Operations Management
Operations management is “the development and administration of the activities involved in transforming into goods and services” (Ferrell, Hirt, Ferrell, Iskander, & Mombourquette, 2011, p. 194).
The operation management process is divided into three sections: Inputs, Transformation or conversion and Output. Inputs refer to resources, such as labor, money, materials and energy that are converted into output. Transformation is a set of process that converts inputs into outputs. Outputs refer to the goods, services, and ideas that result from conversion of inputs (Ferrell, Hirt, Ferrell, Iskander, & Mombourquette, 2011, pp. 194-197)
The following steps demonstrate the three parts of operation management while explaining how a certain type of biodiesel is created from recycled cooking oil, as explained in the video “How Biodiesel is Created” from www.heatingoil.com (2011). Refer to Figure 1 in page Error: Reference source not found for a better understanding of the process.
Step1. Acquisition (getting the input): Biodiesel Company collects soy oil, animal fats, recycled cooking oil and restaurants’ grease.
The employees that are responsible for collecting the raw materials of biodiesel arrive to the restaurants early in the morning and get all the raw materials (used cooking oil) in their delivery trucks. The oil waste from restaurants, that normally would be thrown away, is transported to the facilities of the company to be transformed into a renewable fuel.
Transformation or Conversion
Step2. Refining and manufacturing (transforming): The biodiesel company first sample the raw material to make sure that it reaches the proper quality standard to produce biodiesel. This includes water testing and fat acids testing, formed when the regular cooking oil is heated and used. Then, alcohol and catalysts are combined with the oil, the chemical process that follows will result in the formation of methanol and glycerin. These two elements are separated, filtered and distilled.
Step 3 Retail Sales and Distribution: The result from all this process is a clean biodiesel ready to use. The last step is to distribute the final product to the places where the consumer can purchase it. It can be customized to different companies’ requirements. Biodiesel can be used in various fields, for example, home heating or industrial heating applications, vehicles with diesel engines, and machines like tractors in a farm.
Quality control measures are important for the design and production