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Plant-Based Hydraulics

Soybean-powered forklifts help TOTO minimize our environmental impact throughout the distribution process

Problem

In our efforts to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbons, TOTO looked for a plant-based alternative to the hydraulic oil used in our forklifts. Hydraulic oil is used to raise, lower, and tilt the forks in the forklift trucks that move our products through the distribution process.

innovation

TOTO saw an opportunity to replace hydrocarbon-based hydraulic oil with soybean oil. When we proposed this idea to several forklift manufacturers, they worried that soybean oil would shorten the lifespan of the pumps, cylinders, and other components of their hydraulic systems—potentially rendering warranties void.

In time, TOTO was able to find high-grade soybean oil, suitable to serve as a complete replacement for hydrocarbon-based hydraulic oil. We tested the new oil on a few trucks, and after an extensive test period, the manufacturers took their trucks apart for examination. They found neither degradation nor additional wear and tear—and TOTO began the process of converting not just our forklifts but also the hydraulic systems in nearly all our automated distribution equipment to soybean oil. The new, plant-based oil cost a little more than its hydrocarbon predecessor, but not enough to have a significant impact on our overall operating costs.

TOTO will seek any and every opportunity to eliminate our reliance on nonrenewable resources. We would rather use oil harvested by a farmer in Iowa than oil pumped from a well in the Gulf of Mexico. Hydrocarbon-based oil is valuable in producing plastics and fuel—but hydraulics systems operate smoothly on soy.

Solution

Although soybean oil is slightly more expensive than hydrocarbon alternatives, our systems use less of it—which helps to keep annual costs relatively low. It also provides a valuable way for TOTO to demonstrate our commitment to sustainability throughout the production process.

Benefits for PeoplePlanetWater

At TOTO, water is a more precious resource than oil—but we’re serious about reducing our reliance on hydrocarbons, too. Here’s how our switch to soybean oil has helped people, the planet, and water:

People

No farms, no food. By switching to soybean oil in our forklifts, TOTO isn’t just reducing carbon emissions—we’re also supporting farmers.

Planet

Hydrocarbons are for plastics. When we made the switch to soybean oil for all our hydraulics systems, TOTO freed up hydrocarbon-based oil for other uses, like plastics (which can be recycled).

Water

Pumping soy keeps our oceans cleaner. Plant-based oil helps to preserve our oceans by minimizing our reliance on offshore oil rigs.

The soy-based hydraulic fluid is a premium biodegradable, biobased oil formulated for use in industrial hydraulic systems operating throughout all seasons.