Sustainability for progress

Posted on 25 Nov 2011 by The Manufacturer

Delegates to the Sustainability Symposium hosted by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) at Caterpillar Logistics near Leicester shared several real-world examples of sustainability in action.

Energy has more than doubled in cost over the past few years, which means that the benefits of reducing consumption increase, year on year. Robert Droogleever, Managing Director, Caterpillar BCP, described how its Vision 2020 initiative aims for a 25 per cent improvement in energy efficiency, 20 per cent energy from sustainable sources, 25per cent reduction in greenhouse gases from existing facilities and zero net water usage.

Peter Lunt, from Airbus in North Wales, said that the company uses energy-use mapping (akin to value-stream mapping) to identify key consumers and collect additional data. It defines a ‘waste hierarchy’ and implements a program of prevention, reduction, recovery and reuse before considering changing equipment. It is involved in developing software to help in energy-use mapping, as part of the government-funded THERM (Through-life Energy and Resource Modelling) project. Lunt said that Airbus has already achieved cost savings in excess of £100,000.

Hannah Senior, Duraweld

Whether a ‘green plastics company’ is an oxymoron was discussed by Hannah Senior, of Duraweld. It makes plastic and plastic-laminated business folders and stationery. She emphasised the importance of employee engagement and outlined the company’s process redesigns and implementation of closed-loop recycling. While hard-to-recycle PVC remains an important ingredient in Duraweld’s business, it is to produce special PVC-free Oystercard holders for the 2012 London Olympics.

Only one industrial motor in 10 is in the highest energy class, IE2, but Ron McDonald of ABB explained the appeal of variable-speed motors. He re-emphasised that energy-saving measures should be explored and implemented before investing in new equipment. “Energy-saving motors will cut something like 10 per cent off energy bills. Variable-speed drives can cut about 30 per cent. If you design the system efficiently, you can save up to 60 per cent.” He described a project undertaken with a car manufacturer, which has cut electricity costs by over £100,000/yr.

Steve Hope, Toyota

Steve Hope outlined Toyota’s ‘Earth Charter’, adopted in 1992, which has a series of five-year plans to reduce energy consumption and waste generation, and considers the entire lifecycle of products. It has cut energy use by 40 per cent; water by 44 per cent; and improved emissions by 51 per cent – all during a period of growth. Its target of zero waste to landfill by 2005 was achieved in 2003. By 2050, Toyota aims to double output while emitting 80 per cent less greenhouse gas and halving resource use.

All the tools in the Toyota Production System arsenal are deployed in dealing with waste more effectively. It applies recycling, reduction of chemical incineration, rainwater collection and reverse osmosis for water purification. Road maps have been developed for each area founded on environmental performance, CO2 production and commercial contribution within its neighbourhood. New vehicle introductions are analysed for contributions to the drive to zero net emissions. Energy-saving teams have been established and detailed management and analysis skills are being developed to identify key areas and points of opportunity. Toyota UK has achieved 12.5 per cent energy reduction since 2002 – actually 25 per cent, like-for-like. It is collaborating with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council EPSRC), and on the THERM project with Airbus.

Weetabix installed a combined heat and power plant (CHP) in 2005 but the cost of providing steam for production was higher than forecast, Alex Cosgrove explained. In collaboration with an aero engine manufacturer and Cranfield University, the company analysed variability, heat loss and shortfalls with control systems. It installed a programmable logic controller (PLC), prioritised recovery of exhaust gases and networked information gathered by the PLC. It also found that well-meaning working practices were leading to poor product quality at shift changeover and implemented a new production control, which saved £80,000/year in product wastage. Forecast energy cost savings are £175,000/yr.

Steve Martin, Interface FLOR

Interface FLOR’s sustainability drive focuses on process, design and materials. Steve Martin, European Director of Quality, Environment, Health and Safety and Site Director UK and Ireland, said the company has, since 1996, reduced energy consumption per unit of production 43 per cent, waste to landfill 82 per cent, and the use of non-renewable energy by 60 per cent. Interface measures all aspects of business, from raw materials to finished goods. Products now contain 62 per cent recycled material and use less material. It is now developing a process for disassembling used tiles for recycling and reuse. Redesign of cutting has reduced wastage by 210 tons annually. Four Eco-coolers in the Yorkshire factory’s mezzanine working area use 15 per cent less electricity than previous equipment. Interface also captures ‘softer’ issues, measured through an initiative called Ecometrics. Total savings since 1994 have amounted to $438 million.

The concluding session was a lively discussion and further exploration of the topics raised and during the symposium.