Why our ‘new normal’ should look anything but normal

Posted on 10 Jun 2020 by The Manufacturer

Steve Lindsey explains why manufacturers looking to rebuild from Covid-19 must take this moment to consider how they can enable a faster, green recovery.

We have faced a very different and truly unparalleled two months, and as organisations, we have had to adapt and learn new ways of working almost overnight.

But while Britain may be showing signs of recovery, we must not lose our agility, and instead, refocus our learnings in an effort to drive forward efficiency and sustainability initiatives. In the government’s words, how can we ‘Build Back Better’?

Steve Lindsey is CEO and founder of Lontra, the engineering company behind the revolutionary Blade Compressor® technology.

Steve Lindsey is CEO and founder of Lontra, the engineering company behind the revolutionary Blade Compressor® technology.

The shutdown of manufacturing plants across the UK, contributed to a significant reduction in carbon emissions during the coronavirus lockdown.

This, alongside other contributing factors including the reduction in travel and the supply chain, is now galvanising businesses to learn from this experience, and to prioritise more efficient, more resilient, green, Covid-19 recovery plans.

Manufacturers must regroup, but we have a renewed responsibility to make sure that the strategies implemented to counteract the economic impact of a long period of lockdown, do not undermine initiatives to reduce CO2 emissions.

Businesses large and small must make hard decisions – ones that reflect our future commitments to energy efficiency goals, sustainability and carbon footprint targets. With the recent passing of World Environment Day, those decisions, where we will cut costs, and where we will invest, feel even more significant.

Blowers and Compressors are often overlooked for their energy saving potential, but companies looking seriously at how they can make impactful change, should think again.

In addition, it’s important to consider the energy and cost of managing, maintaining and servicing their machines, another area with potential for substantial improvement.

Lontra's headquarters (left) in Napton and the surrounding countryside.

Lontra’s headquarters  (left) in Napton, and the surrounding countryside.

Collectively, air blowers and compressors account for a staggering 10% of industrial electricity use in the UK and Europe and as much as 40% in some plants.

That equates to more than 10TWh of electricity every year and 4.3 million tonnes of CO2, leading to significant amounts of energy being consumed and representing a large cost to manufacturers’ businesses.

Since being identified as huge energy users, the European Commission commissioned a study, Ecodesign Project Lot 31, to look at future regulation to improve overall compressor efficiency. The UK is expected, in time, to implement similar legislation.

Since 2004, we have been working on improving air and gas moving technologies that have energy efficiency at their heart.

Our first innovation, the Lontra Blade Compressor is the first widely applicable new compressor design in 80 years and has proved to be over 20% more efficient than traditional compressors, which is significant given that many companies try to optimise for gains of just 1% or 2%.

It is a revolutionary piece of kit that is a key example for the green industrial revolution, having the advantages of being oil free, more reliable, and with far lower energy usage than comparable machines.

This is all possible because of the Blade Compressor’s unique and innovative geometry. Its broad sealing areas allow for good efficiency at relatively low rotational speed – one factor towards its extraordinary reliability.

Lontra’s innovative Blade Compressor is a step change in air compressor technology, best imagined as a piston and cylinder, but with the cylinder wrapped into a toroidal shape. Seventy-five new jobs will be created when the high-tech engineering company builds a new manufacturing facility in Warwickshire.

The Blade Compressor is a step change in air compressor technology, best imagined as a piston and cylinder, but with the cylinder wrapped into a toroidal shape. 

The simple design involves a constantly open intake port, without valves. As the piston or “blade” rotates, air is drawn in behind it and compressed in front of it in an almost continuous cycle, minimising waste.

The core Blade Compressor “air-end” is just the beginning, as Lontra has transitioned from a licensing business to a fully-fledged manufacturer with international distribution.

We’ve developed a full package for the air-end, designing new and improved components from valves to silencers to motors, to full IoT control and predictive maintenance.

This has opened a series of new opportunities to further improve the state-of-the-art for our customers, giving them even better efficiency and reliability in a simple “drop in replacement” package.

One of the key challenges facing our sector is how we maintain momentum, implementing long term solutions to enable greener and more energy efficient manufacturing businesses, while also navigating the ‘new normal’ recovery, and the pressure to deliver growth.

But we are already making inroads, with 30% of manufacturers making energy investment changes in the past 12 months, and 40% reporting increased profit margins and 30% increased competitiveness as a result.

It is achievable, and as a country we have proved our ability to be agile and flexible throughout the Covid-19 crisis, so now is the time to apply this rigor to energy efficiency and sustainability.

We all have a part to play in enabling a greener, more efficient, and more sustainable manufacturing environment.