Friday, October 12, 2012

Sustainability: More Than Just Being ‘Green’

Kermit may have had it right when he sang “it’s not easy being green,” but it may be profitable. More and more companies are finding that what used to promise only incremental change can now improve margins by 10% to 15% and in a lot less time. The environmental payoff is immediate, but for companies struggling to stay afloat, it can’t just be about recycling and reducing waste. Good news, it’s not just about utility savings and it’s a growing trend.
An initiative called E3: Economy, Energy and Environment, attempts to bridge the gap between knowledge and understanding and practical implementation, to help companies realize benefits faster. E3 focuses not only on environmental performance, but industrial processes and increasing profitability. Several companies in Michigan have successfully completed project work with MMTC experts and have seen drastic improvements.
Due to the rising costs for natural gas and electricity, utility costs were up by 29% for one west Michigan company. With a few modifications to their existing processes and a slight redesign of its lean work cells, the company was able to reduce annual natural gas costs by $73,000 a year. The improvements also eliminated a week from its delivery time, leading to a 30% reduction in order to delivery time for customers, increasing customer satisfaction and retention. Add to that the public relations benefit of reducing its carbon footprint and the project was a win. The benefit to this company was its ability to have someone come in and do a thorough evaluation of its business with a fresh perspective, which led to realizing previously unidentified opportunities.
Another west Michigan company wanted to tackle its outdated HVAC system. By integrating a computer management system they had the ability to schedule shutdowns at night and over holidays. The company was able to reduce utility use by $33,000 annually, the equivalent of 250 metric tons of CO2, The next item it tackled was lighting. Between rebates from its utility and redistribution of compressors, the company realized a savings over $100,000, and another annual utility reduction of $47,160, along with a 22% improvement or reduction in sound level within the shop. The company then turned from energy usage to processes. By switching to a ‘green’ chemical, it was able to remove two process stages, heat less water, and realize additional savings. Recycling at the source and separating materials increased the additional revenue earned by selling scrap materials to other businesses. The company was able to recycle over one million pounds of steel and earn over $250,000 dollars. The ability to reuse packaging and other materials eliminated waste and resulted in additional savings over $500,000. The end results was its ability to avoid 325 pounds of air pollution, save over 62,000 kWh of electricity, eliminate using $10,676 gallons of oil – enough fuel to fill over 334 cars. The additional benefits to this company included a brand new product line – one that used 180 tons less steel, 855,000 fewer parts a year and 900,000 fewer press strokes. Customers now have opportunity to purchase a better product, with improved aesthetics and options.
Click for more information about E3 or MMTC or to read some recently published articles surrounding corporate sustainability, Grand Rapids and other municipality sustainability, and information on how companies are implementing zero-waste to landfill operations.

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