Barry Crackett, product designer at brushware manufacturer Brushtec, explains how businesses in the manufacturing industry can work to make their operations more eco-friendly.
As the sector that takes raw materials and turns them into products, manufacturing requires huge amounts of energy, and often produces a lot of waste. Warnings about climate change continue to dominate the headlines —as seen in a recent, damning report from the IPCC — so there has never been a more important time for the manufacturing industry to adopt sustainable practices.
At Brushtec, we decided to minimise our impact on the environment and have taken numerous steps to make our business as eco-friendly as possible. In this article, I will take a closer look at some of the ways you can not only make your operations more sustainable, but make them cheaper as well.
Keep an eye on your energy
The first step to becoming a more eco-friendly manufacturer is understanding how much energy each element of your business is using. This will help you to identify the key areas that can be improved. You can carry out a walkthrough survey yourself, but if you want something more in-depth you will need to hire a professional energy surveyor.
If you want to understand how to conduct a proper walkthrough survey yourself, or are considering bringing in a professional, The Carbon Trust explains everything in their Energy Surveys Guide. Large businesses — those with over 250 employees or £39 million turnover — will likely already have done this by law, but new assessments must be carried out every four years.
Get the little things right
Small changes implemented across a whole operation can have huge results when it comes to energy saving. LED lightbulbs are more expensive than their incandescent counterparts, however, they use five times less power and last ten times longer, saving you both energy and money in the long run.
The next step is to look at upgrading your insulation to improve heat efficiency. The older your building, the more likely it is that this will be necessary. At Brushtec we decided to install thermal cladding to insulate our factory and brought in efficient air heaters, which are more economical than centralised systems.
Switch to renewables
Though energy production is one of the largest emitters of carbon into the atmosphere, switching over to renewable sources, such as wind and solar, could also save you money. While you can’t just go fully green overnight, take a look at your energy survey and see where you can get some quick wins to offset your consumption.
At Brushtec, we have been able to generate our own electricity and heating, while also reducing costs, by installing solar panels and ground source heat pumps. If you don’t want to install your own equipment, consider speaking to your energy supplier about green options, or switch suppliers entirely to ones that operates with renewables.
Upgrade your machinery
Technology is constantly developing, and new manufacturing processes are being developed all the time, so it’s important to keep an eye on whether there are newer, more efficient models of your machinery. Doing this can not only reduce the impact your business is having on the environment, it can also speed up your manufacturing processes.
As capital expenditure is expensive in manufacturing, small- and medium-sized enterprises can often be put off upgrading, however, a proper business analysis should be done to assess the potential benefits such an investment could bring. By automating our production line, Brushtec has been able to reduce human error and therefore manufacturing inaccuracy, decreasing the amount of waste we create and saving money.
Seek out eco-friendly supply chains
As awareness of environmental matters continues to become more widespread, more companies are thinking about the impact their businesses are having on the world around them. For this reason, it is easier than ever to do business with partners and suppliers that themselves are more eco-friendly.
It is no use becoming environmentally conscious if you are going to do business with companies that don’t care about the environment. While this isn’t always possible, and doing business is integral to making sales, it should be a consideration when undertaking new contracts or reviewing old ones.