Industrial Metal Companies Turn Sustainability into Business Strategy

May 1, 2015 / , , , , , , , ,

It’s no secret that any edge you can carve out against the competition in today’s challenging market will help you take the lead as a top performer. As this case study from the LENOX Institute of Technology points out, continuous improvement and best practices, including ongoing training, preventative maintenance, and ISO certification, are necessary to take the number-one spot as an industrial metal-cutting company.

While traditional operational methods are proven methods to increasing your operational success, others are moving to the forefront. Enter sustainability—the latest initiative metal companies are paying closer attention to—and for warranted reasons.

London-based sheet metal company Harlow Group, for example, recently worked with the Institute for Manufacturing Education and Consultancy Services to enhance its operational performance by improving both its energy usage and environmental impact. Using the association’s Practical & Innovative Solutions for Manufacturing Sustainability program, the company reviewed its operation to identify new opportunities that resulted in significant savings, including:

Kenwal Steel Corp. saved 93 percent in energy when it replaced 369 metal halide lights with high-efficiency, maintenance-free LED lights, reports Modern Machine Shop. This, the article states, not only increased the overall lighting quality of the facility, it also reduced the total number of fixtures by 60 percent. The company also saw a return on its investment of 124 percent in less than a year by using an intelligent system that automatically turned off lights, dimmed aisle lighting in low-traffic areas, and scheduled automatic changes to the lighting behavior based on usage patterns.

Sustainability is also imperative to business operations for Studer AG, according to another Modern Machine Shop report. In fact, the Swiss-based machine tool builder has established a four-step process that any industrial metal-cutting company can use to optimize machine design and performance. The process includes the following:

  1. Component Optimization. Choose components that can be produced and assembled with less energy. This includes machine structures and onboard subsystems that use low energy levels to operate.
  2. Standby Management. Keep subsystems in stand-by mode until needed. Much like Harlow Group, implement a shut-down mode for heavy equipment that’s not in use.
  3. Process Optimization. Like continuous improvement exercises, assess your overall processes and implement new techniques or technologies that can increase efficiency while reducing energy.
  4. Energy Evaluation for Customer Quotation. This optional step makes the call to include any energy savings and the associated costs and/or any regulatory compliance in customer-facing documentation. The idea here is to communicate the proactive energy-saving measures, which sometimes means the difference from winning or losing a bid.

Using sustainability as a strategy for success is one with very real implications—and savings—if done right. Do you consider sustainability as a bottom-line operating principle? If so, how are you using sustainability as a business strategy? What changes have you implemented to keep your industrial metal-cutting company at the leading edge?