How the Factory is Going Green & Electric

How the Factory is Going Green & Electric

August 14, 2019

A hallmark and defining business trend of recent years has been the push to “go green” across industries. What started off as a trend embraced by a select few has quickly grown to permeate industries across the board and has since cemented itself as a long-term practice. Manufacturing, for example, has historically not been seen as “clean” or environmentally friendly. However, best practices, incentives and new technological developments have led to drastic changes within the last decade promoting greener values. It has been proven and accepted that adopting eco-friendly practices improves industry bottom lines, keeps customers happy and works to protect the future of our planet. 

 

3d rendering of green factory icon on fresh spring meadow

Below are three examples of how the manufacturing industry has turned to electricity and adopted other green practices to improve their production and reduce their carbon footprint.

The Case of Audi: Greening Car Manufacturing

One of the most prolific shifts towards adopting electric and green practices has been spearheaded by German car manufacturer, Audi. In addition to rolling out a new fleet of all-electric cards, they’re also greening the factory in which these cars are built and assembled. Afterall, it’s important to keep in mind that while purchasing and driving an electric vehicle (EV) saves on emissions, building an EV presents its own set of challenges and is generally more energy-intensive than building a traditional gasoline-operated vehicle. 

 

Audi’s new E-tron electric SUV facility in Brussels, Belgium is the first EV factory to be certified carbon-neutral by the European Commission. How do they do it? They started with installing a 37,000 square-metre photovoltaic farm on their rooftop, which produces 3,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, saving 700 metric tons of CO2 per year. Audi’s factory is also the only EV manufacturer to assemble its batteries in the same factory as their cars, allowing for greater efficiency and quality control. They use biogas to heat their facility, and purchase carbon credits offset less savoury, but necessary, practices such as incinerating used solvents from the assembly process. While it has been an expensive endeavour, they project their investment will pay off in the next five to 10 years, and have made a carbon-neutral commitment for 2030. 

Without a doubt, the Audi example will give the greenlight for other global car manufacturers to soon follow suit. 

The Old Adage: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

An old adage that still holds true, the merits of reducing waste, reusing when possible and recycling materials is paramount to conserving energy within factories and helping to make manufacturing more efficient. Reducing waste is especially important in sectors that deal with raw materials. For example, for wood products, the increasing demand for new lumber has led to clear-cutting of virgin forests, yet so much of that wood ends up as sawdust on the floor, destined for waste removal. Using natural material more efficiently and turning to other more sustainable options (such as bamboo for wood products) is becoming increasingly popular. 

Similarly, over-stocking inventory items that have an expiry date should be replaced by manufacturers refining their ordering and purchasing practices. This is made easier with the advent of just-in-time delivery, which ensures manufacturers can order and purchase just enough, and never too much, stock. Making use of recycled materials, such as re-purposed paper, synthetic gypsum and plastic alternatives have permeated the mainstream: newspapers have largely been used for post-consumer paper; synthetic gypsum in construction projects; and new plastic alternatives to fully replace their non-biodegradable counterparts. In a similar vein, many manufacturers are also re-thinking their packaging design to eliminate excess waste. 

Adopting reducing, reusing and recycling practices will inevitably increase bottom lines, as less waste means: less money spent on waste removal, lower costs on raw materials and higher levels of efficiency.

Boosting Efficiency: Updating Facilities & Equipment

Gone are the days of grimy factories with big smoke stacks, as more manufacturers turn to electricity and green practices. One of the easiest things a manufacturer can do is conduct an energy audit to see where improvements can be made. Simple improvements such as: replacing HVAC filters and outdated incandescent light bulbs, using caulking and weather stripping for insulation and installing programmable thermostats will all yield significant savings and are a good starting point for tackling larger projects. 

Targeting inefficient and outdated equipment and infrastructure are more ambitious, but necessary, greening projects. For example, certain equipment should be replaced with energy-efficient alternatives, as inefficient machinery can consume up to 70 per cent more energy than needed. Similarly, electric, solar or wind energy sources should be installed where possible. Manufacturers may even consider building their own sources of renewable green energy on the premises of their factories, as they may be eligible for tax breaks and other incentives, and many will receive compensation for energy they generate and contribute back to the grid. 

Going green is no longer a trend, but rather a modern and efficient business model that manufacturers around the world are implementing. In addition to traditional greening practices of reducing, reusing, recycling and conducting energy audits, many manufacturers are also converting their factories to electric power. Aside from the benefits such as lower operating costs and increased market share, going green also provides many intangible benefits that are equally important. Chief among these include: employee morale, health and participation, as well as an enhanced company reputation for being a socially responsible business. 

As more factories and businesses go electric, there will undoubtedly be an increased demand for electronics technicians. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, or learning more, please contact a Program Consultant toll-free at 1-888-553-5333 or email us at info@gbctectraining.com.

 

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