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The way forward is only by consuming less to make more, and in doing so, resorting to naturally renewable and sustainable manufacturing practices.

Image: ELGi Equipments

Production Planning & Control Green Manufacturing: Challenges & Practices

May 16, 2018

In today’s market scenario, adoption of sustainable practices is required in order for companies to remain competitive. The article highlights the factors that are driving this change, the objective of going green and the initiatives taken by an air compressor manufacturer, Elgi towards a greener future.

Embracing green manufacturing practices are much more than compliance. It is a way of life in the manufacturing sector, which also brings about lasting benefits in terms of sustainability, profitability, and effectiveness in the businesses. Necessitating the right seriousness, open mindedness and leadership focus, green manufacturing drives are among the top priorities among manufacturers worldwide, as every team works to consume less and producing more. Such persistent focus has yielded positive results for many global manufacturers, including financial benefits.

Less is more

The poet Robert Browning wrote these famous words – “Less is more” – in a poem, which inspired many streams of knowledge, including minimalistic architecture and design. The world has consumed too much in too less time in the past three centuries since the industrial revolution, and now is the time to stop and pursue corrective methods by adopting conscious manufacturing processes. Every day, industries and transport systems emit tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Most of our work is done by the sheer power of fossil fuel. The results have already begun to show, with melting polar ice caps, rising temperatures, disappearing species, depleting water resources, and increasingly chaotic weather patterns. The way forward is only by consuming less to make more, and in doing so, resorting to naturally renewable and sustainable manufacturing practices.

In this context, it is the responsibility of manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions in all their processes, avoid wastage of any kind, and build a green enterprise that does more and more with less inputs, based on continuous learning and corrective actions. On this front, Elgi has constantly endeavoured to do more with less, and its sustained efforts have resulted in a reduction of its manufacturing carbon footprint from 1,600 kg of CO2 per million dollars of sale to 1,200 kg of CO2 per million dollars of sale from 2014 to 2018.

Sustainable practices

All conventional energy resources must be replaced with renewable sources such as solar power stations, hydroelectric power, and windmills. Used water from manufacturing processes has chemical effluents and impurities that would adversely affect the quality of the water bed in the region, and render the soil infertile. Utmost care should be administered in the repurposing of used water, by employing purification processes and using it to water the greenery, and for other cleaning requirements in the plant. At Elgi, windmills generate 15% of the total energy in the plant that adds up to 20 lakh units of electricity every year. The windmills are maintained by an in-house team with utmost care. The plant’s rain water harvesting system repurposes 20 lakh litres of water every time during rains, for gardening purposes, thereby, saving the need to pump up ground water.

Unrelenting focus

Globally, 70% of all fossil fuels are used in industrial operations alone! This mindboggling number would make it obvious that it is critical for all industries to focus on using the maximum number of renewable energy sources and materials in their manufacturing processes. It is not just enough to go green during the manufacturing processes. The philosophy should extend well into the design and manufacture of highly energy efficient products. Therefore, it is crucial to roll out highly energy efficient products from factories that consume lesser energy during their product lifecycles. Elgi has obtained ISO 14024:1999 green label product certification for its EG and EN series of compressors that are green in both their manufacturing, as well as performance.

Waste not, want not

Every resource counts, and cannot be wasted. Each concerted effort to save resources such as water, wood, fuel or electricity from being wasted has a profound impact on the overall business efficiency of the organisation and makes it greener. Elgi recycles its waste in every form, into something of utilitarian value that enriches other industries and communities. The company recycles its foundry waste sand by converting it to 40,000 solid construction bricks per year. About 2,000 litres of hydraulic oil used in Elgi’s CNC machines and about 1,000 kg of paint powder are also recycled and reused. Around 60,000 litres of recycled water from the company’s manufacturing processes is used to water the gardens. The company also recycles its used batteries and puts them to use in school laboratories nearby the surrounding region. The company plants trees in its campuses, and has implemented paperless offices, and also put in place a comprehensive energy management system. Natural light illuminates most of its campuses, in order to cut down the power consumption further.

What gets measured, gets managed

These words by Lord Kelvin – “What gets measured, gets managed” – would imply why measuring energy consumption and material input is important for a green enterprise. Implementing effective energy management systems will, thus, help bring visibility to every unit of power consumed, so that they can be optimised. Every appliance, be it motors, fans, lights, transformers or the office air conditioners, should be monitored, and optimised to continuously reduce energy consumption. All of Elgi’s manufacturing processes are ISO 500001:2011 certified for its stringent energy management systems. By implementing these, the company has reduced its power to sale ratio from 1.15 % to as little as 0.98 percent last year. The facilities have also begun to implement agile IoT projects to bring down the energy bills even further.

Challenges ahead

Solar and wind power plants are still not economically suitable for domestic and industrial purposes. While the government has continued to encourage solar and wind power generation, cost factor should narrow to feasible levels for mass adoption by the industry. Also, the government should work on arresting the high transmission losses that are as steep as 35% currently. Elgi has set energy base line and energy performance indicators at every level of its manufacturing processes. Plans are now on way to set up and utilise rooftop solar energy panels that would produce up to 100 units of power.

For a green future

Optimising energy used in manufacturing processes, increasing the usage of renewables and alternate sources of energy, and a continuous improvement plan to reduce energy consumption is the right approach for a greener tomorrow. At Elgi, the leadership has constantly pushed for better, greener practices in all that the company does.

The article is written by Anvar Jay Varadaraj, Head – Marketing & Communications, ELGi Equipments Limited

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  • It is the responsibility of manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions in all their processes, avoid wastage of any kind, and build a green enterprise that does more and more with less inputs, based on continuous learning and corrective actions

    Image: ELGi Equipments

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