Sustainable manufacturing good practices


IsothaneWausau TileCalstoneSandenRapid-LinePortionPacHenkel



We think it is also important for you to be informed about what works. That’s why we here list a range of best practice case studies that illustrate the many benefits of sustainable manufacturing. Saving money, improving your products, making your operations more efficient and increasing sales are all possible for those taking up this new challenge.


Good Practice Examples

Area 1: Reducing inputs for production in the first place

Area 2: Improving the efficiency of facility operations

Area 3: Improving products to reduce impact in use and at the end of life



Case: Solvent use reduced by finding alternatives


Isothane (Accrington, United Kingdom)
Sector: Construction materials
Employees: 32
Annual turnover: USD 14 million (2009)


Isothane is a manufacturer of products used for insulating buildings, providing buoyancy for boats, protecting bridges and reinforcing roads. It decided to eliminate flammable materials from its product lines in order to reduce substantially the solvent emissions and help ensure compliance with legislation. Most of this was accomplished through material substitution, but a few product lines were discontinued. The company’s research and development (R&D) team spent two months researching less hazardous alternatives to find substitutes.

Isothane was able to reduce its solvent use from 150 tonnes (165 US tons) of three types of flammable solvent to just 22 tonnes (24 US tons) a year of only one type of non-flammable solvent. The only cost was for internal R&D team. But it saved the company USD 400 000, which would have been the cost of upgrading all electrical equipment in the factory and warehouses to comply with the required flameproof standards, as well as for several other modifications. As a further benefit, employees’ exposure to hazardous materials has been reduced and the company generates less hazardous waste.




Photos: Isothane Limited



Case: Used materials improve aesthetics while reducing impact


Wausau Tile (Wausau, Wisconsin, United States)
Sector: Construction materials
Employees: 300
Annual turnover: Undisclosed


Wausau Tile manufactures architectural products for the global market, such as: plastic site furnishings; precast concrete and metal site furnishings; concrete pavers; terrazzo tile; and precast terrazzo. The company wanted to reduce the use of natural raw materials and save costs at the same time as part of its “green initiative”. It investigated the possibility to find alternative aggregates to mix with concrete, where gravels are normally used and found a process to treat glass for that purpose.

Wausau Tile considered trying used glass as a new concrete aggregate. Of all the collected post-consumer materials, glass has been one of the most difficult to recycle and much of the used glass ends up in landfills. Even though using broken glass can lead to additional costs, the company believed that any extra cost could be offset by the decorative value of the material, by developing new products, attracting new customers and reducing the environmental impact. With this in mind, the company managed to include large glass chips in their products that were large enough to be architecturally and aesthetically valuable.

The company has redesigned a number of their products incorporating used glass as an aggregate such as: benches, tables, planters, concrete pavers and terrazzo tiles. The glass aggregate accounts for up to 56% of the total product weight or volume in some products. In 2009, the company used about 450 tonnes (500 US tons) of post-consumer/post-industrial glass, creating a market for used glass and attracting customers. Following this success, it has recently introduced a new line of products that use post-industrial porcelain like sinks, bathtubs and toilet bowls as an aggregate.





Photos: Wausau Tile, Inc.



Case: Modifications in plant reduce resource use significantly


Calstone (Scarborough, Ontario, Canada)
Sector: Furniture
Employees: 28
Annual turnover: USD 7 million (2010)


Calstone is a family-owned business that designs and manufactures metal furniture products. The company discovered that selling more environmentally sustainable furniture products could provide a valuable competitive advantage and could expand its market for conscious consumers. In 2007, it started implementing several measures to reduce the environmental impact of its manufacturing plant.

To reduce harmful emissions, the company introduced a vapour spray system to decrease the chemicals applied to degrease metal components. Chemical use has since been reduced by 60% compared to 2005 levels. A stainless steel water tank of 7 600 litres (2 000 gallons) was installed to reuse water for cooling the equipment and rainwater is collected for flushing all toilets. Water use for cooling has been reduced by 65% and that for toilets has also been cut by 15% compared to 2004 levels. Skylights have been installed in the plant to bring in natural light, which reduces energy requirement and encourages the growth of nearly 100 foliage plants that purify the indoor air.

The company also installed a heat exchanger made from an old car radiator and automatic heat control units, and hung large pieces of polystyrene foam from the plant’s ceiling to minimise the amount of air space to be heated and cooled. The company buys 10 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity per month from a hydro and wind power provider and has installed solar panels on the roof. With all the above resource efficiency measures combined, the company is estimated to have reduced operating costs by USD 20 000 annually.

Furthermore, Calstone launched a remanufacturing programme in 2007 that enables it to take back any of their existing furniture and recycle or remanufacture every component. Their furniture is certified by a third-party body for its low volatile organic compound (VOC) emission, helping improve indoor air quality and employees’ health.



Photos: Calstone Inc.


Case: Manufacturing in harmony with nature


Sanden Corporation, Akagi Plant (Maebashi, Japan)
Sector: Electronics
Employees: 1 000
Annual production output: USD 380 million (FY2009)

In 2002 Sanden Corporation, an electronics manufacturer, established a complex of manufacturing and forest areas located on a 641 000m2 tract of land on the southern slopes of Mount Akagi in Gunma prefecture, north of Tokyo. This site was established with the concept to realise “the factory of the 21st century in harmony with nature”. Only half of the site has been allocated for the factory area, while the other half comprises a forest (329 000m2). The complex currently has facilities for manufacturing vending machines, refrigerated display cases and car air-conditioning compressor components as well as logistics processing centres.

In constructing this complex, Sanden employed large-scale, close-to-nature construction methods to improve the natural environment and ecosystems. For example: biotope ponds were created as reservoirs in the complex; the stones and timbers found in the site were used for its own construction; and the discovered rare species of plants were replanted in ideal locations within the site with appropriate maintenance and care.

These efforts also provided economic benefits of more than USD 6.5 million owing to a reduction in the use of concrete and reduced cost of waste management. The company set a goal to increase the number of species in the local ecosystem to be higher than the level when the construction of the site was started in 1998. In its fourth natural environment survey conducted in 2008, the site’s biodiversity had generally recovered and surpassed the levels of 1998. The complex is also used for nature experience educational programmes and more than 5 000 students visit every year. A CO2 absorption of 530 tonnes in the forest area was certified by the prefectural government in 2010.






Photos: Sanden Corporation


Case: Plant improvements cope with rising energy price


Rapid-Line (Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States)
Sector: Metal fabrication
Employees: 120
Annual turnover: USD 15 million (2010)


Rapid-Line, a metal fabrication and tooling company, wanted to reduce its energy use. The company had experienced significant increases in its natural gas costs, which more than tripled between 2002 and 2005. At the same time, one of the company’s customers encouraged them to get involved in greening their operations.

The company used natural gas throughout their operations for processes such as heating and parts washing, and to fuel its powder coat-curing oven. Following an investigation, it made several improvements:

  • Capturing and redirecting excess heat from paint-line ovens back into the plant eliminated the need for furnace heating of the plant in cold weather and increased oven efficiency.
  • Installing a system of ceiling fans and baffles increased the heating and cooling efficiency of the building.
  • Extra insulation and automated controls boosted the operating efficiency of systems.
  • Monitoring the external temperature of curing ovens helped locate and repair heat leaks.

These combined efforts across several areas lowered the company’s annual natural gas consumption by 125 000m3 (4 400 mil cubic feet) and allowed cost savings of USD 46 000 a year.


Case: Greener products enhance competitiveness


PortionPac Chemical Corporation (Chicago, United States)
Sector: Cleaning chemicals
Employees: 84
Annual turnover: USD 20 million (2009)


PortionPac Chemical Corporation is a producer of high-concentrate, pre-measured cleaning and floor finish products for commercial, institutional and public sector use. The company considered the environment and health and safety of sanitary workers to be important when creating the concept of a pre-measured product in 1964. The formulations were made with consideration for the safest components available, but at that time, the company did not talk about the “greenness” of a product but focused on the cost savings of shipping concentrates. In 2005, looking to become more sustainable, the company began work to assess the lifecycle impact of its products and obtained a third-party green certification for all of its floor cleaners, all purpose cleaners, glass cleaners and bowl cleaners. It also updated packaging components to further reduce waste, saving disposal, freight and other costs.

These innovations enabled PortionPac to market the sustainability credentials of its products along with their potential for saving costs. Improvements to the packaging has saved the company USD 40 000 each year through reducing the use of materials. It also found a commercial user for one of the by-products, enabling them to divert waste materials from entering landfills and save the cost of hauling it away. This strategy, in return, has led to expanded sales and helped the company grow during the recession. The increased profitability and reduced costs led to the creation of 15 new jobs. The company received awards for its efforts from the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois.





Photos: PortionPac Chemical Corporation


Case: Products that help consumers reduce ecological footprint


Henkel (Dusseldorf, Germany)
Sector: Household products
Employees: 48 000
Annual sales: USD 20 billion (2010)

Henkel, the consumer products manufacturer with global brands including Somat, Right Guard and Pritt, has taken a number of steps to reduce the impact that their products have during use. For example, studies have found that a significant proportion of the lifecycle impact of their products comes from the use of energy required to heat water and run a laundry or dishwasher and the use of water. The company set out to identify opportunities to reduce this impact, which resulted in:

  • Products that work at lower temperatures: A new dishwasher detergent effectively cleans and removes stains at temperatures as low as 40 °C (104 °F). Relative to comparable programmes at 50-55°C (122-131°F), consumers can achieve energy savings of 20% on average.
  • Overall reduction of the ecological footprint: Some products have an increased consumer benefit due to new formulations and at the same time a reduced ecological footprint. An improved spray valve reduces common spray losses of a deodorant spray by 20%. Optimised production processes and logistics further reduce the footprint.
  • High renewable and biodegradable materials: The housing of a correction roller consists almost 90% of plastic made from plants.

These innovations save customers money and reduce the environmental impact of mainstream brands and products, thus attracting a large number of consumers.



Photos: Henkel AG & Co. KGaA


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