Making a plant more sustainable can quickly become a costly endeavor. Fortunately, it doesn’t have
to be. Sustainable manufacturing, by definition, involves using enough energy to produce what is
currently needed without putting future energy stores and environmental needs in jeopardy. This can
be done without overhauling the entire plant. There are little things that small, medium and large
manufacturers can do to make themselves sustainable manufacturers.
Perform an Inspection
Gather the plant manager and any employees willing to help make the plant more sustainable. Schedule
a day to walk through the plant, inspecting it for opportunities to make things more environmentally
friendly. Think about ways to recycle, reuse, reduce and to eliminate waste. For example, one
manufacturer found that the condenser attached to the air conditioning unit produced water that could
be used elsewhere. The water from the condenser was collected and reused in a coolant system in
another part of the plant. On your inspection, write down signs of wear and waste to be addressed later.
You will find that many others within the plant also seek to make their workplace more
environmentally friendly. Recruit these people to a task force designed to tackle an issue within the
plant. A recycling task force, for example, could come up with ways to make recycling more popular
with all employees. Line workers may even come up with more innovative ideas, such as recycling
the diamond tips on certain drill. An employee-sponsored recycling program and a team charged
with ensuring that the lights are out in unoccupied areas are simple things that even small firms can
implement that go a long way toward sustainability.
Heating and Air
One of the largest energy consumers in any plant is the heating and air system. Making the system more
sustainable includes making it more energy efficient. The result can be reduced heating and air costs
in addition to the environmental benefits. Reduce the heat by a degree or two and do the same for the
air. Set these limits at the beginning of the season so that everyone in the plant can adjust. Consider
shutting off the humidity control on your HVAC system until it is most necessary. Humidity control
is very inefficient otherwise. Turn off the circulation fans when the staff leave the building and also
adjust the building’s thermostat if it isn’t programmed. Cool and heat the plant only as necessary for the
materials and machines inside. Program the temperatures back to human comfort temps when the staff
are set to arrive.
Minor improvements can make all the difference when trying to make a plant sustainable. Think
about ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Also, get the entire plant involved. With the extra hands and
minds,even a small plant can afford making the change to become more environmentally friendly.