Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is from our friends at Mahan’s Thermal Products. They discuss what it takes to create green industrial and manufacturing facilities from scratch.
Creating Green Industrial and Manufacturing Facilities From Scratch
Whether you’re looking to create an industrial facility for refining raw materials or you want to build a manufacturing plant, there are going to be a lot of environmental and health factors to consider. We live in a very well-informed world, so at this point, it’s clear that industrial practices can cause some serious environmental harm.
While we know this to be true, it doesn’t mean that a factory can’t be built with an eco-friendly outlook. Technological advancements in engineering, power usage, and beyond have brought us never-before-seen opportunities for making the world safer for both the greater environment at large and ourselves.
To give you some ideas about how to create your own green facility, we’ll take a look at various companies that have made an effort of their own to go green, and then discuss the various factors you should take into consideration when building your facility.
The Swedish-based furniture company has made significant strides throughout the past decade to become more environmentally friendly. Considering the tens of millions of customers that it attracts annually, it’s a good thing that the company is making an effort. Product demand has a lot to do with creating environmental issues in the manufacturing industry.
With millions of people wanting to buy goods from IKEA, it doesn’t take much to understand the amount of energy being used or the amount of natural resources that are having to be pulled from the environment to keep up with demands.
IKEA certainly has no problem understanding it. The company has made it a top priority to be as efficient and sustainable as possible, from the manufacturing process to the products themselves. Slim-lined packaging makes it possible to ship far more products at once, thus reducing the amount of vehicle emissions sent into the atmosphere.
Their furniture is also rather minimalist in nature, and while this echoes Swedish design, in general, it also means that the products they make don’t require as many resources as those produced by other companies. IKEA is also working hard toward making their manufacturing facilities and retail locations as green as possible from an energy standpoint by installing solar panels.
Johnson & Johnson
As far as companies in America go, Johnson & Johnson is setting a primary example of eco-friendly production. Like IKEA, this company has taken the idea of renewable energy to heart. However, it’s far outpaced its Swedish counterpart in this regard.
Out of all consumers of renewable solar energy in the United States, Johnson & Johnson ranks 2nd. Well over 50% of its energy consumption comes from solar energy. The company has set various environmental goals and can stay on track with these goals through a rigorous system of self-monitoring and analysis.
The company also takes part in various environmental certifications, such as those that assure consumers that goods they purchase from Johnson & Johnson are packaged in materials that have been obtained through sustainable and responsible means.
The company has also made a serious effort at reducing the types of harmful chemicals that were previously found in their products and these products’ packaging. They’ve made a consistent effort at finding alternatives to do the job that previous chemicals performed, thus making products safer to use.
Many chemicals used in manufacturing processes, from making the products to making the packaging that the products go in, are extremely harmful to people. These chemicals can cause a variety of physical ailments, from immune and respiratory disorders to cancer and birth defects. It’s no wonder Johnson & Johnson strives to eliminate such hazards, not only for its workers but also for its consumers.
Electronics manufacturing can lead to some serious environmental and health hazards. Electronics usually contain lead and other heavy metals, which when thrown into landfills can make their way down into groundwater. Various toxic chemicals are used in the manufacturing process of electronics, like laptops and other computer software devices, but Dell is letting the world know that the environment and worker safety are the most important aspects of its company policy.
In just a year’s time, the company reduced its packaging by nearly 20 million pounds. This reduces not only the amount of resources being used but also the energy necessary to produce and then transport these goods.
Recycling is also an area of focus for the company, as it increased the amount recycled materials within its packaging by 40% in just four years. Such results don’t just happen on their own, either. The company continuously creates well thought out environmental and safety goals for itself and then works tirelessly to reach these goals within a set amount of time. It doesn’t create vague or simple goals, either, but strives to create legitimate change within its production processes – change that can influence other companies to do the same.
Common Environmental Issues with Industry and Manufacturing
There are two significant areas of environmental concern in the industrial sector, and these two areas have their own subcategories that require attention. For the most part, though, a focus can be placed on the issue of pollutants and that of resource use.
Industrial and manufacturing facilities have the ability to create a broad range of pollutants and to do so on a rather massive scale. Many facilities that have to refine goods before they can be used for other manufacturing or energy purposes release toxic pollutants into the atmosphere, either in the form of gasses or particulates.
These gasses can have a direct detrimental effect on human health and surrounding ecosystems, but more than anything they contribute to the greenhouse effect. Particulates were particularly troublesome because they contain chemicals and toxins that cling together and travel throughout the air. These particulates are inhaled or ingested by people and other animals or find their way into waterways and soil, collecting and concentrating.
Waterways and soil can also become contaminated with various pollutants. Toxins getting into waterways can be particularly disastrous because of how quickly they can then spread and/or find their way into our water supplies.
The way in which resources are used/consumed is such a major concern because it affects the environment and human health in so many different ways. The use of natural resources can best be explained as a type of chain: Resources are gathered, processed, used, and then discarded. The environmental nightmare doesn’t start later in the chain, but just as soon as the process begins.
When raw materials are taken from the environment, the means of extraction can result in everything from environmental contamination to immediate habitat destruction. The higher the demand for these materials, the more destructive the gathering of them becomes.
When you have more goods being gathered, refined, and processed, you, of course, have to burn more fuels to create enough energy to carry out these procedures. The more goods you have, the more energy consumed.
Finally, all of these goods eventually end up in landfills or dumped in the ocean. Toxins leach out into the surrounding area and create serious health hazards for animals, plants, and people.
Building Right, Building Green
Creating industrial and manufacturing facilities that are as environmentally friendly as possible benefits everyone. Environmental issues aren’t isolated things – they ripple across all aspects of life on our planet. When one aspect of the environment is affected, it inevitably causes a chain reaction.
We’re a part of the environment, so what we do not only causes problems for other species but works its way back around to become significant problems for us as well. Getting it right from the start will mean that your facility can help make a more positive environmental impact.
Recycling is a great practice, when it comes to business because it can be applied in so many useful ways. For a start, industrial and manufacturing facilities can be constructed through the use of recycled materials. Building products that feature recycled goods are just as durable and versatile – if not more so – than other products.
For instance, Nike’s Netherland headquarters uses recycled aluminum framing in its building structure. Recycled products can often save you money as well, as it typically takes less to recycle materials than it does to go out and gather raw resources that then need to be refined and processed.
Using recycled materials doesn’t have to end with your facility, either. Using recycled materials for products and packaging not only reduces your environmental footprint but also saves you money in terms of shipping and resource purchasing. Consumers and wholesalers are also more likely to buy from a company that features recycled goods in its products.
Even if recycling isn’t a viable option when it comes to building your facility, you can still be mindful of where you source your building materials. It makes a difference when you purchase lumber milled from sustainable forestry programs or steel manufactured by a company that has a reputation for creating its products in a more eco-friendly manner.
Many industrial and manufacturing facilities require cooling systems to keep machinery from overheating and to reduce the amount of energy needed to complete various processes. Cooling towers are an excellent way to contribute to reducing your facility’s environmental footprint. Cooling towers are part of a heat transfer process, and this process can supply you with both cooling and heating needs. When you have a cooling tower in place, the water your facility uses to cool machinery and equipment, or even to help cool refined goods like granular based chemicals, stays within a system of its own.
Water absorbs the heat produced by your facility’s processes and carries it to a cooling tower. The heated water is then either sprayed from the top of the tower, where it loses its heat through evaporation, with the cooled water collecting in pools at the bottom, or it is sent through a series of pipes that have cooled water sprayed on them.
In this second method, heat is transferred to the sprayed water, which falls through the cooling tower, again releasing the heat through evaporation before collecting at the bottom of the tower, cooled and ready to be used again.
Without cooling towers, facilities are often situated near a source of water, such as a lake, large river, or the ocean. Water is pumped in from these natural sources to cool off machinery, but the now heated water is sent back out into the waterway it was taken from. Now, you might think this is a good thing – after all; it would be pretty detrimental to drain a natural waterway.
However, this practice creates what is known as thermal pollution. The heated water that re-enters the waterway creates an environment that is too harsh for the marine organisms living in the area, thus killing them off. The result is doubly unfortunate because it often kills not only native marine life but also creates massive algal blooms that deplete oxygen levels within the water and which can even produce toxins.
Running more eco-friendly industrial or manufacturing facilities has a lot to do with monitoring the processes the plant is undertaking. Computer technology can be extremely helpful in this regard, as various software programs can help you keep track of how many resources you’re using, how much ground transport is occurring, and how much energy your facility is using.
Software programs can also help you pinpoint areas that create energy waste for your company. When you’re able to see everything your business does in a series of reports, you’re better able to pinpoint solution opportunity areas.
Facility efficiency directly translates to environmental impact. If you’re using less energy and less water, creating less by-product waste, and releasing fewer harmful emissions, then obviously this is going to be better for the environment and human health.
Keeping track of what’s going on with your facility also means performing different system tests. Testing machinery, cooling systems, and processing/refining systems can help you discover ways in which things can be improved. It all relies on your willingness and dedication to the environmental cause.