Acting in ways that protect our environment
They say that if you want to maintain your commitment to exercise, you should think in terms of “getting fitter” rather than “getting fit.” The distinction is important. One is an ongoing process; the other an often-distant and ill-defined destination. Here and now, making progress is what really matters. Much the same principle applies to sustainability. We don’t yet live in a truly sustainable economy but we can all help to move things in the right direction. This applies to individuals and businesses, and the responsibility of manufacturing facilities like ours is especially crucial.
At Dudley Industries we are a sheet metal engineering company specialising in the design and manufacturing of stainless steel washroom dispensers. The performance of contract manufacturing services demands heat and power, heavy machinery and many material resources. Consequently, there’s potential for numerous environmental impacts, but that also means numerous opportunities to identify and implement improvements. Here we consider some of the steps we’ve taken in our journey towards sustainability, and some of the obstacles we’ve faced.
We start our journey by having a local procurement policy. Not everything can be sourced from within the region but road-miles are an important consideration in our purchasing and supply-chain decision making. Accordingly, eight of our key suppliers are based locally on the Fylde coast, five more in neighbouring Preston, and a further 11 elsewhere in Lancashire or the wider Northwest. They cover everything from raw materials to office supplies, from packaging to workwear.
Efficiency in Manufacturing
When planning production, our design team aim to maximise material usage and to minimise waste at every stage. There are obvious considerations, such as how cut-outs are arranged on a sheet, which need to be taken into account. This matters especially in bespoke sheet metal fabrication where the sheet arrangement is different for each new project. But efficiency-savings can be found almost anywhere.
Intelligent decisions about tools, processes and shift patterns can make an appreciable difference, such as performing laser cutting with modern fibre lasers, which significantly reduces the consumption of power. So too can simple changes to the working environment, for example, at Dudley Industries we have moved to 100% LED lighting throughout the site and this has yielded substantial power savings.
Waste-minimisation and process efficiency in metal work make important contributions to sustainability, but an even more significant step is to make something that lasts in the first place. Hence our specialism in stainless steel, and our determination to design products that are durable and robust. Removing the need for replacement is a crucial factor in reducing a product’s whole life-cycle impact.
One of the biggest challenges in our journey has been the waste arising from our different processes. Reducing it has taken careful scrutiny of these many operations, together with new investment and collaboration with our waste contractor and other supply-chain partners. Happily, these collective efforts have been successful; all our general and metal waste is now fully recycled.
Some areas presented bigger challenges than others. Dust and debris is an inevitable by-product of processes such as grinding and linishing, so to prevent the escape of airborne particles, we introduced a high-quality wet filter-extraction system. The captured metal particles are now separated out for recycling.
The only waste that currently goes to landfill is waste powder paint from the powder coating process, because no practical recycling options currently exist. This is now a priority for investigation.
When a product does eventually need to be replaced, stainless steel affords a useful benefit: it’s a material that can be endlessly recycled without losing its properties. True, the recycling process demands energy, but it requires much less than it does to extract virgin materials to replace it. It’s estimated that around 60% of all the stainless steel currently is use is recycled material. The figure could be higher, except for the fact that there isn't enough old stainless steel to meet present demand. Nevertheless, the percentage is expected to grow year-by-year.
Other sustainability improvements stem from merely choosing to do things differently. For example: we have removed plastic packaging across the entire product range and replaced it with paper and card. They still offer effective protection but can be fully and easily recycled.
Similarly, we are beginning to phase in the use of electric vehicles. This will incrementally improve sustainability in areas outside of production.
More generally, a policy of continuous improvement is important, and part of this requires being open to good ideas from staff at all levels. The people closest to daily operations are often best-placed to see where things might be improved, so openness and encouragement are also valuable qualities that speed progress towards sustainability.
If you want to learn more about Dudley Industries' custom metal fabrication process and the steps we take to protect the environment, get in touch with our team.