Fletcher International Exports was selected this year’s Endeavour Awards winner for the Environmental Solution of the Year Award. Manufacturers’ Monthly looks at how the company is incorporating sustainability and efficiency into its processes.
For 30 years, Fletcher International Exports has operated a modern abattoir and rendering plant in Dubbo, New South Wales. The site requires a great deal of energy, using high volumes of natural gas to produce steam for processing and hot water.
The abattoir production floor runs for 50 hours a week at a minimum, producing high-quality boxed meat product that is exported globally. Additional processing in the rendering plant and fellmongery produces a diverse range of products, from fertiliser to sheepskin. All this production and process requires a large amount of energy in the form of steam, which is supplied by modern, efficient natural gas-fired packaged boilers.
“We have to consume a large amount of energy to meet our process demands, and we are dedicated throughout the business to ensure that we are as efficient as possible in using and harnessing the process energy,” explained Maddy Herbert, the environmental and sustainability officer at Fletcher’s.
Responding to the need to increase Fletcher’s energy efficiency and lower its overall gas consumption, the company’s managing director and founder, Roger Fletcher, decided to take advantage of the New South Wales government’s energy savings initiatives, which proved to be a real catalyst for action. The company embarked on a program of upgrades across its Dubbo facility, including an overhaul of the steam system, enabling the recovery of flash steam to use in other processes. The efficiency of the boilerhouse was improved and the steam distribution and condensate recovery loop was upgraded.
Fletcher’s steam engineering equipment and expertise partner was Spirax Sarco, a global leader in steam engineering, process control and energy recovery. “Fletcher had a real desire to upgrade their Dubbo plant to become a world-class, energy-efficient site,” said Craig McKnight, national sales manager at Spirax Sarco. “The engineering team was open to new ways of harnessing and reusing energy and they showed complete trust in allowing us to implement all our ideas and technologies. The results have been fantastic only because Fletcher fully embraced the energy saving ideas and implemented them.”
Following the adoption of these improvements, gas consumption at the Dubbo facility went down by over 23 per cent, saving an estimated 27,000 gigajoules of gas a year. Herbert said that this was approximately $45,000 in monthly savings for the company, or $540,000 a year.
“In addition to the energy savings, the boiler water consumption is expected to be reduced by 8 million litres a year – which is huge – and chemical use is being reduced by an extra $10,000-$15,000. And that’s great for the environment as well,” said Herbert.
Herbert said that the Fletcher family has always been passionate about the local community and has consistently strived to do the best thing by the environment. In fact, it was the positive environmental impact, she said, that prompted the company to adopt its new solutions.
“Obviously, the financial benefits are a great incentive, but the environmental benefits are what really made us want to change and to do better,” Herbert said.
“Manufacturing can get a bad rap in terms of the effect it has on the environment because people think of a big factory and they don’t necessarily think of a smart, clean, green business. So it’s really been a great way for us to educate both the community and our workers that they can be proud of our workplace.”
Herbert said it was important the company responded also to a mentality-shift in customers, which has seen them want to move their business to companies that are environmentally conscious.
“The younger generation want more from business, so we’re seeing companies shift towards more sustainable and socially responsible businesses whom they want to work with. So we’ve got to keep up with the times,” Herbert said. “And we’re extended that challenge to our competitors and other businesses to do what they can as well, because what’s good for the environment is good for everyone.”
Fletcher also operates another facility in Albany in Western Australia, where Herbert said the company was looking towards incorporating similar changes going forward. Along with these plans, Herbert said Fletcher is always on the lookout for new ways to improve its environmental sustainability. “One example of where we are different is that, while other companies are still really reliant on road freight, sending their containers by trucks, we have our own train which we use to transport our products to port,” Herbert said. “We’ve gone against the norm and have made a big investment because it is better – not just for the local road system, but more generally in terms of easing wider congestion and eliminating pollutants.”
Herbert, who accepted the Environmental Solution of the Year Award on behalf of Fletcher on the Endeavour Awards Night, said that the award had inspired the team to keep going with making improvements. “It was huge thing for us,” she said. “What it did for the team was immeasurable. To being able to go home and tell their kids and the wider community what they were doing to make their environment a better place was something that gave the team at Fletcher a great deal of pride.”