Manufacturing News

Increasing emphasis on water management

WITH the cost of water set to rise significantly, businesses have a further incentive to identify opportunities to save water and take action to implement water reduction programs.

Numerous opportunities exist in manufacturing industry to use water more efficiently, and often action to save water does not require big capital expenditure or the development and application of new technology.

Sydney-based manufacturer of personal care products and detergents, Albright and Wilson, has managed to cut water use by 40% over two years at its Wetherill Park facility, which employs around 60 people. According to the company’s health, safety and environment manager, Michael Leszczynski, a key driver in this achievement is the commitment of managers and the strong involvement of staff.

“The first step was to conduct a water efficiency audit, with the assistance of Sydney Water’s EDC Business Program, which included installing sub-meters in various parts of the plant to monitor water usage. This was followed by a program to improve the quality of effluent from the manufacturing processes,” he told Manufacturers Monthly.

“The audit extended to all areas of the Wetherill Park site and included the administration building where any leaks have been rectified.”

Leszczynski says it is important to really understand where most of the water is being consumed, and where water losses are occurring.

“The sub-meters have also enabled us to identify and trace the cause of spikes in water usage. For example, one cause was traced to the use of water in cooling towers, which were subsequently adjusted to the correct setting.

“A major initiative was the introduction of a dry floor policy in the production area. Previously, floors were hosed clean and spilled product was hosed into drains, which resulted in high contaminant levels in wastewater.

“Also, our blenders were formerly washed after each product run, but washing is now minimised by running products with compatible ingredients one after the other.

“The aim is to save water and protect the environment, so we are doing as much as possible to improve the quality of wastewater and seek opportunities for recycling.

“By reducing our water usage, we are also reducing the amount of wastewater generated which in turn means environmental benefits as well as cost savings.

“Water consumption, product loss and effluent quality are monitored and reported each month, and an important factor in the success of the entire program is staff involvement at all levels,” Leszczynski said.

Big savings possible

In the Melbourne suburb of Mulgrave, Nestle has cut water usage at its ice-cream factory by 22% since the start of this year.

Factory manager, Peter Millar, says the savings have been achieved using a variety of initiatives — but primarily by looking at the use of hoses on the factory floor that are used to clean equipment and clean-down spillage from product. “We’ve reduced the diameter of the hoses and put restrictors on them, as well as guns on the end of the hoses to reduce water usage,” Millar said.

“In addition, we have commenced recycling water through our rinse tanks on the moulded ice-cream line, and waterless urinals have been installed in the men’s toilets.

“Within the next month, the Mulgrave site will begin recycling water that goes through a homogeniser in the mix plant, and later in the year water-efficient foaming or cleaning stations will be installed on all the lines.

“Recycling the water in the homogeniser will save around 15 megalitres of water a year — that’s equivalent to approximately one month’s water consumption for the whole Mulgrave site.

“For many years Nestle has set water reduction targets to help conserve water at its various sites. This year Mulgrave’s water reduction target was 5% – a figure the site has already well and truly surpassed.”

There are about 500 Nestle workers at Mulgrave and Millar says they have embraced the company’s efforts to save water.

“Those who have a real environmental conscience are quite zealous about encouraging the people around them to save water. But I think the agenda for saving water has been set externally in many ways.

“Saving water requires a cultural change and things like the drought and the stories in the media about water shortages have made people realise that water is precious.

“People who work at Mulgrave were already thinking about ways of saving water outside of work. We’ve taken advantage of their growing awareness of the need to conserve water and we’ve worked with it.

“The company has an active Environmental Committee that spends time focusing on identification of new water saving ideas,” Millar said.

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