How P2 can change the state of green manufacturing

Part of the LE2 process is performing a feasibility study, as applicable, for the potential improvement proposed. Many small and medium-sized companies are risk-averse and the idea of running a feasibility study to quantify all benefits & solidify the technology prior to implementation or scale-up is a daunting task. But taking advantage of the expertise and testing facilities at the four universities partnering with NYSP2I (Clarkson University, University at Buffalo, Rochester Institute of Technology (where NYSP2I is housed) & Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) gives companies access to a wealth of knowledge and state-of-the-art laboratories for testing and feasibility analysis.

P2 -- Done Right -- Saves Money

One of the arguments that are often brought up against P2 is that going green will cost companies more green. Through first-hand experience, NYSP2I has worked with many New York State companies to incorporate best practices into their manufacturing processes that significantly reduced their costs and environmental footprint. In most cases, NYSP2I participated as an external resource to assist them in this task, acting primarily as a catalyst for the company by showing them areas of opportunity that they can continue to leverage and improve.

For example, a turbine blade manufacturer requested that NYSP2I assist the company in reducing the amount of hazardous acid waste generated by their manufacturing process. In 2007, the company generated 502 tons of acid waste from its titanium etching operations and spent over $400,000 on acid disposal, purchase of new acid, and generator fees. These expenses were expected to rise as acid prices and hazardous waste disposal costs increased.

Through the LE2 tool, NYSP2I performed a detailed literature review on the etch bath chemistry, followed by a feasibility study to change the acid boost method in the etch baths to extend the acid bath life.

The test protocol we developed and implemented in a selected etch tank on site led to an immediate reduction of hazardous waste by 47 percent. At full implementation of process improvements, an 86 percent reduction in hazardous waste is expected and 70 percent reduction in operating costs.

Approximately one-third of the overall savings resulted from a reduction in the generator fees. Process changes cost $15,000 (for new measurement equipment) and the ROI was one month; so in a short time, the process improvements were paid for and the economic benefit turned into profit for the company, all while significantly reducing their environmental footprint.

Another example of savings through pollution prevention is a company that fabricates and remanufactures spare parts for virtually all classes of military vehicles. The vehicle parts the company remanufacturers are very dirty, so it is critically important that efficient surface cleaning operations are used to clean the parts.

The company was experiencing difficulty cleaning parts both consistently and cost-effectively. In addition, the surface cleaning operations presented a significant bottleneck, dramatically slowing the company's expansion plans. NYSP2I was brought in to identify the specific sources of production bottlenecks and improve effectiveness and consistency of surface cleaning operations.

Again using the LE2 tool, we performed a detailed analysis on the remanufacturing process, collecting data on parts, cleaning processes and production capacity to identify cleaning requirements. We identified alternative surface cleaning technologies and performed a feasibility analysis by testing actual parts from the company through various surface-cleaning technologies in NYSP2I's Surface Cleaning Technology testbed at RIT.

The feasibility test showed us which technologies were both technically and economically feasible, while at the same time making manufacturing processes more efficient.

By implementing the improvements proposed by NYSP2I, the company was able to make rapid and significant annual savings, including more than:

  • $64,000 in operating costs
  • 32,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity
  • 1,400 gallons of water
  • 250 gallons of wastewater
  • 40 gallons of detergent
  • 5,700 pounds of non-hazardous waste and
  • 3,500 pounds of abrasive media

At times the biggest hindrance to implementation of P2 solutions is the requirement of major capital expenses in order to complete an improvement, such as when replacing large pieces of equipment. New York State has created many incentives that can offset the cost of capital and assist in meeting the appropriate company payback period, and other states and regions have done the same.

The bottom line is, P2 should be considered a critical component for companies looking to reduce waste costs while improving environment performance. Reducing waste at the source will lead to reductions in environmental footprint, which then has the potential of reducing negative impact on workers, communities and society. Technical resources such as NYSP2I can provide major support to the industrial community at any point during their path towards a more sustainable future, and we encourage you to get in touch so we can help you reach that future.

Manufacturing photo via Shutterstock. Inline images courtesy of the author.