Caronlab is a Geelong-based manufacturer and distributor of depilatory wax and imports a range of associated products. Caronlab products are sold throughout Australia and exported to the USA, Europe and Asia. Their products are known for their highly consistent quality and effectiveness.
In operation for over 25 years, CaronLab is one of 35 Geelong-based businesses who took part in GreenLight, a holistic 12-month materials and resource efficiency program. The program took a collaborative industry network approach, and was delivered by ECO2Sys in partnership with Geelong Manufacturing Council, City of Greater Geelong and Barwon Waste during 2013–14 and funded through the Beyond Waste Fund.
The GreenLight program guides participating businesses as they work through best practice strategies to avoid and reduce operational waste, including:
- setting a baseline using the GreenLight's Sustainability Diagnostic Tool (SDT) developed by ECO2Sys
- determining a future vision for their business and an implementation plan of key strategies and actions to achieve it
- building a prioritised business case for resource efficiency projects (including cost, savings, payback period) and getting started
- re-analysing their businesses using the SDT to review their progress.
Energy, especially electricity, is a significant cost to Caronlab and the company was keen to identify the major users of energy within their business and to look for ways to improve energy consumption. Caronlab's push to achieve the best possible level of operating efficiency in the short term and, more importantly the baseline it would reveal, was a critical first step towards the company evaluating alternative renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar-generated power in the future.
To get started, Caronlab engaged a consultant to work in consultation with staff from across their business – from production, to sales, to finance – to evaluate current equipment and practices and review whole-of-business energy usage.
What they achieved
Financial returns discovered by Geelong depilatory wax manufacturer Caronlab include ongoing expenditure saved by replacing energy gobbling inefficient fridges and heaters. Already, Caronlab's annual electricity consumption is down by 3% and the company expects the benefits to continue to flow as soon as the lighting upgrade is completed.
From a total project cost of less than $5000 (including the cost of the energy audit), Caronlab has realised, or expects to realise, the following financial returns:
- annual electricity consumption reduced by 3%
- projected annual savings on projects implemented so far are expected to total $1,500
- further savings of between $6,000–10,000 pa once the lighting upgrade is complete
- further longer term savings possible by reviewing the compressed air system and operation of the HVAC system.
Caronlab expects the improvements to resource efficiency to directly impact their bottom line in the future, improve cash flow and make their business more profitable and financially sustainable. An added bonus from the audit process was the opportunity for Caronlab staff to venture outside of their areas of expertise and develop a greater understanding of different areas of the business.
What they learned
It was Caronlab's participation in GreenLight that allowed them to put their focus on sustainability – something the company had long been discussing but until now had been unable to give time or priority to.
The experience highlighted valuable lessons for the company to apply to future sustainability efforts, including the need to:
- continually question and challenge assumptions and accepted wisdom within the company to ensure opportunities are not missed
- use hard numbers to highlight potential savings and the impacts of changing business practices and / or equipment
- gain momentum by 'picking' the low hanging fruit and highlighting the successes.
Among the highlights of taking part in the GreenLight program, Caronlab singled out:
- exposure to wide ranging expertise and experience brought by people coming from different industries
- networking with people in a range of companies and government organisations the company would not usually encounter
- access to thought-provoking stories and information from a range of different guest presenters.
Some of the challenges Caronlab say they faced included:
- allocating time between workshops to reflect on the information presented and to review how those ideas and concepts might specifically relate to opportunities in our company
- maintaining focus to progress projects between Greenlight workshops, while still keeping up with day-to-day work.
For other businesses considering resource efficiency activities, Caronlab has the following advice:
- most businesses will have significant savings and improvement opportunities available, that are relatively easy to implement and require minimal capital and time to be invested
- establishing a baseline to measure future improvements allows gains to be measured and celebrated. This should then help to build momentum to continue to drive efficiencies
- be prepared to challenge pre-conceived ideas about issues and persist in the questioning of the status quo. Quite often a potential area of efficiency will have been investigated previously and the current practice was the best at the time
- continue to review and challenge to ensure new solutions are now available.
What they said
'The GreenLight program provided some impetus to get us started on efficiency projects, we had been discussing the lighting upgrade but had not allocated any time or priority to this. We now have a number of potential projects earmarked and a structure / methodology to ensure they get completed in a timely manner.'
It has given us the motivation to consider the improbable, such as the option of recovering waste wax (from salons); this could have an enormous financial benefit to our business.
Ben Spiller, Finance Manager – Caronlab Australia