Supported by Sustainability Victoria, Welvic Australia undertook a resource assessment followed by process and equipment upgrades which have resulted in significant energy and material cost savings, as well as improved customer satisfaction and greatly improved employee safety. One implemented action reduced oven energy use by 70% saving $4,500 per annum for an investment of just $3,800.
Welvic Australia produces and supplies vinyl-based, or PVC compounds used in the manufacture of a wide range of consumer and industrial goods from footwear, packaging and sporting equipment to component parts for the building and automotive industries.
The compounds are mixed on site at the company's headquarters in Deer Park, Victoria, from a blend of PVC and additives specifically formulated to meet individual customer requirements. The compounds are then fused into plastic form, granulated and bagged ready for delivery and eventual feeding into the extrusion and injection moulders which will form the customers' end products.
Welvic has a current manufacturing capacity of over 20,000 tonnes per annum and offers four lines of PVC compound and an additional line of dry blend powders for use by pipe and plastic film manufacturers.
Welvic Australia has largely focused on production for the Australian market, however the installation of additional manufacturing lines in 2007 has seen Welvic increasingly turning towards Asia as a source of future growth. Improving resource efficiency was a natural step to ensure that Welvic remained internationally competitive as it ventured forward into a global market.
Between 2013 and 2014 Welvic received a total of $74,900 through Sustainability Victoria's Smarter Resources Smarter Business (SRSB) program to conduct a resource assessment, implement recommended actions and assist in the purchase and installation of new capital equipment.
The materials and energy assessment, toward which Welvic received $15,000, considered the full spectrum of Welvic's production and delivery model to see where and how resource efficiency could be improved.
'The main area that we wanted to focus on was waste reduction in raw materials and energy, particularly methods in use to convey raw material and their impact on loss.
'We ended up with a comprehensive assessment report which serves as an action plan going forward,' said Operations Manager, Michael Starcevic.
Following the assessment, Welvic received a $3,000 implementation bonus grant through the SRSB program to implement several recommendations. It also received $6,400 to develop a business case for other recommendations. The business case included further investigations of materials and energy reduction opportunities and feasibility, and the financial costs and benefits.
Welvic then successfully applied for a $50,000 capital grant through the SRSB program toward the cost of materials handling improvements to two manufacturing lines that produce a variety of grades of PVC / Vinyl granules.
One of the 'low hanging fruit' energy opportunities identified in the assessment was upgrading insulation and operating procedures for large and small ovens. Welvic received a grant of $3,000 through the SRSB program toward the $3,800 cost of this action, which resulted in 70% reduction in electricity use in ovens saving $4,500 per year.
'One of my major concerns going into the assessment and which stood out as a major improvement opportunity going forward was the dust extraction and collection systems that result in bagging houses full of un-used powders which then unfortunately have to be disposed of as waste because these powders are mixed. I wanted to be able to keep raw materials separate, so wastes could be recovered and reintroduced into the process,' said Starcevic.
The resource assessment confirmed this, quantified potential savings and recommended how Welvic could upgrade the existing process of conveying raw materials so that unused PVC powders currently collected as waste could be recovered and reintroduced back into the production process instead of being discarded.
The capital grant has assisted Welvic to carry out the improvements to resin conveyancing and dust management systems, including new resin valve systems, automatic bulk loading, new program logic controls for cooling table and variable speed drives for blower fans. These improvements are expected to reduce materials use and waste by more than 95 tonnes annually, energy use by 80 mWh and save more than $80,000 per year, as well as reduce site dust improving the working conditions for employees.
To ensure uptake of the changes among staff and business operations, Welvic is taking its staff on the journey by charting monthly progress against business KPIs in the common room including Waste, Environment, Safety and Quality.
This project has not only helped us to dramatically improve our material and energy efficiency, it has also allowed us to assess the risk of waste during the production process, and resulted in improvements to employee safety. We also have increased quality of products resulting in greater customer satisfaction levels.
Michael Starcevic – Operations Manager
'Welvic will continue to look for opportunities to reduce manufacturing costs and improve sustainability. We plan to implement other recommendations from the resource assessment including manufacturing systems to further reduce process waste and rejects, reduce packaging and material movements by switching to bulk materials and upgrade plant lighting to LEDs.
'Welvic has other waste management initiatives to reduce waste to landfill either planned or already underway, including re-using pallets and recycling of material vessels and waste oils.
'Hopefully this project will assist Welvic to continuing to be a good corporate citizen and to remain competitive in the global market,' Starcevic said.
Welvic's resource assessment was conducted by ACXargle.