Sustainability Means Making ‘Greener’ Products in ‘Greener’ Ways

Posted by Tom McDevitt on Nov 29, 2016 8:52:15 AM

This article was originally published in a Sustainability publication by Berks Nature, the leading agent for the conservation of the environment in Berks County.

Author: Scot Case, Strategy Consultant, Springboard International

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The Rose Corporation is a Reading-based custom steel manufacturing company specializing in custom-engineered equipment. Some of the projects that have brought it international recognition include manufacturing the largest components of Disney World’s Mission Space ride at Epcot, a 1.4-million-pound runway testing machine for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and components for construction of New York City’s Freedom Tower at the World Trade Center site.

It also makes critical components for air pollution control equipment. One of its largest customers, representing about one-third of the company’s revenue, is a German company that designs and sells regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs).

RTOs remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and other hazardous air pollutants from factory emissions in order to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other international air pollution requirements. RTOs are common at automobile and automobile parts factories, printing and paper mills, and any factory with large-scale painting operations or processes that require a lot of glues and adhesives.

The Rose Corporation makes other “green” products too, including components for large wind turbines to generate “green” electricity and cogeneration equipment, another “green” technology that allows power plants like those found in office parks, college campuses, and hospitals to generate both electricity and heat simultaneously.

In addition to manufacturing “green” products, The Rose Corporation also works to improve its own environmental performance. It has, for example, significantly reduced its own VOC emissions from its painting operation by switching to lower VOC paints and coatings. Rather than installing expensive pollution control equipment, the company found that it could achieve the same high-quality results in its painting operations by switching from solvent-based paints and coatings to water-based paints and coatings. This approach is also better for the health and safety of its employees. “Our solution made both EPA and OSHA [U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Agency] and our CFO [Chief Financial Officer] happy,” smiled Tom McDevitt, an executive with The Rose Corporation.

The Rose Corporation’s expertise with low VOC paints and coatings is now an important differentiator in the marketplace. It helps them retain existing and win new customers because it allows them to tell their sustainability story and to help their customers “go green.”

When customers ask for a specific paint that doesn’t meet The Rose Corporation’s low-VOC standards, the company explains the benefits of low VOC to the customer. Most customers elect to switch to the low VOC alternative even when the cost is slightly higher.

Almost all of the sustainability efforts at The Rose Corporation are employee led. As part of its embrace of LEAN, a Japanese method for constantly seeking and implementing ways to improve the manufacturing process, The Rose Corporation employees are rewarded for finding ways to improve health and safety, reduce operational costs, and improve efficiency and productivity.

Over the past 11 years since The Rose Corporation adopted LEAN principles, they have completed more than 600 projects totaling 1,300 improvement impacts.  The cumulative financial benefits from the improvements helped the company survive the recent economic downturn.  

In addition to the financial benefits, many LEAN projects also produce environmental improvements including:

  • Replacing the mercury-vapor and halogen lights previously used to illuminate the shop floor with more energy-efficient T-6 lights. The more energy efficient lights cost less to operate and they improve the light quality on the shop floor, which improves worker safety. The new lights last longer before needing replacement, which reduces the labor costs and safety risks associated with changing the bulbs. They also use less electricity, which means less pollution is created to generate the electricity.
  • Redesigning the work flow for a series of processes to reduce the distance parts need to move through the five buildings on The Rose Corporation8th Street Reading campus. The redesigned process, which required rearranging equipment throughout the factory, reduced the distance parts traveled by 1.5-miles. The process is now contained within a single building. The redesigned work flow is more efficient, saving time and money. It also reduces wear and tear on and the pollution created by the diesel-powered tow motors used to move the parts from one part of the factory to another.
  • Redirecting excess heat from one of the manufacturing processes to safely heat an adjoining work space during the winter. This effort reduced the heating bill during the winter, saving money and reducing the associated pollution from the fuel source used to heat the space previously. It also earned the employees who proposed the idea The Rose Corporation’s infamous “Big Duh!” award for identifying an opportunity that others should have identified and implemented years earlier.
  • Purchasing more energy efficient welding equipment. The new equipment is 25 percent more efficient than the equipment it replaced, which means the upgrade quickly paid for itself.
  • Retrofitting and repurposing old truck trailers to move large projects throughout the factory. Rather than buying new equipment, employees bought used trailers that were no longer safe for use on the road. They modified the trailers for their own needs, saving money and finding an innovative way to recycle an old trailer.
  • Purchasing the overhead crane from owners of The Works when they were converting the old factory site into the restaurant and entertainment complex. The crane was disassembled, moved, repaired, and installed at The Rose Corporation. It is another example of creative reuse generating both financial savings and environmental benefits.

The sustainability efforts are also creating a new benefit. The Rose Corporation has noted that more and more of its prospective customers are asking potential suppliers about their own sustainability efforts. The Rose Corporation has a wonderful green story to tell in response and it is helping them win more customers and grow the business.

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