Environmental Controls: Clean, Green Manufacturing
EISENMANN Corp., a kiln manufacturer in northwest suburban Chicago, is one such company. It recently completed its ISO 14001 pre-assessment audit with very satisfactory marks and was expected to complete its registration audit in January. The firm’s quality and environmental assurance manager, John Swartz, said that EISENMANN had always complied with the 14001 standards, but hadn’t committed the time or staff involvement to document its compliance. “The company has a long-standing history of being a corporate maverick on environmental issues,” Swartz said. “EISENMANN created state-of-the-art manufacturing processes to recapture and recycle natural resources long before it was in vogue.”
The movement to achieve certification was hastened when the Big Three automakers began telling suppliers: “Follow our lead—get 14001 certified.”
“Ford is really taking the big step forward,” said Swartz. “They are mandating that all of their tier-one suppliers become registered to 14001. Fortunately for us, we’re compliant to the standard. We’ve established a long-standing industry record of operating a clean and green facility. We didn’t have to make any investments to be environmentally responsible. We simply needed to invest the time to put all our documentation together.”
Swartz said that EISENMANN chose a team approach to certification, with members as varied as the sales and engineering staff to sheet metal workers participating in the program. Bringing in consultants to take on the task was an option, but Swartz said that EISENMANN recognized in the early stages the value of training and staff involvement. “It’s got to be a team effort. By obtaining the requisite training, helping document our processes and seeing up close how EISENMANN’s operations impact the environment, the employees have begun to understand the goals we’re trying to achieve.” He added, “They’re signing onto ISO 14001, and understanding what it takes to meet those goals day in and day out.”
Taking Advantage of TeamworkDepending on a firm’s corporate personality, the ISO documentation model may be viewed as a blessing or a curse. The standard has no forms to fill out or multiple-choice questions to answer. Each establishment is given the freedom to “do its own thing.”
“I’m glad they do that,” said Swartz. “It gives us the opportunity to use our own forms, put them into a document control system, and pull them out for routine monitoring purposes.” For companies unfamiliar with the ISO process, developing an effective strategy can be a strain on the company’s resources. However, Swartz noted that the Internet is an excellent resource for generating ideas for new form development from individuals or entities interested in sharing their handiwork.
In EISENMANN’s case, the cross-functional team charged with ISO documentation charted its own course for fulfilling its mission. Swartz says the first step was to nail down the company’s environmental policy statement. “The policy publicly states the company’s position on the environment and sets the overall expectations of its environmental program,” Swartz said.
First, the team performed an affinity analysis, which Swartz described as a controlled, silent brainstorming session. Participants were asked the wide open question: “How does EISENMANN U.S. impact the environment?” Team members had five minutes to write their ideas—in silence—on post-it notes, one idea per note. (According to Swartz, an open forum at this juncture might have stifled creativity and an exchange of ideas.)
The responses were posted on a board and transformed into a cause-and-effect diagram. “That picture came out well,” concluded Swartz. “It became the basis of our environmental aspects, the things we needed to assess—mainly, how we impact the environment, good or bad.”
Each of the environmental aspects was then rated, based on the probability that an aspect might actually occur and the consequence of its occurrence. “Two columns are used, one for the probability and the other for the consequences of the particular aspect being studied,” Swartz said. “For probability, we might have five different areas we want to discuss or check, such as containment, human control, monitoring, frequency of incidents, and complaints. Under consequences, we might discuss five more: cost, damage, quantity, legal implications and community interest.”
The team gave numerical grades of high (3), medium (2) and low (1) to each area. Multiplying the sum of both columns provided the significance number for the aspect.
The EISENMANN team then moved on to assigning numbers rating the significance of each aspect. “Significant aspects could be recycling, wastewater treatment or power usage, “ explained Swartz. “As we tallied up the grades, we broke down the totals into four ranges—from a low of 25 to a maximum of 225.”
An area that EISENMANN found to be of high significance with a score of 180 was the large quantity of excess packing material used when shipping a job. "When we looked at volume of packaging waste we generate when shipping a piece of equipment, we were surprised by the volume of waste material we were generating," Swartz said. "We found we had a high probability of incidents where we used too much packing material. The consequences were a large cost to purchase this material, then we repeated that cost by consuming a lot of our dumpster space every week with the scrap material. Based on this survey, our shop manager has begun looking at ways he can retrain our employees to use less packaging material. We are also investigating whether our waste hauler will give us a separate dumpster for recycling this waste."
Other aspects EISENMANN looked at were less significant, with oil waste scoring 100, refrigerant leaks in the HVAC system scoring a moderate 58, and waste paper disposal scoring a relatively low 30.
Setting Objectives and TargetsOnce the team identified the most significant items on its list, it then set its priorities and moved ahead with writing objectives and targets. Questions posed at this stage included:
- What are the environmental impacts the company wants to reduce?
- How will we do it?
- How do we itemize them?
- What steps are necessary?
- How will that take place?
- Who’s on the team?
- Who’s responsible for which tasks?
- What’s our target completion date?
- Who will measure and monitor progress?
- How do we document corrective action?
- When and how will we reassess our targets?
- Are our goals realistic and achievable?
As more automotive manufacturers and other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) begin requiring their suppliers to become ISO 14001 certified, a number of advanced ceramic manufacturers will find themselves facing a similar situation. However, according to Chris Pilko, a sales engineer at EISENMANN who works closely with the ceramic industry, the process is typically easy, and the benefits are well worth the effort. “Most companies are already doing enough to be ISO 14001 certified,” he said. “They’re already recycling as much as they can—material that used to go to a landfill is now being sold to someone else who will use it as grog. But by going through the process of applying for and achieving ISO 14001 certification, companies can often find ways to reduce their waste even further and become more efficient in their manufacturing operations, thereby benefiting the bottom line.”
Increasing Environmental AwarenessIn honor of the EISENMANN team’s efforts and as a reminder of the firm’s environmental commitment, a huge banner welcomes visitors to its facility and another hangs in its 110,000-square-foot plant. Both banners read: “We Practice Environmental CPR.” The acronym stands for Conserving natural resources, Preventing pollution and Recycling.
John Swartz said it’s an effective reminder. “When we hung up that banner in the shop, it drove home the point of why we’re asking employees to shut off the machines when they’re finished, to recycle any scrap steel, toss their coffee cups and soft drink cans in the recycle bins. It also spurred other staffers to become more involved in our paper and package recycling efforts.”
The banner is also symbolic of EISENMANN’s latest effort to persuade its hundreds of North American suppliers to register for ISO 14001. A recent letter encourages suppliers “to develop and implement their own program of environmental preservation.”
Swartz denies it’s a case of corporate strong-arming. “I would venture to guess the majority of our suppliers are aware of ISO 14001. They may not be registered, but they may be compliant. They just haven’t registered for the shingle. Will this scare them? No, I don’t think so.
“We’re sending out a message to our suppliers: ‘Jump in, the water’s fine. It doesn’t hurt. You’re doing a good thing by becoming more aware of your surroundings. It’s really not all that hard.’”
Swartz said half the battle is overcoming an outdated mind set. “We’re not tree-huggers. We are just taking care of our little place on earth, taking care of the people who work in and around our facility, and being good neighbors. If, in the end, our customers and other industries see us as an environmental steward, that’s just an added bonus.”