When Greg Monson took over as operations manager of Flambeau, Incorporated’s Baraboo injection molding operations, he embarked on a detailed examination of the operational costs of the business.
“What I saw is that we had a lot of electrical power consumption and it was impacting the bottom line,” Monson said.
In an effort to cut costs while providing a benefit to the environment at the same time, Flambeau got involved with the Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI), a statewide program launched in 2010 by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, which has since morphed into the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
With the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) serving as the lead, the program is able to introduce key resources to organizations in the areas of energy efficiency, logistics and transportation and project financing.
PSI, at its core, offers a business case for reducing a company’s impact on the environment.
“Businesses want to be good stewards of the environment, but they have to do it in a profitable manner,” said Ed Svojse, director of consulting services for the WMEP.
The Profitable Sustainability Initiative involves a three-step process that includes a diagnostic look at a company’s operations, a subsequent assessment, and then the implementation of any recommended steps.
This innovative approach helps small and midsize manufacturers focus on improvements in their entire operation that will result in the greatest return on investment while positively impacting the environment.
“A lot of times the business case for getting involved in an environmental sustainability program is based simply on waste reduction”, Svojse said.
“On the other hand, there’s another way to look at this and it’s probably more relevant for most businesses,” he said. “What we’re looking at is ‘How many units we can produce most efficiently?. So there’s an element of productivity as well as an element of good environment stewardship.”
Through the Profitable Sustainability Initiative, the WMEP has been able to achieve a positive impact of more than $130 million for its clients.
Founded in 1947 by W.R. Sauey, Flambeau manufactures plastic products for use in consumer items, as well as in industrial, medical and automotive applications. Flambeau has three plants in Baraboo, which is also home to its corporate headquarters. Other domestic plants are located in Indiana, Georgia, Ohio, California, Arizona and North Carolina. International facilities are located in England and Mexico with an office in China.
A team comprised of experts from the WMEP and Flambeau gathered to review opportunities through a diagnostic process to see what sustainability initiatives could be implemented.
Flambeau’s involvement in the Profitable Sustainability Initiative led the company to replace an air compressor, install more energy efficient lighting and purchase equipment to handle on site compacting of cardboard, according to Jerry Thiltgen, senior manufacturing specialists for the WMEP.
The new chiller system has resulted in a 60 percent reduction in energy costs for chilled water, Monson said. The cost of the chiller will be covered in a little more than seven years just in electrical energy savings alone, he added.
Butch Greenwood, operations manager for Flambeau’s blow-molding division, noted that Flambeau had been paying a firm to transport corrugated cardboard from its plant in Baraboo. “The installation of the on-site compactor has resulted in a cost savings of $1,700 per month,” he said.
Monson credited the WMEP with leading Flambeau through an environmental sustainability program that is having a positive effect on the company’s bottom line.
“WMEP gives a good blueprint to follow for any manufacturer to eliminate waste and improve operations,” Monson said.