Category Archives: eco economics

Water Stewardship: An Untapped Industrial Opportunity

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), less than one percent of the total water on earth is fresh water available for human uses including drinking, transportation, heating and cooling, and industry. The balance of water is not readily available for human use because it is saline (ocean water), tied up in snow, ice, and glaciers, or in other mediums of storage such as water vapor.

There has been a lot of attention brought to water through the drought situation in California but the problem is worldwide. In February the Washington Post published an article: “A ‘megadrought’ will grip U.S. in the coming decades, NASA researchers say”. Scientific American  and National Geographic had similar articles.

Every manufactured product requires the use of water at some point of the production and delivery process. For example, some sources estimate that the production of one car requires the use of 39,000 gallons of water. In the U.S., industry uses more than 18.2 billion gallons of water per day. Industrial uses of water include fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, or transporting a product; incorporating water into a product; or for sanitation needs within manufacturing facilities. Some industry sectors are very water intensive including food, paper, chemicals, refined petroleum, and primary metal producers. But regardless of the end-use, or intensity of use, there is no question that water is a precious and valuable natural resource to industry.

In the U.S., industrial uses of water represent less than 8% of total water use. On a global scale, industrial use of water represents approximately 20% of total water use (70% of water is used in the agriculture sector globally). What’s interesting is that there is a very close relationship between industrial energy and water use. Understanding the ‘energy-water nexus’ is just one way industry can become more aware of its natural resource use, and discover solutions which can be implemented to achieve both energy and water related stewardship objectives.

The diagram below provides more insight into the energy-water nexus. The figure, prepared by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, illustrates the flows of energy consumed for Direct Water Services and Direct Steam Use in the Residential, Commercial, and Industrial (including Power) sectors. Ultimately, 58% of this primary energy is rejected as waste heat due to losses during electricity conversion and at end-use.

Energy+Water

Water use trends summarized by USGS show that as population has increased so has our use of water. What’s promising however is that industrial uses of water have shown declines in recent years.  In every industrial sector, there are leading examples of how industry is working to curtail its use of water, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it makes eco-economic sense.

HARBEC, Inc. has committed to be a water neutral manufacturing facility and company by the end of 2015. HARBEC is continuously striving to enhance the efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness of its operations. Bob Bechtold, President of HARBEC, states, “We are seriously committed to sustainable manufacturing. Like energy, water represents a critical requirement and input into our manufacturing processes. Water is integral to the performance, quality, price, and longevity of every component we make. As such, we place a premium value on water. We also know that water and energy have a very close, symbiotic relationship, particularly in manufacturing environments. As we advance our accountability and stewardship of water, in turn we also further our energy efficiency goals.”

The HARBEC example of industrial leadership for water stewardship is far from unique. Between 2008 and 2012, toy manufacturer Hasbro reduced its water use at their owned and operated facilities by 31 percent. And, to extend their commitment and leadership, Hasbro announced that by the end of 2015 it will partner with its China-based supplier facilities to establish annual water conservation action plans. In another example, between 2000 and 2013 Ford Motor Company reduced water use per vehicle manufactured from one of their Mexico-based facilities by 58%. Companies like Hasbro, Ford, and HARBEC are not reducing water use only in response to the growing global issue of water scarcity. These industrial leaders are taking action on water accountability because it results in lower operating costs, product margin improvement, and more competitive and efficient operations. Unilever, for example, estimates that their reduction of water from manufacturing operations has achieved cumulative supply chain cost avoidance of €26 million since 2008.

In addition to eco-economic water stewardship opportunities “inside the fence,” some companies have chosen to combine their efforts and resources to advocate for water stewardship as business imperative. The efforts of the Blue Business Council in California, represented by companies including Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing, Klean Kanteen, Clif Energy Bars, New Resource Bank and others, is reflective of how business and industry understand that the economic opportunity of water resides in the stewardship of this precious resource.

Opportunities for water stewardship (economic, environmental, innovation and societal impacts) are limitless. Just as leading companies are hard at work to reduce and conserve their water resources, others are continually innovating new products which ensure our standards of water purity and cleanliness are always achieved. Companies such as Pall Corporation, Aquatech, Pentair, and many others are developing innovative products to serve the clean water requirements of industry.

In short, water stewardship is big business. The question is, how much of it has been YOUR business?

Doing the right thing, every day

“Sustainable Manufacturing is defined as the creation of manufactured products that use processes which minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound.”

–         US Department of Commerce

Harbec is seriously committed to sustainable manufacturing. We regard eco-economic sustainability as absolutely critical to the future of our business, and we believe that our success in the pursuit of it will improve our competitive advantage by insuring our efficiency. For the past fifteen years we have been on a journey to identify, prioritize, implement, and validate eco-economic opportunities to minimize the environmental impact of our manufacturing operations while increasing the impact and value we provide our employees, customers, and community. Here is a brief timeline of our accomplishments:

HarbecTimeline1

During the past 15-years we have accomplished a great deal, however we always seek to do more.  With an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement, we strive to achieve environmental excellence in all that we do. Many years ago Harbec became ISO 14001 certified as part of our journey and recognition that being accountable to, and managing our environmental impacts made business sense. We recently expanded our commitment to understanding, measuring, and managing our impact, particularly with regard to our energy use. Harbec is now ISO 50001/SEP (Platinum) certified, an achievement that we are very proud of and which can be read about in this case study by our certification partner, DEKRA.

While taking action on our energy and environmental footprint and impacts result in tangible eco-economic value to our business, Harbec could not have achieved our results without a strong policy to guide our efforts. Harbec’s energy and environmental policies include:

ecoPolicy

By enacting an environmental and energy policy coupled with a disciplined pursuit of continuous improvement, we’ve been able to set ambitious goals, such as being a Carbon Neutral manufacturing company. In 2013 we achieved that goal. We also reaffirmed our commitment to energy and environmental excellence by signing on as a U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Better Plants Challenge Partner with the goal of achieving a 25% reduction in energy intensity by 2020. But our efforts have not stopped there. To achieve our goals we know that we have to innovate and be responsive to the marketplace. We are working to integrate two significant technology trends, as noted by Forbes Magazine, into a leading edge opportunity to create high value carbon conscious components by leveraging nature inspired design with the incredible potential of 3D additive manufacturing. In fact we recently announced a partnership with NYSERDA to Demonstrate the Transformative Potential of Energy-Efficient 3D Printing.

Our business philosophy is based on being an environmentally responsible company which provides sustainable manufacturing solutions to our customers and a rewarding workplace for our employees. We seek to inspire and enrich the growth and development for each individual employee and the company as a whole.  Our founder, Bob Bechtold, leads by example and shows others how the value of Eco-Economics can be a long-term business solution. To that end, our external focus to environmental awareness and education is another example of our commitment to sustainability. Examples include:

  • We actively participate in conferences and events where its knowledge of Carbon Neutral and Sustainable Manufacturing can be shared among peers. For example, Harbec will be a featured speaker at the Sustainable Manufacturing Conference in May 2014.
  • We regularly provides tours of its facility for K-12 students, college and university students and researchers, other manufacturers, government officials, entrepreneurs, and others. Tours include detailed orientation and description (as well as hands on visualization) of Harbec’s energy improvements, innovations, facilities and infrastructure.
  • We provide contributions to trade associations, trade journals and magazines, and other high visibility and niche publications which extends the transfer of technology and sharing of knowledge on sustainable manufacturing and potential for manufacturers to achieve carbon neutrality.
  • In the past month Harbec participated in the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) “Mission Green”. The RMSC event was an all age’s family fun event which provided practical hands-on exhibits and information to help make the world more green and safe. Harbec participated alongside one of our customers, KidWind, a designer and maker of renewable energy education curriculum, workshops, and hands-on experimentation tools and kits.

We believe that taking care of the environment is everyone’s responsibility. With the right balance of policy, management systems, technology, and commitment, business can be a force for social, economic, and environmental good. Thank you to all of the employees, customers, and partners that have and continue to believe in Harbec’s endless pursuit of eco-economic excellence. Happy Earth Day!