Journey to a Greener Radix Wire
Posted Mar 03, 2014
In today’s world of environmental responsibility, it is important to seek a “greener”
manufacturing facility. This is achieved through having a smaller carbon footprint, cleaner air emissions,
an awareness of a healthy working environment, and products with environmentally safe materials for
customers. Pursuing a green initiative does not have to have a detrimental effect on the business’
bottom line, and if done right; the impact can be very positive.
Starting in the 2001, a focused effort was made to address agency compliance, eliminate HAPs, reduce air emissions of OC’s, and address any possible health aspects concerning chemical exposure. That journey was a long, but very satisfying experience, not without challenges and crisis along the way. To address the issues, a detailed understanding of clean air regulations, the EPA permitting process, the products being manufactured and the chemicals associated with the products was essential. In other words, this requires a team of qualified people. The results were impressive as seen in the following chart of air emissions over the last 13 years.
Achieving the emission reductions illustrated took place by concurrent improvements in product design, chemical selections (coatings), and air emissions re‐permitting. The improvements relative to the chemical coatings took the form of three different methodologies: 1) chemical coating elimination, 2) chemical coating reformulation, and 3) chemical coating change to a non‐solvent based material. Elimination of hazardous air pollutants (HAP) from our processes was a first step. Eliminating suspected HAP chemicals was realized by eliminating the liquid coatings that contained them in our processes. The engineering team was challenged to provide the same performance characteristics that our customers expected, while eliminating all possible HAPs. Our engineers were successful in changing the designs using specialized tape products that provided the same level of performance as the liquid coatings, but eliminated the risk of any HAPs.
Significant reductions in organic chemical emissions were a priority, as well. Progress was realized by the reformulation of most of the product coatings to eliminate select organic solvents. By elimination of photo‐chemically reactive chemicals and using exempt solvents, and also the reformulation of our wire coatings to a water‐based composition, Radix was able to eliminate a significant amount of volatile organic compounds. The challenges associated with this water based solution involve the slower drying times of non‐solvent based coatings, which can translate to a reduction in throughput. Process design has been used to mitigate some of the reduction in throughput for these types of coatings.
Additional reductions in organic chemical emissions were realized by improvements and reductions in the coating processes employed by Radix Wire in the manufacture of its products. The reduction in coating applicators coupled with the applicator design which reduced evaporation of volatile compounds, translated to a very measurable reduction in applied coating volume, and hence, the reduction in organic compounds. This type of change required agency permit revisions with the Ohio EPA, as it involved a change in emission units.
Through this process Radix was able to consolidate a number of required air emission permits. Over the last 13 years, through the re‐permitting process the total number of air emissions permits was reduced from 12 to 2. In addition, these coatings and material improvements would not have been possible without a strong partnership between our coating suppliers and Radix.
As with other improvements involving product design changes, customer acceptance of the new product is essential. Customer acceptance of the change is realized when the product displays improved performance characteristics for the customers applications. This is essential for making this type of change. Team members essential for in this effort include Radix Wire Product Engineers, Product Engineers, and Sales Associates.
Reducing air emissions has been a positive experience at Radix Wire. Notwithstanding the aspects of good environmental stewardship, there are other positive aspects to emission reductions. These are:
1) Improved product quality and performance – Through the initiative of reducing or eliminating solvents, product design changes are examined and evaluated in terms of the properties valued by our customers. Development of the product is therefore directed in such a manner that the product change produces a benefit internally (the reduction of OC emissions) as well as externally (improved performance in customer applications). A win/win situation.
2) Reduction in non‐value added costs – The requirements of Air Emissions permitting including daily record‐keeping, fees, monthly and annual reports, administration and consultant resources, are all non‐value added costs which largely remain hidden. Eliminating the need for these expenses, or finding ways to mitigate them play an important role in reducing these expenses.
3) Improved working environment – By eliminating HAPs and reducing the employee’s possible exposure to various chemicals, coupled with Hazardous Material training and Safety training a cleaner, healthier environment is created for employees.
4) Safety diligence – When chemical content is actively under scrutiny, agency compliance becomes second nature. This applies not only to the EPA, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but also to product compliance with other agencies such as Reach and RoHS.
At the end of the day, getting greener has been a positive experience for Radix Wire, and also for our customers and neighbors.