Chromalox Shares Best Practices for Sustainability in Manufacturing
Editor's Note: TechBuzz encourages members of Utah's tech community to share insights on promising management practices and unusual innovations. In October 2023, TechBuzz covered the expansion of Chromalox's manufacturing plant in North Ogden. We noted both the company's deep collaboration with Weber County and its commitment to sustainable manufacturing processes. We introduce Craig Bushey, Electric Thermal Solutions Director, covering four sister-companies: Chromalox, Thermcoax, Durex, and Vulcanic. In his guest-authored article below, Bushey shares the company's advanced deployment of sustainable manufacturing approaches, as highlighted in their state-of-the art facility in North Ogden.
A Sustainable Path Forward in Manufacturing – A How-To-Guide on How to Begin
By Craig Bushey
Almost all companies are grappling with environmental challenges, and many are taking proactive steps to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a greener, more sustainable future. The independent group Net Zero Tracker has found that half of the world’s largest publicly listed companies have a net zero target. In the past 16 months, the number of companies with these aims has risen 40%.
As one of Utah’s longest standing manufacturers, we are heartened to see Utah companies and government agencies are joining in those efforts. Salt Lake City, Park City, Moab and most recently, West Valley City, have set a net zero goal by 2030. Utah ranked 25th nationwide in 2020 for clean energy jobs including energy efficiency and solar and employing more than 41,000 Utahns.
Our company, Chromalox (a division of the Pittsburgh-based Electric Thermal Solutions (ETS) Business of Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc, in the UK), manufactures advanced thermal solutions that produce zero emissions when producing heat in many forms. From our own efforts, we are also compelled, based on our own goals, to create products and solutions that help other businesses decarbonize their operations, as we also look inward and take our own proactive steps toward a greener tomorrow. We began that process in earnest in 2021 through our plans to be a global leader in industrial sustainability.
Based on that experience, we offer a set of guidelines for other companies interested in integrating sustainability into their operations as well, as follows:
1. Assess and Address Working Conditions
Begin your sustainability journey by assessing the working conditions within your company. When I first started at Chromalox in 2021, I recognized the adverse impact of extreme temperatures on employee well-being and job retention. With temperatures soaring to 101 degrees on the shop floor, the company faced a high turnover rate and an urgent need for change. It is valuable to identify and address immediate challenges first, as these form the foundation for a broader sustainable strategy. It was critical we improved the working condition with a high efficiency, low emission solution.
2. Innovate Solutions for Comfort and Decarbonization
Champion innovative solutions that align with both employee well-being and environmental sustainability.
We began by finding a high-efficiency, low-carbon cooling solution that became the linchpin of Chromalox's sustainability journey. Recognizing that existing conditions were not just uncomfortable but potentially unsafe, we worked together on a proposal for a geothermal ground-source heat pump system. The initiative not only addressed the immediate need for air conditioning but also provided a zero-emissions, highly efficient heating solution that laid the groundwork for a broader, sustainable business strategy.
3. Innovate Solutions for Manufacturing Processes
Once we decided on a path for the facility’s environmental comfort, we focused on the next biggest fossil fuel consumer and CO2 producer at the site. Chromalox's “Project Calor” is focused on modernizing our annealing furnace processes and eliminating fossil fuels and utilizing other less impactful process gases. We then focused on our next biggest energy consumer, process compressed air. We formed a plan to optimize the critical air compressor system by replacing older, inefficient units, fixing more than 100 leaks in our compressor air system, updating piping layouts and reducing the system pressure to the lowest necessary. The leaks represented three percent of our energy use, equating to nearly 200,000 kilowatt hours or enough energy for nearly 20 homes for a full year.
Seek solutions that deliver comfort and efficiency while minimizing environmental impact.
4. Temporary Measures with Long-Term Vision
When addressing immediate challenges, don’t shy away from temporary measures that align with sustainability goals. Chromalox’s use of rented AC units showcased a commitment to employee well-being while demonstrating that sustainability can be seamlessly integrated into pragmatic business decisions.
5. Multifaceted Approach to Sustainability
Extend your commitment beyond temperature control. Identify and address root causes of environmental challenges. A holistic view ensures sustainable practices are embedded in every aspect of your operations.
Here are some examples underway with Chromalox’s efforts, which align with the “One Planet” Initiative of our parent organization, Spirax-Sarco:
- Eliminating solvent-based paints to reduce air emissions. The company will be investing nearly $1 million on a paint booth operation that will utilize water-based paints and coating. The painting now has a shorter cure time and uses less energy.
- Reducing water consumption by 10%. Creating a rainwater collection system that will be used in our cooling system, while upgrading all sanitary fixtures within the building.
- Spending nearly $200,000 to restore and add local biodiversity at the Ogden Nature Preserve that replaced plants and vegetation lost during our expansion.
- Increasing recycling while eliminating waste to landfill by 2025. This requires more recycling by the local employees and finding the right vendors to be recycling partners and converting waste to energy.
- Changing packaging so it is 100% recyclable.
- Investing in a shredder so cardboard boxes can be used for packing instead of non-recycled material that is hard to dispose or reuse.
- Repurposing wood pallets and wood for making new shipping boxes.
- Investing in green energy certificates to support more investment in local renewable energy capabilities on our journey to reach net zero goals.
- Reusing mop water.
- Look for opportunities to adopt a multifaceted approach to sustainability. All these steps can be part of your aim to be a good corporate citizen.
6. Community Engagement as a Core Value
Embed community engagement as a core value. Chromalox’s collaboration with local institutions like Weber State University and strategic partnerships showcases a commitment to creating a positive impact beyond operational boundaries. Engage in volunteering opportunities, make donations and build partnerships that align with your company’s sustainability goals.
7. Employee Engagement as a Catalyst
Foster employee engagement by making sustainability a shared goal. Chromalox’s commitment to creating a better working environment, coupled with tangible actions like job creation and community involvement, has enhanced employee morale and retention. Position sustainability as a shared commitment for a better future.
Conclusion: Your Sustainable Future Awaits
Chromalox’s journey illuminates a strategic imperative rather than an idealistic goal. By addressing immediate challenges, investing in innovative solutions and fostering a culture of responsibility, Chromalox provides a roadmap for meaningful and impactful change. As companies worldwide navigate the urgent need for environmental stewardship, Chromalox’s story serves as a guide for those ready to embrace a sustainable future.
TechBuzz welcomes guest-author, Craig Bushey, Electric Thermal Solutions Director covering four sister-companies: Chromalox, Thermcoax, Durex, and Vulcanic. Bushey is committed to strong environmental compliance and sustainability practices. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Resource Management, from the Pennsylvania State University. In his free time he enjoys spending time with family and in the outdoors, and also serves as a volunteer for the National Ski Patrol.