As a grown family business, PALFINGER has been engaged in the topic of sustainability for many years. It is viewed as an interdisciplinary matter that has been genuinely incorporated into the various areas of the company as a matter of course. Already for 2003/2004, the first sustainability report was published by PALFINGER. In March we started a four-part blog series in order to introduce our various sustainability fields: Responsible Employer, Fair Business, Eco-Efficiency in Production and Sustainable Products. The third blog post is dedicated to the theme of “Eco-efficiency in Production”.
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ECO-EFFICIENT PRODUCTION AT PALFINGER
Environmental protection is a high priority at PALFINGER. Besides quality and safety relevant criteria, the environment is also considered when it comes to our production and products. Accordingly, energy efficiency as well as climate protection throughout the production process are of relevance. We are aware of our ecological responsibility and have set ourselves the goal to continuously manage resources in an economically and efficiently way, to actively contribute to climate protection and to optimize the energy consumption on an ongoing basis.
Efficient use of raw materials
In production, PALFINGER uses raw materials such as steel and aluminum. Raw materials generally make about 9 percent of our total cost. Therefore, their efficient use is all the more essential for our economic success. PALFINGER’S products are mostly made of steel, aluminum is used in our tail lifts. In 2015, 82,818 tons of steel and 1,781 tons of aluminum were consumed in the production of our lifting solutions.
The reason why steel and aluminum account for such a high portion in the overall costs is due to the high energy intensity in their manufacturing, and respectively the associated development of greenhouse gases play a role. For these reasons alone, the efficient use is of great importance from an ecological and economic point of view. The energy consumed for producing steel and the emissions generated during the process exceed by far those caused directly at PALFINGER.
We make every effort to continuously optimize the waste cuttings and rejects in order to reduce the amount of steel scrap. Waste cuttings are produced exclusively at production plants, a further optimization is only possible in a minimal way.
In our manufacturing process the following hazardous wastes are produced: waste from paint shops, electroplating sludge, hydraulic oil, as well as lubricants and coolants. In recent years, we have experienced an increase in the amount of hazardous wastes. This was only partially due to the expansion of our production. The crucial factor is that PALFINGER also increased the degree of value added. Therefore, the hazardous waste has risen disproportionately compared to the consolidated revenue. Thus, the goal of an annual reduction of 1.8 percentage points could not be reached unfortunately.
Meanwhile, water-based paints can be used for almost all product applications. This is a good alternative to solvent-based paints, even though they usually involve additional costs. Since 2014, we have included ecological minimum standards relating to the tendering for painting. Whenever a new investment is made, the plants are examined to determine whether they are designed for the use of water-based paints and, if necessary, adaption measures are taken.
PALFINGER is a metal processing company and thus not part of the energy-intensive industry. Nevertheless, the improvement of our energy balance is a constant companion in the ongoing production optimization. 2015 the energy costs of the PALFINGER Group amounted of 6.7 million EUR, the total energy consumption rose to 165 million kWh. Reasons for this were the addition of new sites and the increase in production. In 2014 we have set the goal to achieve an annual improvement in our energy efficiency by 1.8 percentage points. The PALFINGER energy efficiency index shows how the ratio of energy consumption per revenue improved over the years. In 2015, our defined goal was surpassed multiply by 4.25 percentage points. The increase in energy efficiency basically has three causes: 1. Better utilization of our plants, 2. Energy saving measures and 3. Lower heating demand by a relatively warm winter in Europe and North America.
Climate protection is another issue with which we deal with in the sustainability field “Eco-efficiency in Production”. We analyze the climate-relevant emissions that are caused by our own energy consumption. This means that all emissions of our plants from electricity, natural gas, diesel, petrol, LPG, butane, propane and other energy sources are included. All in all, approximately 66,590 tons of CO2 equivalents were produced from PALFINGER in 2015. Last year, the climate-impacting emissions rose more strongly than the total energy consumption. This was mainly due to the energy supply of the acquired Russian sites. In proportion to revenue, greenhouse gas emissions improved by 2.1 percentage points.
The greenhouse gas emissions presented here are caused by the energy consumption during the production at our plants. But they obviously only account for a small portion of the total emissions caused. Emissions in the upstream supply chain have a much stronger impact, particularly when it comes to steel. For us, the efficient use of raw materials from an environmental perspective, is an important contribution to sustainable development. It may be assumed that the CO2 emissions caused when using PALFINGER products are also multiple times higher than those emissions caused by our plants. However, due to the variety of PALFINGER products and their various possible applications, no quantitative assessment of climate impacts during their usage can be made.
Environmental and energy management
In 2015 we introduced an environmental guideline, which defines uniform standards and now guarantees that all production, assembly and distribution sites have established a comprehensive environmental management. The guideline regulates the following areas: energy, waste, water, environmental law, emergency preparedness and response, as well as environmental-related training and communication. Furthermore, the process includes the following: the collection of environmental data, the evaluation of performance, the creation of local environmental programs and the monitoring of the implementation of measures.
Are you interested to find out more? Then have a look into our Annual Integrated Report. Starting at page 89, you can learn more about PALFINGER’S “Eco-efficiency in Production”.