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Every drop counts at Henkel’s chemical operations

Henkel reduced its manufacturing facility’s water consumption by a huge 46 per cent over three years as a result of simple, cost-effective methods, writes Sarah Falson.

Water management is an essential part of the process to reduce Australia’s industrial footprint on the country’s natural resources, and Victorian chemicals manufacturer Henkel is leading the charge with a successful — and simple — new water management project that has helped the business to dramatically reduce its water consumption over a short-term period.

Henkel’s head office at Kilsyth, Victoria, has reduced water consumption by a massive 46 per cent over three years under the WaterMAP (Water Management Action Plan) program — a Victorian government initiative implemented in 2007 and administered by water providers in the region.

The 46 per cent reduction in water consumption from 2006 to 2009 was achieved for less than $40,000, with all but three stages of the improvement process costing Henkel less than $2,000 each.

Identifying losses

Kilsyth manufacturing operations manager, Darren Faulbush, worked closely with the site’s water provider, Yarra Valley Water, to research and implement the water management project and also sought the help of Henkel’s 150 employees to come up with ideas to save water and also to ensure the process survives over a long period of time.

“[As manufacturing operations manager] I monitored the site’s water usage, initiated investigations into any abnormal usages, prepared charts for review by other senior managers and communicated the progress to the broader organisation. I also sought and received suggestions from employees on possible improvements and ensured that improvement activities were included in individuals’ goals and targets,” Faulbush told PACE.

The project included the installation of a new line-up of water meters, pumps, tanks and technologies to help the factory diagnose where it was using most of its water and ultimately lower consumption.

The site’s manufacturing operation, which produces adhesives, sealants and surface treatment products for the automotive, metals, aviation and packaging industries, uses a lot of water in its manufacturing process and found that it could treat natural rainwater to have the same effect.

“One of the initiatives we took was to install rainwater tanks, to collect rain water from the factory roof. This water is then cleaned (de-ionised) and used as feed water for our boiler and our manufacturing process,” said Faulbush.

“The water is pumped from the tank using a pump fitted with a Davey ‘Rainbank’. If the rainwater tank runs empty, the ‘Rainbank’ senses that and automatically switches from rainwater to town water, and back again when rainwater becomes available again. The combination of pump and Rainbank was purchased from Davey as a package unit.”

The system used to de-ionise rainwater to use for the Kilsyth factory’s manufacturing process uses a technique using de-ionising resin, according to Faulbush.

“The rainwater is de-ionised prior to feeding it to the site boiler or the manufacturing process. It is deionised by feeding it through canisters of de-ionising resin,” he said.

“When the resin has absorbed all of the impurities that it can, it is no longer able to produce de-ionised water of the quality we require, and the canisters need to be replaced.

“In the past, we would often find that the de-ionised water did not meet our quality requirements after we had loaded it, and we would have to dispose of the water.

“By measuring how much water has been processed by the resin, we are able to predict when the resin will need to be replaced, and we have been able to eliminate the need to dispose of about 100,000 litres of off-spec water per year.”

But it wasn’t just the use of natural rainwater that allowed Henkel’s Kilsyth manufacturing facility to lower its water consumption by 46 per cent over in such a short time-frame.

“We discovered that several pieces of equipment in our laboratory were connected to town water to provide cooling. By connecting these pieces of equipment to our site supply of recirculated chilled water, we were able to provide the cooling required to the laboratory equipment and save several hundred kilo-litres of water each year,” Faulbush said.

Systematic performance

The WaterMAP program that was such an instrumental part of Henkels’ project provided the systematic framework for identifying opportunities for reducing water consumption at the site. The government program assisted the Henkel team to develop and implement a logical, disciplined process for managing its water use.

The team at Henkel applied the continuous improvement PDCA cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Act). The WaterMAP program assisted in this by providing a structured approach to analysing water consumption on the site.

“Henkel Australia chose to be part of the program as Henkel has established global environmental improvement targets requiring all manufacturing sites to achieve reductions in water, energy and waste,” said Faulbuch.

“At Kilsyth, the highest priority was given to water due to the local impact of drought, and the comparative consumption of water versus energy.”

The WaterMAP program helped Henkel to be systematic about the way it tackled the project, setting-out a guideline for improvements which began with awareness of water being wasted, then moved to elimination of these processes taking place, then to re-use and recycling of current water used, and finally to finding alternative water supplies.

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