Lean2Sustain Blog

The Way Forward.

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Leveraging Technologies and Service Collaboration

I was energised and enthused by being made aware of the recent advances in technology in the Offshore Energy Industry at the recent EEEGR Offshore Wind Week at Orbis Energy in Lowestoft. It’s not just about technology advances, but overall collaboration.

The two technical advances are related to energy sharing between the gas field companies, and the wind energy suppliers. The first one is what they call “Gas to Wire”. This is where the gas provision companies, are not just sending gas onshore, but they are using gas fired generators on the platforms to produce electricity, thus taking advantage of the electrical network provided by the offshore wind turbines, and push power onshore. A similar improvement is happening in reverse. The wind generated power is now being used to power the gas compressors on the gas platforms. This may sound obvious, but it takes application, commitment and engineering. A great example of how industries which have competed traditionally can work in a symbiotic way. The collaboration goes even further. The different industries, have now worked with the field supply and logistics companies to develop a system where they can book and share supply ships, who are serving both turbines and platforms, ensuring non fully loaded trips are minimised.

All the above will improve supply efficiency, and reduce the overall carbon footprint  for the UK.

Extending the Life

 

There was a very interesting article in the June TCE (Chemical Engineer Magazine) around battery recycling particularly in respect to EV’s, in an article called “Back from the Dead”. A company called Aceleron, ar looking behind the science, data and technology for getting the most out of Li Ion cells used in EV batteries. The sad fact is that when these batteries come to the end of their commercial life,there is 70% of SOH (State of Health) or a measure of its performance remaining. Recycling and recovering LiIon batteries is not inexpensive, and in certain case the processing can cost in real terms, more tha using new Li, and starting from scratch. Herein lies the problem, because Li is a significant element in all electronic devices. As reported in the TCE a few years back, Li is one of the rapidly disappearing elements of the periodic table. Batteries that are used for motive power also have some of the harshest usage profiles as you would imagine versus those that are used for storing energy from renewable sources such as wind or solar power.

The Eu Battery directive and UK environmental laws. state that it is the OEM , that is responsible for disposal, which is clearly the right approach, and will force EV makers to think about efficiency, recycling in a way that is both good for the consumer, and with hopefully the lowest environmental footprint. According to Aceleron, the Nissan leaf is the most popular EV in the UK with sales of circa  40,000 as of Q4 2016. Nissan estimates that disposal could cost around £2,500, which equates to circa 15% of the purchase price, which obviously a huge headache. The reason for the high processing cost is the fact that there are so many  different materials present in the battery. The active materials are often powder coated onto the metal foil, which adds another level of complexity and difficulty. There are no recycling facilities currently in the UK, but a handful in Belgium, Germany and France. Furthermore, the batteries are classed as hazardous waste.

Aceleron have developed a testing regime, that includes physical inspection, and electro-chemical testing,  which will determine whether the batteries are fit for re-use. There is a lot of potential energy storage currently been thrown away, and they state there is a still a lot more work to be done. It’s imperative that the testing continues, and more efficient and sustainable processes are found for battery “re-lifing”.

A Circular Economy – A Paradigm too far ?

For as long as I can remember we have lived in a boom-bust economy.  Our GDP linked to global  markets – at the mercy of the next world economy to come on stream wanting to develop infrastructure and create commercial growth as far as the money lasts.  We gear up to meet demand, and then fall into recession when the bubble bursts, creating hardship and casualties for those caught up in fallout.  These boom bust cycles create a linear sine wave and we have continued along this road since the industrial revolution.  With increasing consumerism, the product life of fashions and trends plus the built in obsolescence of electrical and other goods provides a short term GDP focus on end markets.  All too soon products become discarded creating an increasing waste stream paid for by the householder through taxation.  As consumers we are trapped onto the treadmill of buying the latest trend, only to pay for its disposal sooner rather than later.    “If we keep  doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep on getting what we’ve always got” or words to that effect.

Arguably the environmental impact of the boom to bust scenario means that the environment fares better when we are in recession mode.  Having to be increasingly creative with less means we become more imaginative and inventive.  We also use less resources and utilities, and therefore create less waste for disposal.

So how do we break away from the feast or famine circus?   What if there was an alternative to being duped into buying a product, only to find that we don’t need it anymore, and have to pay again to dispose of it?

There is a revolution on the horizon, that of a ‘circular economy’ which concentrates effort on maintaining the resources and energy within the lifecycle of the products created.  Instead of developing   products for sale, that have a shelf life of “x” years that are not designed for repair, manufacturers start to build in product longevity whilst considering life cycle, which in turn challenges the boom / bust scenario.  By designing products that are of a robust quality, able to be repaired, adjusted, modified and made fit for our purposes during use where the components become re-manufactured back into the process, the shelf life becomes infinity.  Great we all hail, but the really neat thing is that some of these pioneer companies are considering hiring their products as a service. The manufacturer no longer designs products for sale to the consumer, but instead they sell the use of that product, taking responsibility for its lifetime. What if we no longer purchased, used, outgrew and disposed of goods, but instead bought into the use of a home laundry service, or a supply of bikes for our children that grew with them?   This may sound far fetched but companies like Isla bikes have started to introduce such schemes. A British Standard has just been launched providing guidance to organisations around how to apply holistic thinking to product design.

With the economic benefit of the circular economy being estimated at 18 trillion Euros in Europe, and the creation of 200,000 new jobs in the UK by 2030*, the opportunity for decoupling our ties with linear resource use and the associated environmental impact are immense.

Breaking out of the boom bust will  not be an easy option, but what an opportunity to challenge the current paradigm and introduce a new circular era.

*World Economic Forum 2017 Register of Global Risks of Highest Concern for Doing Business.

Rubber (Plastic) Roads

 

If you hear the words rubber roads a number of things come to mind. As a amateur racing driver, I think potentially more “grip”. There is a new phenomena taking place. The concept of recycled plastic containers and bottles being combed from our seas and waste dumps, to be converted and substituted for the bitumen that binds our road asphalt. India has been doing it since 2002, and the Netherlands is now actively pursuing it. We have also done some pilots in the UK. This is a brilliant example of recycling. Plastic materials have very long bio-degradation times, and it can take 450 years for a plastic bottle to fully degrade. Anything that can take plastic away from is a real is a real positive. Furthermore, by removing them from the sea and rivers we can further protect fragile marine life. Plastics have a high calorific value, and waste plastic has been considered as an alternative for fossil fuels, but of course this would increase COx. Re-utilising is also a powerful way to reduce landfill, and head to the UK goal of zero landfill by 2020. It also fits in with the framework of the new 6R sustainability system that goes beyond reduce, reuse, recycle to recover, redesign, and re-manufacture.

These are now being pioneered in the UK, and an enterprising company in Scotland has developed the plastic pellet blend that will bind the aggregate. The roads are are pothole free and more hard-wearing, which is solving 2 problems in one. Potholes are a massive issue on UK roads, and these plastic repairs are more robust. This is where Lean thinking is definitely helping sustainability. If you want to know more about this concept, and how we may be able to help you, please download the paper “Delivering Sustainable Value”  from our site. Please also contact us on change@lean2sustain.com if you wish to know more.

 

 

 

 

First Hydrogen Train Tested

 

The first Hydrogen Train has been successfully tested in Germany. Another major step on the journey to “zero” emissions. Still a lot to be done to make these commercially viable, but we keep edging closer. Passenger trials are set to start in 2018. It is pleasing to see that fuel cell technology has not been abandoned, and with design development and “lean” thinking the trains will become even more effective /efficient.

Scorched Earth

 

The term “Scorched Earth” has been used widely as a military term for removing potentially useful things away from a withdrawing or advancing enemy in the field of battle. However, I would also like to use this as a metaphor for just destroying anything rapidly, without a great deal of thought. If we take stock of the new US administration and its view on environmental policy we could liken it to a scorched earth policy. There was a detailed report last week from the Carbon Trust, which detailed the rapid shift in US policy and its potential impact on the US and the world. The list of environmental reversals is endless, including allowing coal waste to be dumped into rivers, which is the opposite of the way the developed world is going. As an example, China is actively trying to reduce its dependency on coal by 2020. The UK has also launched its “zero landfill”  policy by 2020 Although the President has put himself under huge pressure to deliver on his election policies, he must think beyond the short term, and not turn the technological clock back. Investing in “Space” with greater budgets for NASA is a good thing, but the majority of sustainable innovation is either driven by a distinct need (famine or war) or adversity (lack of physical resources). As pressure grows on the worlds resources, we need to use what we have efficiently and wisely. The parallels between the environment and manufacturing are clear. Within industry, we have been using “Lean” thinking to eliminate process waste and improve efficiency. It is clear we need to do the same with the environment, and use long term thinking to sustain improved performance. Taking the short term decision, i.e. ignoring pollution will give no long term performance gains and arguably nothing tangible in the short term either, with the exception of possibly cash flow. Winding the technological and sustainability clock back, for even 3 or 4 years, will in reality turn it back by 20 years or more due to the lost opportunity and lack of momentum.

In short, and away from any political affiliations, a scorched earth type approach makes no business sense in the medium to long term, and will certainly not edify those who deploy it. It will not provide a winning position. Encouraging the world to think “Lean” is the only tangible way forward.  We need to get everyone to act as “Waste Hunters” and “Waste Destroyers”, not “Earth Destroyers”.

Getting Traction

In order to get traction you need to engage the workforce. This can be achieved through awareness training, and creating a passion for change. It is essential to demonstrate quick results in order that the workforce can buy-in to the changes. A first step will be to identify the “Change Agents” who will generate the passion to achieve your goals. These individuals can help you with the scoping and planning for the programme.

The Importance of a Lean Mindset

Our team has a wealth of experience in consultancy and operations in general manufacturing and the chemical industry. We understand what it takes to turn ideas into results. Our unique knowledge and passion for change will help the key influencers in organisations drive towards sustainability by eliminating all types of “waste”. Visualising these wastes, and using the appropriate “Lean” tools, will allow you to understand the magnitude, and determine what to work on first, i.e. the area with the greatest initial impact or return on investment.

Hello world!

Welcome to our first L2S Blog Post from the collaborators. Please take time to read our Mission. We want to share our approach so that every company whether SME or corporate can move in the direction of “Sustainability” by using some practical tools and approaches. We will be sharing these, through a series of workshops around the UK and hopefully other countries as we gain momentum.


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