• WisBusiness

Thursday, August 26, 2010

GreenBiz: Manufacturing summit looks to spread awareness of green practices

By Gregg Hoffmann
Organizers are expecting the third annual Green Manufacturing Summit to let smaller businesses take advantage of environmentally friendly tactics already used by Fortune 500 companies.

Jon Dommisse is vice-president of marketing and product development for The Bradley Corporation, which is a sponsor of the event along with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Focus on Energy.

He says the summit is a way for his company to “give back to the business community” and highlight some of the green practices that have worked.

“I think a lot of business people think some of these energy saving practices and efficiencies are meant primarily for the Fortune 500 size companies,” Dommisse said. “We can demonstrate some of the things that have worked for us as a mid-sized company and bring in other small and mid-sized companies that are doing things.

“It (the Summit) really grew out of feedback from customers and tours people take of our plant. When they saw what we are doing with green initiatives, they wanted more information. So, we initiated the idea.”

Now in its third year, the summit has touched on a variety of "green" issues.

“I think one of the things attendees have appreciated about the summit is that we have brought in different people each year and have had a couple themes every year,” Dommisse said. “We’ve kind of mixed it up and have touched on a variety of areas of the green initiatives.”

Organizers say the summit will focus on encouraging efficient manufacturing that benefits “both the environment and bottom line.”

“Today’s manufacturing businesses are going through an evolution on several fronts,” said Mike Sipek, COO of Bradley Corp. in a press release. “While managing the new challenges brought by the current economic climate, many businesses are adopting sustainable practices to remain competitive in the marketplace.

“Green manufacturing practices fit hand-in-hand with fiscal responsibility. Companies are finding that the operational savings resulting from reducing the use of energy, water and other natural resources clearly outweigh any upfront investment of going green.”

Sipek added, “In today’s marketplace, a sustainable company is a viable company with a competitive edge. It’s clear that companies that adopt sustainable practices are making real strides in strengthening and growing their businesses."

Tom Eggert of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council at UW-Madison will serve as the opening speaker for the summit and plans to trace the top 20 trends in sustainability for manufacturers.

In making a similar presentation before the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, Eggert has contended: “This moment in history might be unique in that our systems have largely been upset and much greater change is possible.”

He says the economic crisis might be creating opportunities in green business that “we have not seen in the last 25-30 years.”

People have not changed their “environmental shopping habits” during the recession, according to surveys cited by Eggert. A growing percentage continue to want green products. “This is here to stay,” Eggert said.

Some of the specific trends to watch included movement from energy excess to energy efficiency, reduced landfill wastes, concerns about water conservation, development of more industry standards for energy efficiency and movement from fossil fuels to renewables.

Eggert also said branding of manufactured products, and communication with customers, will continue to move from printed paper to digital and online.

After Eggert addresses the group, breakout sessions on several green manufacturing issues will be held. Rachel DeSmidt and Scott Biba of Design Concepts will address a session titled “Designing for Disassembly.”

DeSmidt, an industrial engineer, and Biba, a senior mechanical engineer, will discuss the importance of considering the end of a product’s life cycle when designing the product. They’ll share reasonable, practical steps to move manufacturing practices toward this sustainable ideal.

Kerry Bailey of Menasha Packaging Company will address sustainable trends in packaging. Menasha Packaging has signed a license agreement with Smart Planet Technologies to offer the planet-friendly packaging material Earthboard. The material is made with recycles fibers and stones.

The company’s Folding Carton Group prints with inks made of 61 percent soy and vegetable-based byproducts. Menasha Packaging operates under the premise that “working toward optimum sustainability requires a careful understanding of raw materials, processes and impact metrics, and how they all combine and transform into products that reduce their impact on the our planet.”

A panel discussion on driving energy efficiency for manufacturers will wrap up the summit.

Nate Altfeather, the Industrial Sector Market Provider Coordinator for Focus on Energy will address Energy Assessment Basics.

“It can be difficult for business owners and operators to understand energy use and all the costs associated with it,” Altfeather said. “The intent of the Focus on Energy program is to provide expert, no-cost assistance to Wisconsin businesses to help them identify energy-saving opportunities, as well as help quantify savings and provide financial incentives to help offset project costs. We want to help businesses make smart energy decisions that will help them save energy and money.” -- Hoffmann, a veteran journalist, has written on a variety of topics for WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com. He writes the GreenBiz column monthly.


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