• WisBusiness

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Waupaca Foundry finds success with green initiatives

By MaryBeth Matzek
It's no secret foundries not only use a lot of energy, but they also create a lot of waste. With that in mind, Waupaca Foundry, which has three plants in Waupaca and one each in Marinette, Indiana and Tennessee, is doing more than its fair share to lessen that impact. The company has a robust sustainability initiative that has earned kudos from organizations and state and federal governments.

"At a foundry, you have a lot of opportunities to look at sustainability initiatives," says Bryant Esch, environmental coordinator of Waupaca Foundry Inc. "We use a lot of energy – just think about how we need to take a bunch of metal, heat it to super hot temperatures to melt it – so when we began looking at ways to be more sustainable, energy usage was the first area we touched."

That led to a heat reclamation project that captures waste heat used to melt metal and runs it through an air exchanger to heat its plants during the cold winter months.

"In the old days, a lot of heat just went out the top of the building. Now we capture that heat and use it in our buildings," Esch says.

Waupaca Foundry first began looking at sustainability issues more than 10 years ago. "We've been fortunate to a very pro-active management team that wants to do the right thing when it comes to the environment," Esch says.

In recent months, the company earned the American Council of Engineering Companies Engineering Excellence Award in Wisconsin and a national engineering excellence recognition award while also being admitted to the state's Green Tier program. Waupaca Foundry also received multiple commendations for being a charter member of the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings, Better Plants Program.

The company also has its own internal goals, such as reducing energy use by 25 percent and reducing water usage by 80 percent before 2020, Esch says. Another goal – reducing spent foundry sand by 30 percent – has forced the company to get creative, Esch says.

Waupaca Foundry uses tons of sand annually in its casting process. The sand is then shaken off and reused; more than 800,000 tons of sand is reused in this way annually. Once the sand can no longer be used in the casting process, Waupaca Foundry looks beyond its doors to find uses for its sand, including in the construction, mining and agriculture industries. In construction, the sand is used in road projects while in agriculture, it's used to line manure pits and even bedding for animals. In the mining industry, the sand fills holes in the ground left behind by extracting operations.

Foundry sand doesn't look like typical sand – it's darker in color since it's more than sand. For example, about 10 percent of foundry "sand" is actually clay.

"Clay doesn't allow water to penetrate, which is why our sand is used so much for landfill or manure pits," Esch says. "We're definitely a pioneer in Wisconsin when it comes to finding new uses for foundry sand."

Esch, who has worked at Waupaca Foundry since the 1990s, says "you really see the fruits of your labors when it comes to sustainability issues. You can really see the difference you're making."

Market change

Bergstrom Automotive has left the Milwaukee market. Last month, the state's largest car dealer sold its Chevrolet dealership on Milwaukee's northwest side for $7.8 million to a group affiliated with auto dealer Jim Griffith.

Bergstrom, which is based in Neenah, has a strong presence in the Fox Valley as well as the Madison area. The Chevrolet dealership was its last remaining location in Milwaukee. At one time, the company – which entered the Milwaukee market in 2002 -- operated a Hummer and Smart Car dealerships on the Metro Auto Mall site.

Mixed bag for manufacturing

The Marquette-ISM Report on Manufacturing showed that Milwaukee area manufacturing activity increased slightly in July, but it remained overall in negative territory for the fourth straight month.

The Purchasing Managers Index was 47.12 in July, up from 46.56 in June. Any number above 50 indicates growth while a number below 50 indicates contraction. For the past 23 months, the number has been at or above 50 17 times.

In the report, businesses said that while June was slow, July saw an increase in orders and production. They also noted distributors are stocking less and many suppliers are not seeing significant growth.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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