The Cleaner Production Demonstration Project is an initiative of the Environment Australia - Environment Protection Group. The aim of the Project was to raise the awareness of Australian industry and actively promote cleaner production issues. This was to be achieved by conducting ten successful cleaner production demonstration projects in industry around Australia, documenting the benefits and experiences of the project, and publicising the results to wider industry. Dames & Moore, assisted by Energetics, were engaged as technical consultants on the project. The project commenced in June 1994, and ran for 27 months.
CSR Weathertex was selected as one of the ten companies to participate in the project. This case study report presents a record of the progress of the CSR Weathertex project, from initial meeting to project completion, and details the results of the project and any problems which may have been encountered.
CSR Weathertex is part of the CSR Timber Products division. It produces 'Weathertex' manufactured wood paneling made from processed timber.
The plant has undergone a major and radical restructuring and downsizing during the period of the cleaner production program. Whilst the uncertainty created during this change initially halted cleaner production work, the new 'leaner' focus ultimately produced far more impressive results than might otherwise have been the case.
The workforce has been re-organised into teams covering each production area. The teams have responsibility for achieving production targets and identifying the reasons for any shortfall. This has resulted in a rapid and very significant improvement in productivity and quality, leading to a vastly improved financial position.
Cleaner Production philosophies have been whole-heartedly embraced in a bid to return the plant to profitability. The impetus for this came from the Weathertex site personnel who recognised the financial value of reducing the cost of waste and inefficient practices. This approach has undoubtedly provided a rapid and low cost means of securing significant savings on the site.
Economic imperatives have forced rapid changes on the site and it was fortuitous that the project was running during this time to record the changes made and provide some assistance along the way. From a somewhat hesitant start, when it appeared financial and human resources would limit what could be achieved, the situation rapidly evolved to one where there were almost too many projects to track and record.
This report identifies 8 separate cleaner production opportunities:
- reduction in product reject and defect rates;
- reduction in paint usage;
- improved board thickness;
- sale of wood waste;
- conversion of reject product to saleable product;
- reduced water usage;
- reduced packing material; and
- improved effluent handling.
Together these actions are saving and are expected to save over $1.3 million per year for the plant and have significantly contributed to the ongoing viability of the plant and the well being of the local community.
The improvements are almost all related to the change in work culture brought about by the change to the work team environment. This has been coupled with an improved understanding of the process through simple research and systematic monitoring of process variables. Other than the capital cost of retraining the work force, most of the projects have involved very little capital cost. The exceptions are the effluent works which were required to meet state EPA licence requirements. Improvements to the paint system required capital expenditure of around $50,000.
The changes implemented on this site are a model case study of what can be achieved through Cleaner Production processes.