In 1994, NCI Plastics (Vic) Pty Ltd, an injection moulding company, had a factory at Northcote in Victoria, which employed 20 staff. Operations were conducted on a 24 hour, 6 day a week basis.
However, by 1996, the company had outgrown the site and had moved operations to Bayswater. The Northcote site, which NCI still owns, is now occupied by a sister company, Speciality Metal Products Pty Ltd. As daytime only operations are now conducted at Northcote, full advantage of lighting initiatives has not being realised in recent years.
The lighting level at the Northcote factory was low and very uneven. Almost no light reached the ceiling and the tops of the walls, distorting the appearance of the work-place and giving the space a gloomy appearance.
The lighting system was very unsatisfactory and affected operations. Staff had difficulty reading labels on boxes or shelves, and night shift staff were unable to reliably colour match plastic products.
Cleaner Production Initiative
Improved Light Fittings
NCI expected it would be necessary to have to install more light fittings and incur higher electricity bills. The recommended solution, however, was to replace the 25 existing fittings (400 watt mercury vapour lamps with metal reflectors) with 26 high efficiency 250 watt metal halide lamps.
The new lamps provide high light levels for the amount of electricity consumed. Fittings include efficient acrylic reflectors, and were carefully chosen so that light distribution matched mounting height and spacing of the existing lights, minimising modification costs. The reflector allows a small portion of light to pass through, illuminating the ceiling and tops of walls. As a result, the appearance of the working environment has been vastly improved.
Controllers have been installed in both the warehouse and the factory to automatically switch off the lights when sufficient light is available from skylights. Use of the controller cut lighting hours by 45 percent, reducing both electricity and maintenance costs. Controllers have to be switched on manually in the late afternoon, eliminating the risk of the lights automatically switching on when the factory is empty.
Advantages of the Process
The major benefit of the lighting upgrade was the greatly improved working environment. This lead to greater productivity and safety, and made workers feel better about their surroundings. An added benefit has been the reduction in lighting power and hours of use, resulting in cost savings.
Lighting improvements at NCI cost just over $14,000 and payback period of 4.3 years. The main benefit to the company, however, has been the improvement in safety and working conditions.
The reduction in electricity consumption has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34.7 tonnes per year.
Cleaner Production Incentive
NCI Plastics realised that it had problems with the factory lighting, when staff had difficulty reading labels on boxes or shelves, and night shift staff could not reliably colour match plastic products.
No barriers were encountered. The initiative was employee-led and implemented by specialist lighting consultants.
Case study coordinated by the Environment Management Industry Association of Australia (EMIAA), April 1998.