Modern smart factory promotes sustainable development and circular economy
The design and construction of the new factory in Hamina take environmental aspects into consideration in a versatile manner. Sustainable development goes hand in hand with the economic and competitive operations.
By law, nature and the environment are everyone’s responsibility. Climate change has considerable impacts on nature, sources of livelihood and the economy around the globe. Biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, extreme weather conditions are increasing and, at the same time, the share of fossil fuels of the global energy consumption still remain at nearly 80 per cent.
Technology innovations and the industry committing to sustainable development play an important role in mitigating climate change and solving environmental challenges. We at Empower believe that our services can considerably assist companies and our society on a journey towards increasingly sustainable development.
Aiming for emission-free and efficient use of energy
When we relocated from the dated 1970s facilities to the modern 21st century factory in Hamina, the factory’s energy efficiency hit a record high. The focus has been on reducing emissions and improving the effectiveness of the operations in all aspects of the factory.
The owner of the building that now houses our factory is extremely committed to environmental values. Although the building itself is old, it features state-of-the art technology, such as effective thermal insulation and heating using energy that is as emission-free as possible. Currently, the Hamina factory is heated with natural gas, but switching to geothermal heat is being considered. A new thermal power station is being built adjacent to the factory, and plans are under way to use the emission-free forms of energy it provides.
Continuous development of operations
The operations are planned by means of digital tools and artificial intelligence. Assignments and orders are made electronically; the principle of ‘a paperless office’ suits a modern factory as well.
"A smart factory is never completely finished. Production stages are monitored continuously and processes are developed based on the information received."
Over time, the smart system will learn to suggest improvements to processes, and this will help minimise labour and material losses. Areas that consume excessive time and energy are identified by means of measurements, and process improvements are implemented. Streamlining work means better functioning solutions and reasonable workloads for employees as well.
We have also created solutions that optimise material procurement for our clients. We built an industrial plant abroad where a smart system monitors the forklift truck operations at a warehouse and directs the forklift trucks to use the most efficient routes, helping reduce fuel consumption. The location of each product in the warehouse is also optimised. This saves both time and money and reduces forklift wear and fuel consumption. Environmental friendliness also means financial profitability.
Energy-saving production conditions
The modern technology of the new factory controls the LED lighting, adjusting and directing the lighting output according to the need. The lights are out at the factory during night-time – the lighting switches on when and where it is needed.
The temperature and humidity are maintained at optimal levels according to the needs and external conditions at any given time. We built a completely new flue gas exhaust system for the factory, with performance adjusted according to usage. When the system is used less, the energy consumption decreases. The system operates only when flue gases are generated, and this eliminates unnecessary consumption of energy.
The entire ventilation system was also overhauled when the factory was renovated. The modern system with a heat recovery feature provides considerable energy savings.
Committing personnel to sustainable operating methods
Empower ensures that every employee receives sufficient information on and training in environmental requirements. We actively guide our personnel to take environmental aspects into consideration, for example, with regard to safe handling of chemicals, waste recycling and sorting, energy savings as well as economical driving.
Our employees are required to comply with environmental legislation, environmental permits and other applicable regulations. We are all obligated to reduce or eliminate the amount of waste generated or other harmful impacts on the environment as much as possible, for example, by recycling materials or waste.
Applying circular economy methods from cleaning to material recycling to warehousing
The preferred materials include environmentally friendly products with a small carbon footprint, whether they are lubricants for equipment, raw materials of products, tools or cleaning products. The chemicals used in manufacturing, maintenance and cleaning are non-toxic and as ecological as possible. Once the self-learning artificial intelligence has observed the operations for a period of time, it will also be able to propose alternatives proven to be the most effective and ecological from among different materials and components.
Measurements and analyses in production planning help achieve considerable savings in material purchases. The quantity of the supplies and materials to be warehoused can be optimised thanks to the convenient feature of updating the system with the materials used while performing maintenance Supplies will always be available in optimal quantities.
"Materials are not wasted but any excess materials are recycled and reused as many times as possible, in accordance with the principles of the circular economy. Whenever possible, recyclable materials and raw materials replace new raw materials obtained from nature."
We actively and continuously seek solutions that will enable us to recycle and reuse all waste as much as possible. When recycling is no longer an option, the waste is sorted very carefully. For example, when a piece of equipment requiring repairs is brought to the factory hall on top of a wooden pallet, the packaging is taken apart: the wooden pallet is recycled, the steel cables around the packaging are recycled as metal, and plastic and cardboard are also recycled appropriately. There are designated sorting stations for nearly all materials possible, including cardboard, paper, metal, cables, batteries, light bulbs, oil, plastic, glass, organic waste and wood. We use as little chemicals and hazardous substances as possible, and those that we do use are disposed of appropriately.
Our objective is to measure the long-term amount of waste generated. We already know the amount of cardboard waste, and we are currently in the process of figuring out the optimal method to measure the amount of metal waste.
Long lifespan of equipment and tools
We did not need to start the construction of the Hamina smart factory from scratch. We relocated old, heavy-duty and functioning machinery to the factory. The lifespan of the old and robust machines can be extended with spare parts and new technological innovations. The equipment has been refurbished for maximum energy efficiency. Attention has also been paid to ensuring that the equipment only requires minimal cooling.
We want to maximise the lifespan of products and equipment. When purchasing new equipment, the focus is on ensuring a long service life. We ensure that spare parts are available and that the machines can be upgraded and expanded, if needed.
We also strive for energy efficiency by optimising the volumetric efficiency of loads, adhering to a driving method that is as economical as possible, and preferring fuel-efficient and low-emission models when purchasing vehicles and forklift trucks. Monitoring the fuel consumption and mileages of our vehicles is part of our responsible operations.
Partner and stakeholder engagement benefits the environment
Our operations are transparent towards clients as well. Clients can also monitor operations at a more detailed level, including spare parts used in repairs, hours worked or the electricity consumption per work stage for different equipment. This provides an opportunity for our clients to verify that we have taken environmental aspects into consideration in our operations.
We work together with our employees, clients and suppliers in order to reduce the environmental impact of our operations and to be proactive in environmental matters by continuously measuring and assessing the environmental impacts. We want to offer our clients energy-efficient systems, products and services which also help the clients to reduce their use of energy and natural resources.
Finnish industry to lead the way in the reduction of environmental impacts
Gaia Consulting Oy compared the international positioning of the Finnish export industry from the perspective of various environmental impacts in its study. Compared to the average values of the EU and OECD countries, Finland ranks better than average in terms of nearly all indicators. Energy production in Finland is low-emission and the share of renewable energy in the procurement of primary energy (32%) is considerably higher than in the other OECD and EU countries (averages ranging from 16% to 19%). Thus, we are headed to the right direction, but further improvements are required due to global warming and disturbances in the ecological balance.
We want to do our part to ensure that Finland becomes a leader in environmental matters – a responsible, competitive trailblazer with a high-level of well-being that also motivates others towards sustainable development through its own example and innovations.
Vesa Ikonen, Director
+358 44 0556 175
More information and references:
Read more about our sustainability programme: https://www.empower.eu/empower/sustainability.html
WWF’s Living Planet 2018 report: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2018
Global Status Report 2018, Renewable Energy Policy Network: http://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/17-8652_GSR2018_FullReport_web_final_.pdf
State of the environment review 4/2018, Finnish Environment Institute: https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/236000/YT_4_Suomi-torjumassa-ilmastonmuutosta_2018.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Finland’s export industry and country comparison of environmental indicators report, Gaia Consulting Oy, 2019: https://teknologiateollisuus.fi/sites/default/files/file_attachments/vientiteollisuuden_ymparistoindikaattorit_loppuraportti_18.1.2019.pdf