Uncovering potential

Material efficiency and energy optimization in metal processing

The European Commission is committed to energy efficiency and resource management. In 2010, it published the strategic paper “Energy 2020 - A strategy for competitive, sustainable and secure energy”. By the year 2020, the aim is for the EU to lower emissions by 20 percent, increase the proportion of renewable energy used by 20 percent and raise energy efficiency by 20 percent. To do this, companies need to change the way they think and act – and a number of European projects are already setting benchmarks in this area. The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum is supporting the scheme with a number of initiatives.

In light of rising prices in the energy sector and a shortage of resources, companies are having to think about energy efficiency and ways to save money. A study by the German Material Efficiency Agency (DEMEA) determined that material costs account for 45.4 percent of manufacturers’ expenses. So material efficiency has become a key issue.

Only 6 percent of SMEs in the EU have an environmental management system (EMS) in place. And only 29 percent have introduced measures to conserve resources – as opposed to 46 percent of large enterprises.

So to help SMEs improve their resource efficiency and life cycle assessment, the Steinbeis-Europa- Zentrum (SEZ) is giving SMEs vouchers for an analysis of potential environmental protection measures in the workplace, and for energy analyses. This is being funded by the European Commission as part of the EU projects EURESP (European Regional Environmental Services Platform) and ESMI (Environmental Services for Metalworking Industries). As a partner in both of these projects, the SEZ is able to offer its environmental services to SMEs at a reasonable price. Both projects aim to improve SME access to services tailored to their needs that help them become more environmentally friendly. Another aim of the projects is to develop strategies to optimize energy efficiency, and make these strategies a sustainable part of company practice.

To do this, the SEZ has signed cooperation agreements with service providers and held a number of seminars with key regional players. In March, the SEZ hosted a panel discussion in Stuttgart entitled “Conserving raw materials in metalworking and metal processing.” Innovative companies presented sample projects showcasing how to use resources more efficiently. The SEZ’s partners in this initiative were the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Finance and Economics, the not-for-profit association Modell Hohenlohe, the Südwestmetall Association for the Metal and Electronics Industry in Baden-Württemberg, and the Gosheim Metal Efficiency Center.

Adolf Schnorr GmbH & Co. KG, an SME based in Sindelfingen in south-west Germany, presented its findings from a material efficiency project. The company specializes in manufacturing disc springs and fuse elements. As material costs account for around 25 percent of production costs at Adolf Schnorr and around 50 percent of metal is wasted, in 2009 the company decided to launch a project to improve material efficiency. The project was sponsored by the VerMat program run by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, and included an analysis of potential, followed by an in-depth consultation with ABAG-itm, based in Pforzheim. The analysis of potential brought greater transparency to company material flows and material losses in production. It also pointed to plenty of optimization potential. In the second stage, a material efficiency team defined and evaluated specific measures for optimization. So far, the company has defined over 50 individual projects in this area – all profitable and with a maximum break-even of 2 years. The main focus is on optimizing material use during stamping, minimizing waste and loss during production, and sorting and separating different types of metal turnings. Schnorr put 30 of these individual projects into action in 2010, resulting in annual savings of € 65,000. And once the remaining projects are up and running, they should save an additional € 60,000 per year.

The Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum is keen to work with companies in other sectors of industry and is continuing to award vouchers. In January, the SEZ held a workshop in Neresheim entitled “Innovative ideas for concrete components: financial success through innovation and eco-friendliness”. The workshop was run in partnership with three industry associations: Concrete Components Bavaria (Beton-Bauteile Bayern im BIV), part of the Bavarian Stone and Earth Industrial Association, south German concrete marketer BetonMarketing Süd, and the Baden-Württemberg Professional Association for Concrete and Prefabricated Component Producers. In April, the SEZ presented funding options in Pforzheim to promote innovation, eco-friendliness and energy efficiency at bakeries and confectioneries. In February, the SEZ also talked to wine cooperatives about energy saving and water management in wine production.


Prof. Dr. Norbert Höptner
Teresa Puerta Maria Kourti
Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum (Stuttgart)

The SEZ voucher system

After completing a detailed assessment of the status quo at the company, the SEZ works with experts to perform an energy/ environmental analysis. During the consultation process, the company’s potential savings are quantified and the areas with potential for optimization are defined. This makes it possible to introduce initial measures to make savings immediately. Companies only take on part of the cost, as well as paying for the consultant’s travel costs. The target group for the vouchers is companies in the metal and construction industries, concrete producers, food producers (wine production and bakeries) and the refuse industry.

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