By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Sustainability in manufacturing was the focus of an event Wednesday afternoon that brought together more than 100 people from the manufacturing and business sectors to the Nomaco plant in Tarboro.
“This ‘Sustainability in Manufacturing’ event, the first of its kind in eastern North Carolina, is indicative of the increasing interest of the industrial business community in sustainable initiatives. We applaud the fact that North Carolina manufacturers are leading the way,” said Jason Massey, CEO of Sustainable Industrial Solutions (SIS) based in Durham and moderator of Wednesday’s panel discussion featuring local manufacturing representatives. Topics discussed include facility improvements, energy-efficient lighting upgrades and sustainability as a driving tool for innovation in manufacturing.
“Innovation drives growth,” said Massey. “If you use sustainability as an innovation catalyst, you will get your growth.”
An example of innovation at Nomaco is the use of a biodegradable material in one of its products – a reinforced edge protection for car windshields. Chris Antonello, president of Nomaco Engineered Foam Solutions, explained that the biodegradable material attracts microbes, which eat away at the material and accelerate the breakdown of the material in a landfill environment. From a customer’s standpoint, sustainability is “everything from the actual materials that go into the product to the design of the product to the boxes you put them in,” said Antonello. Other sustainability initiatives at Nomaco include upgrading the lighting in the facility and placing motion sensors on the lights and adjusting the production schedule in order to avoid using energy during peak demand times, according to Scott Edwards president of Nomaco Insulation.
“With the help of SIS, Nomaco facilities have been able to realize significant energy savings, improving operational costs and reducing the impact on the environment,” said Edwards. “We are pleased to host this event in Tarboro and share in the exchange of ideas and best practices with other local manufacturers.”
Bill Fassnacht, director of operations for Draka Elevator in Rocky Mount, said he appreciated the opportunity to get ideas for sustainability practices, such as Nomaco’s motion-sensor lighting.
“We can gain ideas together,” said Fassnacht. “We can accomplish more goals by working together than apart.”
With more demand from customers to produce “environmentally-friendly” products, companies are looking at sustainability practices that will still result in cost savings, said Fassnacht. An example of that is Draka Elevator’s plan to give the wooden pallets they use in their production process to a company that can reuse them free of cost rather than throwing them in the landfill.
Keith Jordan, operations manager for Keihin Carolina System Technology in Tarboro, talked about Keihin’s designation as a “zero waste to landfill facility.”
“We have a 93 percent reduction in things that go to the landfill,” said Jordan. “We’re one of seven (companies) in the state of North Carolina that’s been at the level of zero landfill.”
To Jordan, sustainability is about finding ways to improve the environment while being a model of “good corporate citizenship.” Keihin’s employees logged 1,600 hours of community service last year.
“Not only are we doing things to reduce our energy usage, but we’re making sure we’re out in the community, too,” Jordan said. The goal is to build a sustainable community with a healthy workforce, which will in turn ensure the sustainability of the company. The Keihin plant in Tarboro currently has about 400 employees.
Other manufacturers from Edgecombe and Nash Counties attending Wednesday’s event included QVC, ABB, a Power Products Medium Voltage instrument transformer factory, and the Cheesecake Factory. The event ended with tours of the Nomaco facility on Anaconda Road.