November 2008 - For Aerodyne Alloys LLC, South Windsor, Conn., it makes sense--both for the business and the environment--to reduce its carbon footprint. According to President Greg Chase, the actions the company has taken to accomplish this range from simple to in-depth and dynamic.
The distributor of nickel, cobalt and titanium alloys has been focusing on green initiatives, starting with basic things like recycling paper. Economic realities prompted the development and implementation of other initiatives within the last 18 months.
"When gasoline went from $2.25 a gallon to $4.25 a gallon, I think everyone became acutely aware of the need to do things differently," says Chase. "And you're never going to see gas for $2.25 a gallon again--it's not going to happen. That was really the impetus for a more serious look at doing things differently, even beyond what we started."
Aerodyne strives to reduce, if not eliminate, waste. For instance, the company aims to maximize its efficiency regarding products' sizes, which decreases the amount of material waste Aerodyne produces and reduces energy.
"It was as simple as a customer would call and ask for a 2 1/8-inch diameter [product]--most people would stock 2 1/4, not 2 1/8," says Chase. "This transformed over the last 10 years, when we really started homing in on some of the sizes being used by our customer base and trying to minimize the excess that we were buying. So if a customer's buying 1 1/16, now we're stocking 1 1/16 instead of 1 1/8 or 1 1/4. We've been doing that for a long time."
Another green initiative that will reduce costs in the long run is the development of returnable packaging. Chase says Aerodyne ships material of specific, consistent size and length to many of its contract business customers every month and that reusing the packaging would benefit the bottom line of all involved parties.
"Let's say you're making a skid for the raw material--you make the skid, you wrap it in cardboard and metal or fibrous strapping and you ship it to the customer, who just throws out all the wood and packaging," says Chase. "What we're looking at now is to have returnable packaging--something that's lightweight but strong that economically makes sense for the customer.
"They'll be able to take the material, and after emptying the skid, they collapse it into a foldable carton and ship it back to us. The next time the shipment goes, we'll fill up the same container."
At the individual level, Aerodyne provides monetary incentives for its employees to carpool, and if they purchase energy-efficient appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs, Aerodyne will give them a rebate up to a certain amount. The company is piloting many green programs at its headquarters in Connecticut, and those that take off will be implemented at its two other facilities in Houston and Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
Although Chase says the metals industry overall hasn't latched onto many green initiatives, they will likely become more common as companies realize that minimizing waste and helping the environment can increase profits.
"I think our industry has been trying to re-engineer either the product or the process to eliminate some of these wastes," he says. "And not only is it just the waste--that waste is huge dollars. If you've got to buy 10 pounds of titanium at $30 a pound, that's $300. And when you only need $120 worth of material, you're buying way too much compared with what the part actually needs to be made. Homing in on the processes and the initial product and streamlining that is going to be beneficial down the road."
Aerodyne has also taken steps to decrease waste in its office operations by reducing the amount of paper it uses, specifically in regard to certifications for materials it sells to aerospace companies. Chase says that in the past, Aerodyne printed these documents--which can be up to nine pages long--on just one side of paper.
"We've elected to go to two-sided copying," says Chase. "As simple as it sounds, that reduces half of our paper consumption. Ultimately, we want to avoid even printing out the certification and do it all electronically. The whole idea is for businesses to assess one area at a time and, most importantly, begin now." MM