Dhaka, Saturday, 24 July 2021

Saving energy, saving money and improving production: easy win-win solutions for textile companies

Saving energy, saving money and improving production: easy win-win solutions for textile companies

by Michael Arretz (VFI, Hamburg, Germany) and Reinier de Man (Sustainable Business Development, Leiden, The Netherlands):

Saving the climate – improving the company

Reducing CO2 emissions is the cornerstone of all sound climate policies. It is the only effective way to limit global warming and their potentially catastrophic consequences, which can be particularly painful for low countries near the sea such as Bangladesh. Reducing CO2 emissions by reducing the use of (electricity from) fossil fuels is a moral responsibility for all public and private players, including the manufacturing industry.

But reducing energy use is not just a moral imperative; it presents interesting business opportunities for reducing costs and improving quality as well. There are many convincing examples in the apparel sector, two of which we show here: optimising lighting systems on the basis of LED technology and replacing old-fashioned clutch motors by more up-to-date servo motor technology.

LED lighting: an easy win for the company and for the climate

Just take the example of a typical textile production unit lighted by 2000 light bulbs. Outdated filament light bulbs have largely disappeared from most factory halls and have been gradually replaced by more efficient fluorescent lamps. Until the beginning of this century there was no attractive alternative available. Only 10 years ago, LED technology was still too expensive for use on an industrial scale butis now available as the best available lighting technology in the market.
LED technology has many advantages over fluorescent technology, the most important being energy consumption (up to 50% less), as a result virtually no heat production, extreme durability (12 times longer), and less problematic in the waste phase. At first sight, LED lamps are three times more expensive than fluorescent lamps but taking their lifetime into account the LED lamps are three times less expensive on a yearly basis. For 2000 lamps based on either fluorescent or LED technology, electricity costs can be reduced by as much as US$ 7550 per year. The costs for installing those 2000 LED lamps will be earned back in 3.15 months. Over the lifetime of the LED lights, net earnings are US$ 51,108. The climate profits from less CO2yearly emissions of about 46 tons. Some additional advantages have not yet been reflected, such as reduced heat production (saving on air conditioning, better working climate). As LED lights are still becoming cheaper every month, there is no reason to think twice before switching immediately to LED.

Installing servo motors

Another example of an easy win is replacing outdated clutch motors, still to be found in many textile companies, by servo motors. As the old clutch motors were spinning continuously and were only coupled to the sewing machine by means of a clutch, it is no surprise that they use more energy than a servo motor that continuously adapts its power to what is momentarily needed. More than half of the energy costs can be saved by switching to this more modern technology. What is also clear that these motors are no top energy users, in no way comparable with energy costs for processing or lighting or air conditioning. On the basis of energy saving only, it would take four years to earn the investment in new motors back. But this is not the whole story.
When using the servo motor, which lacks the technically problematic clutch mechanism, workers will make less serious mistakes and the number of faulty items is likely to drop from current 4% to at least 2%. Here is the real advantage. Based on 4 more items sold from each machine each day, we calculate an increased profit of about an US$ 104. As a result, installing these motors will be earned back rather quickly. It will not take much more than half a year.

The morale

What do we learn from these stories? These are just two examples. There are many more easy opportunities to work on reduction of energy use, not only to reduce CO2 emissions and to save the client, but for improving the company’s bottom line. Many of these opportunities have rapid or even extremely rapid rates of return of below one year. The second example shows that the main profit need not be in huge reduction of energy costs but rather improving the quality and speed of production.