Roxul's sustainability drive pays off.
With increasing focus on the environment and concern about climate change, running a greener operation is not only good for the environment, it could make a company more competitive.
In fact, a Canadian manufacturer in Milton, Ont. is running a sustainable operation while making insulation that prevents the warm and cool energy produced by wind turbines, solar panels and other power generators from escaping your home.
Roxul Inc., a subsidiary of Denmark’s Rockwool Insulation A/S, produces fire-proof, water resistant and energy efficient stone wool insulation made from at least 75% recycled material at its facilities in Milton and Grand Forks, BC. Product with 93% recycled material is also produced on a per project basis at an extra cost.
The company’s efforts have earned it the distinction of being the first stone wool insulation producer in the world to get certification from the US-based International Code Council Evaluation Services (ICC-ES) for innovative building materials, components and systems.
Stone wool is derived from a volcanic by-product called basalt rock. Roxul says the stone wool saves 12 times as much energy per pound in its first year as the energy used to produce it.
But the company’s sustainability credibility isn’t confined to its product. During production, it recycles waste materials, heat and water, which Roxul claims is giving it a competitive advantage.
“It’s not only about being a corporate citizen, it’s also a strategic goal,” says Ion Leoveanu, the Milton facility’s factory manager. “We like to talk the talk and walk the walk. It’s difficult to claim you’re making a product that saves energy and reduces your carbon footprint if you don’t follow those same principles in your own plant.”
Rockwool has more than 25 operations worldwide and employs more than 8,800 people in 30 countries. The company’s Canadian operations started in Milton in 1988. It acquired a second manufacturing facility in Grand Forks in 1995. By 2005, both operations were at full capacity, so it was time for some improvements.
By 2009, they were upgraded at a cost of more than $160 million, a project that involved reducing their environmental impact. The company cut municipal water use by 50% with a waste and rain water recycling system, an energy recycling system was installed to re-use heat needed for the manufacturing process, and a company wide, zero waste-to-landfill protocol was implemented.
“In Canada we’re very close to that,” says Leoveanu.
Even the production process is one with the environment. Not only are the furnaces powered by recycled energy, the rocks are sourced from Drain Bros., a local supplier in Havelock, Ont., a sleepy blue-collar town of 4,500 about three hours north-east of Milton.
The group produces most of its own machining and equipment through Rockwool’s engineering group in Denmark, which provides more control over the impact the machines have on the environment.
“We also have a number of proprietary technologies such as spinning, wool processing and cutting machines,” he adds.
When it comes to automating those machines, the company relies on Siemens products, which include integrated control, monitoring and communication devices.
“There are no longer any manual operations within our manufacturing process; it’s completely automated,” says Leoveanu. “We had one manual packaging operation left, but when the plant was upgraded in 2009, we automated that process as well.”