Aiming for Zero
Clean Production - The automation specialist ASS puts sustainable thinking into practice, also for economic reasons. An interview with Reinhold Ziewers.
[ Q U E S T I O N ] Mr. Ziewers – The corporate strategy has been geared towards sustainable production and energy efficiency for quite some time. How long has ASS been focusing on climate-neutral production?
[Reinhold Ziewers] Back in 2012, when we designed our new building, we considered what options were available for improving energy efficiency and production. When you are smart about these things, efficiency and sustainability go hand in hand. Heat recovery systems, renewable energies and underfloor heating throughout the building not only save heating costs but also improve the productivity of the machinery.
[ Q U E S T I O N ] A large aspect of this is protecting the environment, but what other advantages does this offer ASS?
[Ziewers] One thing we wanted to do was create beneficial working conditions for our employ- ees – better lighting and a constant temperature in the production hall. In other words, a com- fortable atmosphere for both staff and machinery. This ensures that the machinery is already at the right temperature to operate on Monday morning and we don’t have to think about which parts are produced at what time, because a cold machine produces significantly more waste. Ensuring the right machine temperature is especially important when producing sensitive and critical parts as the tolerances are lower. This helps to make our processes more efficient and reduces the amount of materials used.
[ Q U E S T I O N ] What measures have already been put in place, and what measures are in the pipeline?
[Ziewers] The next point on the agenda is switching to LED lighting throughout the adminis- tration building. We didn’t do this during the coronavirus pandemic as most of the offices were not being used while people were working remotely. But this is planned for 2022. We are other- wise very well positioned – we use exclusively renewable energies and are converting the vehicle fleet to hybrid vehicles where possible. But we’ll never be done! We are constantly rethinking our processes to see how we can make them more efficient, quicker and safer, and revamping them as necessary. That is basically permanently going on in the background. We have already optimized around 2,000 parts and made them more cost-effective.
[ Q U E S T I O N ] For example?
[Ziewers] Our designers have optimized our double-stroke tongs so that they now use 34% less material, but are more durable due to greater rigidity and strength. And if a robot hand is smaller and lighter, for example, our customers only need a smaller robot to move it. That makes handling simpler and in turn saves energy for the customer. Right from the design phase of our products, we make sure that our work saves as much material and energy as possible.
[ Q U E S T I O N ] Where does the drive for change come from?
[Ziewers] It’s pretty simple really – we talk to our customers. We get a lot of valuable input from them about their needs and the obstacles they face. And we also discuss ideas with each other at ASS. Developers and designers regularly meet to discuss development and design. This usually helps us to come up with fitting solutions. When it comes to awareness of sustaina- bility issues, communication is also key. We go to internal roadshows and explain the import- ance of sustainability for ASS – what we do and why. It is important for us to raise awareness of this topic. Then everyone can get on board and join in. Our trainees, for example, worked with the trainers to design and build insect hotels as an icebreaker project. The insect hotels can now be found on the company premises. This concrete project helps people to start conversations and discuss ideas with various ASS tradespeople, which can be rather fruitful.
[ Q U E S T I O N ] PRIMAKLIMA e. V. certifies your climate neutrality, offsetting the emissions that cannot be saved. Has the limit of what is possible now been reache
[Ziewers] The limit should be pushed as far as possible. We are doing this by integrating new technologies where it makes sense for us. We also take an economic viewpoint here, of course. The goal is to use technological advancements to make our work and production cost-efficient. This has enabled us to keep our prices at the same level for more than ten years without any loss of margin, but still keeping up-to-date in a sustainable way using modern production methods. We therefore offset the remaining 176 tons of CO2 last year through PRIMAKLIMA
[ Q U E S T I O N ] Do sustainable working and production practices give you a competitive advantage?
[Ziewers]Definitely! A lot of our customers take sustainability into account when choosing a supplier, and at some point that will be a fundamental requirement. We therefore want to make sure that we are well set up to once again fully concentrate on our customers and production fol- lowing the coronavirus pandemic. We are using the quieter period during the pandemic to make further optimizations. The topic of sustainability is so firmly anchored in our minds that we also attach importance to it when choosing our suppliers. Once you really start to explore this topic, then you realize that you can achieve quite a lot just by implementing small, smart measures. The next steps then happen sort of automatically. After all, efficiency and sustainability go very well together!
Interview courtesy of INDUS Holding .