Bernd Jücher, Managing Director of a German electroplating company (C+C Cours GmbH) illustrates the PIUS initiative through a practical example – a successful case of environmental process improvement coupled with cost benefits.
“C+C Cours GmbH” is a medium sized enterprise specialised in subcontracting the refining of metal components made of brass, steel and zinc die-casting. It is located in Velbert, and employs 40 people. Their most important focus areas are nickel and chrome coating systems. The refinement can serve as a protective layer against corrosion or as decoration. Its main customer companies belong to the lock and security business, furniture manufacturers and the automotive industry.
We were always aware that the application of chemicals and fresh water in electroplating had significant cost implications. Therefore, we were keen to explore the ins and outs of the savings potential associated with the application of resources. With the support of the EFA Environment Agency as a neutral partner and motivator, we have been able to recognise and benefit from this potential.
EFA’s PIUS-Check has particularly helped us. The focus of this process-oriented analysis of our production was the resource efficient handling of manufacturing resources such as water and chemicals through the separation of product flows. The success of the project has shown us that economical and ecological interests can have strong synergistic effects.
The positive effect resulted from several small individual measures in the rinsing process. With the construction of the rinsing cascade, process management for the coating of various metal components such as steel and cast zinc could be re-organised. Through this, material flows have been corrected and chemical reaction between different metal components has been prevented. Thus, the surface quality in various coating systems has been improved in a sustainable manner. In addition to this, the rinsing water is now used to compensate for the loss of water through evaporation in the nickel basins. As a result of this particular measure, 20 m³ less fresh water is required per year, while at the same time, a lower amount of chemicals is necessary for waste water treatment.
Through the reduction in the amount of waste water and the improved rinsing water management, considerably less nickel is deposited in the electrolyte basins than previously, and therefore, less nickel sulphate must be applied. The total savings in process water, chemicals and waste water treatment amount to €20,000 per year. Obviously, the environment benefits from the fact that less water and fewer chemicals need to be applied.
Cost reductions with simultaneous improvements in product quality and resource efficiency: this is the result of the resolute application of Cleaner Production measures in our company. By doing this, we have been able to strengthen our market position and competitiveness.”