Lean machines

In the quest for ever greater sustainability, manufacturing companies must look not only at processes but products that can increase efficiency; here are some of the enhanced products that are making leaner manufacturing possible.
 BeyondZero includes eco-friendly products & solutions  CASMs only require energy during movement

Written by Phil Burge, Country Communication Manager, SKF

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To deliver significant reductions in our CO2 emissions, the targets set for industry must be more ambitious. Rather than paying lip-service to sustainability, or simply meeting environmental legislation at a minimum level, manufacturing companies should aim high and make significant reductions, especially since this brings benefits that are not only ecological but financial.

SKF recently became the first industrial engineering company to be accepted into the WWF Climate Savers programme, which sets aggressive targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for ourselves, our suppliers and our logistics operations, as well as from our customer solutions. The latter is supported by the SKF BeyondZero portfolio, which includes products and solutions that will both improve energy efficiency and promote more environmentally-friendly energy production.

The best way to start when cutting waste is to go for the largest targets, and energy efficient ball bearings offer one of the most powerful opportunities to maximise efficiency. For example, electric motor-driven systems (EMDS) consume more than 40 percent of global electricity production according to the International Energy Agency. If all new 1-50 HP motors were equipped with SKF Energy Efficient deep groove ball bearings instead of the standard (SKF) design, 290,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions would be avoided.

A range of components now exist that can be built into engineering systems to deliver high performance as well as high levels of efficiency. The CASM electric cylinder from SKF, an energy-efficient electromechanical solution for replacing conventional pneumatic cylinder systems and hydraulic lifts, offers another good example of how production processes and assembly lines can benefit from product innovations that target sustainability. 

The CASM electric cylinder is a linear actuator that achieves high levels of efficiency because it only requires energy during movement. The electric cylinder is far more efficient than the pneumatic alternative because compressed air is typically a very inefficient way to transmit power. Unlike pneumatic cylinders, electric cylinders do not require constant power in order to maintain air pressure, even when the actuators are not moving. Engineers can therefore realise a significant energy use reduction of up to 90 percent when they replace pneumatic cylinders with electric cylinders. 

The most powerful solutions are those that can be applied on a grand scale and, like energy efficient bearings, electric cylinders can be used around the world in a range of industries, especially packaging, factory automation, food and beverage and material handling industries such as waste and recycling.

To appreciate how effective these components can be, we can consider the savings made by an SKF customer who replaced hydraulic lifts in a textile printing machine with two CASM electric cylinders. The customer cut energy consumption by 7MWh per year, which translates into a CO2 savings of 5.3 tonnes per year. The potential CO2 emission reduction that can be achieved by replacing pneumatic systems for waste and recycling with the CASM is therefore immense when looking at the number of operations around the world.

Man-made climate change presents a critical long-term challenge to humanity and, while energy prices are likely to increase due to resource limitations and carbon pricing, it is vital to gain a competitive advantage by building energy-efficient products into engineering systems. The steady rise in global oil and gas prices has become a strong incentive for manufacturing companies to develop effective long term energy management strategies, as a means both of controlling costs and of demonstrating their commitment to environmental protection. 

Dynamicclimate strategies enable businesses to lead the way in helping suppliers and customers reduce their emissions, improving energy efficiency and supporting more environmentally friendly energy production. The environmental improvements provided by solutions within the SKF BeyondZero portfolio are validated through a life cycle assessment methodology developed by SKF sustainability engineers and independently reviewed by KPMG.

We are moving towards a more responsible industry, where specialists and innovators are prized more highly than ever before, and technological developments that improve not only performance and ease of use, but also energy efficiency and sustainability will be highly prized. The SKF BeyondZero product portfolio enables SKF customers to reduce their own environmental impact, strengthening the potential for lean manufacturing and helping to maximise profits through reduced energy consumption at a time when budgets and legislation demand the highest levels of efficiency.    

About SKF:

SKF is a leading global supplier of bearings, seals, mechatronics, lubrication systems, and services which include technical support, maintenance and reliability services, engineering consulting and training. SKF is represented in more than 130 countries and has around 15,000 distributor locations worldwide. Annual sales in 2011 were SEK 66,216 million and the number of employees was 46,039.

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