Historically, industrial maintenance practices have been judged tough, dirty and often harmful to the environment. Research and product development in recent years has started to wipe away this stereotype with new technology, eco-friendly and sustainable products and improvements to best practises.

With many organisations recognising the ever growing problem of climate change; facilities and plant operations are turning their attention to green initiatives and making sustainability an integral part of their business model. Organisations are aligning sustainability with product development and operations, which bring benefits including; competitive advantage and improved brand image, whilst opening up new markets and improving ROI; the more people become conscious of their choices, the more willing they are to invest in products and services.  

So in an industry that relies on heavy duty cleaners, machine maintenance and system cleaning solutions, how do you ensure you hit those sustainability targets and stick to your green goals? Let’s take a look at ten ways you can make your industrial maintenance practises greener:

1. Switch from solvent to water based degreasers

Most industrial applications, where parts and machinery need grease or oil for lubrication, will require the use of a degreaser to reduce contamination and penetrate even the most stubborn grease and grime.

Solvent degreasers used to be the ‘go-to’ solution when it came to degreasing. Solvent degreasers still have their place in the market but thanks to advancing technology, formulations have improved, meaning water based alternatives are starting to dominate.

Using a water base instead of a solvent base; water based degreasers are less damaging to the environment and a safer alternative to work with.

Vapours from solvent degreasers can cause inhalation health risks, whilst the high levels of VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) found in solvent products and the inherent flammability of solvents can mean you risk being in breach of storage legislation. Water based degreasers do not pose inhalation risks, have no or very low levels of VOC’s and are non-flammable.

Water based parts cleaners are also becoming the preferred choice within the industrial maintenance market. Safer for the user and the environment; water based parts cleaners provide a reduction in waste and reduce the risk to operators as they do not come into contact with harmful solvents.

2. Improve your maintenance management

Maximising the energy efficiency of your machinery and reducing service downtime are important when it comes to reaching your sustainability and/or green goals. By implementing a maintenance management programme you can reduce waste whilst boosting productivity.

Setting up regular machine services; analysing, testing and topping up fluids, keeps systems operating at full capacity. Oil, grease, etc. applications only happen when necessary, reducing product overuse, helping you cut down on product waste and frequent reordering.

If your facility has outdated or unreliable components or machinery, it may be worth replacing these with more energy efficient versions and newer technology. 

3. Reduce product and water wastage with dosing systems

As more businesses continue to introduce and improve their green practices, chemical dosing systems provide numerous advantages over pre-diluted products. These pieces of equipment dilute and dispense chemical product at the point of use by the user.

Although convenient, pre-diluted chemical solutions can be costly, not only to your budget but also the environment. A dosing system allows you to dose chemical into reusable buckets, bottles, etc. reducing the amount of packaging to landfill and cutting product delivery, which lowers your carbon footprint.

A chemical dosing system gives you a better understanding of how much product your facility is using, making it easier to budget for and providing you with in-sight on when you next need to place an order. This in turn stops over ordering and frequent delivers; cutting down on transportation and carbon footprint.

Diluting chemical concentrates at the point of use means you only dose what you need, giving you an accurate volume of chemical and water every time; no product or water wastage. Not only does this stop plant operators coming into contact with the chemical product, making it safer for staff, it also ensures the product is mixed correctly to do the job it was intended for. Surfaces or machinery may not be sufficiently cleaned if a product is not diluted correctly.

4. Get better control of your HVAC system

Your HVAC, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system uses a large amount of your facilities energy. Combining the principles of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer; your HVAC system regulates the temperature inside your facility.

It’s important to ensure routine maintenance and regular checks are carried out on your facilities HVAC system to ensure it is working correctly and efficiently. Your production equipment may rely on regulated temperature to operate or you may have customers visiting your premises who you will want to provide a good experience for.

There are a number of steps you can take to maintain the HVAC system at your facility, including ensuring your coils are kept clean. Outside coils or condenser coils accumulate a number of particles such as grease, soot, dust, leaves and can often suffer from corrosion and oxidation. Inside evaporator condenser coils accumulate; lint, hair and dust. All of these particles can significantly reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system, causing high energy use and water cost with little results.

To ensure your HVAC system is working to the capacity it needs to, keeping your energy use low and helping you maintain the energy consumption targets set out in your green initiative; you need to ensure coils are kept clean by driving out embedded dirt and residue. Stripping off harmful insulating deposits will help to reduce energy costs and using an economical cleaning solution will minimise reorder and delivery, helping reduce carbon emissions.

Another way to ensure your HVAC system is maintained in an environmentally friendly manner is through using coil cleaning agents that are non-flammable and non-acidic. Opting for products that are better for the environment will help with your sustainability goals. 

5. Cut your wastewater charges and prevent pollution

The main purpose of a WWTP (waste water treatment plant) is to prevent pollution. They transform soluble matter to solids and separate solids from water. They must deal with excessive overloading from many different kinds of pollutants; because of this results don’t always meet desired standards.

Your plant may not work to full capacity or is expected to do more than it was designed to do. This can result in problems associated with; sludge, energy, chemical and labour.

Local water authorities maintain and monitor the level of FOG (fats, oils and grease), BOD (biological oxygen demand) and TSS (total suspended solids) emitted by businesses into municipal sewers. Ensuring these levels are kept low can often be challenging for businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry.

A great solution to reducing environmental charges and ensuring your wastewater is treated effectively is through biological treatment. This type of wastewater treatment is not a new concept but it is one that has evolved and improved over the years. Biological wastewater treatment is designed to consume organic matter in waste streams, lowering levels of FOG, BOD and TSS to acceptable limits without harming the environment.

The right biological treatment for wastewater can prevent blockages and back-ups, eliminate odour, reduce operational costs and put a stop to environmental charges.

6. Re-invigorate your biodegradable industrial maintenance products

Far from a new concept, biodegradable products probably make up the majority of your inventory, including products to keep washrooms and kitchen surfaces clean. One of the benefits of investing in biodegradable products is they are continually evolving. With more R&D; improvements are continually being made available and new technologies are bringing more innovations to the market.

Many heavy duty industrial hand cleaners on the market contain plastic microbeads, used as a scrub within the formulation. It is now known that these tiny pieces of plastic are harmful to marine life and are having a catastrophic impact on our oceans ecosystems. Whilst some countries such as Italy and the UK have already outlawed their use, a complete EU ban is some way off. Switching to a hand cleaner that uses a natural biodegradable scrub instead of plastic is a quick and easy way to improve your businesses green credentials.

Biodegradable industrial maintenance products are lower risk, with fewer restrictions on the product label. There are less harmful chemicals being released into the environment and safer for your employees to use. Why not take a fresh look at your industrial maintenance inventory and see where you can still make a change.

7. Recycling of waste material

Depending on the nature of your business, the waste your operations create can range from metal to oil and chemical to toxic. The sustainability goals of many businesses often include reaching zero waste. For industrial maintenance businesses, especially those involved in manufacture, reaching this goal can be difficult, as a lot of waste generated is hard to recycle.

There are several ways to approach working towards zero waste or reducing your current waste output. Switching to eco-friendly or biodegradable raw materials helps from the off-set to reduce your overall level of waste and makes the unavoidable waste easier to dispose of.

Your business may be in a position to reduce consumption of materials or enhance the preservation of natural resources. Minimising your impact in this way reduces the amount of waste your business omits and ensures a more environmentally friendly approach to your operations.

Taking measures to reduce the amount of waste your operations produce already means you are starting to hit your waste reduction target. Bringing in additional help from waste removal companies will take you a step further but before you decide how your waste will be recycled, it is good practice to measure and monitor your waste to get an idea of how much is being produced and the type of waste your operations are omitting the most of; this also opens up the opportunity to see if there are any changes you can make to your operations to see if this level of waste can be reduced.

With your businesses waste production monitored, there are several options provided by waste recycling companies, giving you flexibility over how you would like to handle your waste collection. Whether you opt for bins to be added to your site for staff to fill, or arrange regular collections once waste has accumulated on site or maybe it would be easier to take waste directly to a recycling centre; however you choose to incorporate waste recycling into your operations, your waste disposal expenditure can be cut through recycling and less waste will end up in landfill.

8. Green building maintenance success

Roof repairs, concrete patching, re-painting or floor repairs; building maintenance is essential to keep your business running, so where do these maintenance tasks fit into your green initiative? The decisions you make around which products to use to carry out these tasks can help determine whether you hit your green goals.

Opting for products that are water based and non-flammable are not only better for the environment but also safer for employees to use. Thanks to improved application methods and levels of coverage, including many products designed to only require one coat; many building maintenance products are longer lasting, cutting down on product inventory and repeat orders, resulting in fewer deliveries, which reduces your carbon footprint.

In recent years, certain products have also become safer and better for the environment thanks to new legislation and the ban of certain components; a prime example of this was the ban on the use of methylene chloride in paint and coating removers after it was found to be linked to cancer. Chloride free paint strippers are now provided as alternatives, providing excellent results even on tough resins including polyurethanes.

9. How diesel additives can help lower emissions

There are many areas of your operations where improvements can be made to ensure your business meets its green standards. As well as taking measures to improve production, engineering and manufacturing through changes to machinery maintenance; changes to your fleet can also help you hit those all-important eco targets.

A sure fire way to improve your green credentials and lower your carbon footprint would be to upgrade your fleet to electric, hybrid or low emission vehicles. For many businesses this is a big investment or a longer term goal, so what can your operation put in place now to help? Making improvements to your existing fleet is a great place to start. If you have older, predominantly diesel vehicles, you could benefit from using a diesel additive to improve diesel quality.

Why is fuel quality important? Diesel fuel is often a large cost for a company and comes with a high impact on the environment. Diesel related problems can increase fuel consumption and lead to breakdowns, parts replacement and ultimately downtime.

Diesel fuel quality can be impacted by a number of factors. Production and handling can create the potential for cross contamination as the fuel travels from refinery and pipeline through to delivery trucks and storage.

Using a diesel fuel additive provides a number of benefits to your fleet and operation. As well as enhancing performance and improving cold weather starting; diesel additives aid in decreasing harmful emissions. Emission reduction not only implies better combustion and a cleaner system but is good for the environment, helping your business reduce its carbon footprint in line with your sustainability goals.

10. Long term changes to hit green targets

Your green initiative could include smaller, simpler steps that are easy to instigate such as switching off lights or machinery when not in use; through to bigger changes as part of a longer term initiative. We’ve covered many changes that can make your maintenance tasks greener and improve your operations in the process. So let’s now take a look at those longer term goals and changes that you may want to implement to your operations.

Travel policy: if your maintenance business operates manufacturing plants or warehouses spanning several countries, your air travel may be quite high as employees visit various sites. Reducing air travel, where possible, to lower emissions is a big win when it comes to sustainability goals. This may not be something that can be introduced quickly but rather built up over a few months.

Renewable energy: switching to renewable energy sources to power your operations helps your facility establish a clean energy future with lower carbon emissions and pollutants.

Eco-friendly raw materials for products: changing aspects of a products formulation is something that will need consideration and input from R&D, chemists and key stakeholders. For some operations this may not be possible but in cases where it is, making a change such as this is not only great for your green goals but also your reputation.

Environmental targets have become paramount to businesses. They provide operational benefits and improve reputation with customers. When customers seek new products or services, many favour those who show environmental responsibility. Greener maintenance helps reduce pollution to our waterways and the impact on ozone depletion as well as global warming since they have fewer smog-producing chemicals. However your business approaches sustainability, your actions can make a difference.

If you would like to make your maintenance regime more environmentally sustainable, contact NCH to arrange a review with one of our trained consultants.