Wire Works

Just because a company is old doesn't necessarily mean it is stuck in its ways. Manufacturer Ormiston Wire is celebrating its 210th year of operation with the achievement of a Queen's Award for Sustainable Development. Although it is a relatively small company of just 16 employees, size has not prevented the company adopting sustainable business practices, says managing director Mark Ormiston. 'We decided to make the changes because we are a manufacturing company and we wanted to look at ways to save money. It wasn't because we had been a green company for years and years.'

Energy Saving Measures

Forced into action during the recession in 1991, Ormiston looked at ways to cut costs. The move from it Ealing base - a large inefficient old factory building - to a more modern premises in Isleworth, Middlesex, allowed the company to control overheads such as energy costs.

The first step was to implement energy efficiency measures such as installing light bulbs with motion sensors that turn the lights off when no one is around. 'It's common sense', says Ormiston. 'If you are at home you don't leave your lights on at night, so why should you at work?'

Plastic skylights were installed to reduce the need for artificial light. The company avoids the Climate Change Levy because it sources its power from a company that provides renewable energy - this saves the business around £1,100/year.

Water is heated by a high-efficiency condensing gas boiler that provides hot water for radiators and hand washing, while push-taps in the bathrooms prevent water and energy from being wasted. As a result Ormiston Wire has managed to cut its water bill to £150/year.

During the winter, heating can be expensive, but simple measures such as shutting the heating system down at 4pm rather than 5pm reduces gas use while still keeping the staff warm. Having few doors at the site ensures minimal heat loss.

The immediate impact of these changes has been a £10,000/year saving - a sustainable amount of money for a company with a turnover of £1.4m.

Reducing Waste

Packaging costs were another area identified by Ormiston as a potential area of saving. 'I am a great believer in recycling - creating a loop where you can make a product and use it again', he says. 'It shouldn't go into a hole in the ground and be left to rot - it should be reclaimed, broken down, recycled and used again.'

The amount of waste generated by the company used to fill two 16 cubic year skips a month. This has been reduced to one skip every six weeks with the use of a waste compactor.

The company also charges customers a deposit on the reels that carry its wire products, refunding the deposit on return. This prevents the reels being thrown away. Cardboard boxes in which raw materials arrive at the factory are reused to pack finished products.

Total savings on packaging are around £6,000/year, while waste removal costs have dropped by some £900/year. Total energy savings (excluding the Climate Change Levy saving) are about £3,000/year.

Keeping the staff happy

As well as making commercial sense, the measures Ormiston has introduced have had the effect of creating a workforce committed to the company's values.

Of course a 38-hour working week and a finish time of 1pm on a Friday have helped, but Ormiston has also been careful to ensure the rationale behind each of the company's environmental initiatives is explained. 'We are nothing special', he says. 'Our staff don't wear beads and sandals - they are just employed here and they know the measures make sense.' As a result, staff turnover is low - one employee likes it so much he is still working aged 95.

The company's commercial and environmental success can be achieved by anyone, Ormiston insists. 'Monitor your costs - including the electricity, water and gas bills', he says. 'Find out how much you spend and ask what you can do to reduce that cost. It is the little measures that form part of a cost-saving package.' It seems that in this case, wisdom really does come with age.

Case study taken from Environment Business Magazine