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Andrew Robinson, environmental co-ordinator at Arc Energy Resources, discusses the importance of environmental awareness and the relative merits of ISO 14001 accreditation.

Despite media attention, relatively little effort has been made by the welding industry to try to offset its environmental impact.

Few welding firms have achieved either ISO 14001, the voluntary standard concerning the environment, or EMAS, Europe’s version of the same.

Those that do are not only helping to protect the environment that provides them with the raw materials they need to function, but also cutting their costs.

While full accreditation may seem a daunting task for an industry that doesn’t count environmental procedures in its ‘best practice’, many firms fail to appreciate the benefits that can arise from even partial implementation of these standards.

Waste management is the easiest way of simultaneously reducing a business’s effect on the environment and its costs.

Many companies already recycle cardboard, but there are other opportunities.

Several wire manufacturers will take back empty welding wire spools to re-use; any expired electrical equipment can be returned to its supplier under WEEE regulations; and redundant office furniture can be sent to charities instead of to landfill.

Arc Energy Resources is constantly discovering new uses for old items and gets paid to have its scrap metal removed.

On the subject of energy use, while it may not be possible to reduce consumption during working hours, a quick tour of the factory after hours will unearth sources of energy wastage that can easily be avoided.

Low-energy light bulbs for office spaces offer lower electricity bills and longer life expectancy.

Water bills fall instantly with the use of low-flush toilet systems, which can cost under GBP20.

Some of the pricier energy-saving measures can be government funded through grants or loans.

The Carbon Trust offers Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs) on up-to-date energy-efficient equipment, and companies can borrow up to GBP100,000 interest free for projects that are expected to reduce energy usage.

Arc Energy Resources was able to reduce electricity consumption in its cladding unit by 24 per cent by installing latest generation power sources, funded by such a loan.

The savings made on electricity bills is expected to exceed the overall cost of the equipment, and thus be sufficient to repay the loan.

By undertaking measures such as these we help the environment, make cost savings and move ever closer to international accreditation.

The main crux of the standards is the creation of an Environmental Management System (EMS).

Similar to those that many companies have in place to manage quality, and health and safety, an EMS is a formal system for monitoring environmental performance, legal compliance and continual improvement.

Although this sounds like a complex job, it can easily be broken down into manageable stages by following the British Standard BS 8555.

There are many organisations available to offer help and advice, but one that Arc Energy Resources has found useful is the Acorn Scheme, run by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).

Divided into six phases, this involves establishing the baseline, ensuring legal compliance, developing targets, implementing the EMS, auditing and final acknowledgement.

As soon as one of these stages is complete, the achievement is logged on the Acorn register so that it can be appreciated by other companies, be they customers looking for sustainable development, or suppliers hoping to ‘green’ their credentials.

Herein lies one of the keys to environmental success: every little helps.

Even the smallest action by one person, such as turning off a light, can have a significant effect cumulatively.

It is important to communicate this to all employees, from top management to welders on the shop floor.

Everyone can make a difference and overall this can lead to significant cost savings and the all-important continual improvement required by ISO 14001.

Arc Energy Resources found it useful to allocate responsibility for environmental performance to an individual within the company, with control over a ‘green team’.

They can implement the firm’s environmental policies and encourage workers to adhere to them.

Companies that can prove their commitment to the environment (through accreditation to ISO 14001 or EMAS) stand a better chance of flourishing in a new age of growth and climate change.

Arc Energy Resources

Arc Energy Resources is one of the UK’s leading specialists in weld overlay cladding and quality-assured fabrication services with a turnover approaching £5m, employing 70 staff in work space totalling more than 30,000ft2. The company’s expertise in weld overlay cladding services provides heavy-duty protection against corrosion and wear for process and pipeline equipment destined for use in any hostile environment. It can clad bores up to 4m in diameter and areas of restricted access within bores as small as 20mm in diameter.

The manufacturing infrastructure is qualified to ISO 9001:2008, ISO 3834-2, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 18001:2007. The company also holds ASME U and R stamp certificates of authorisation, which qualifies it to fabricate and weld on components destined for use on pressure vessels built to ASME standard.

Arc Energy’s welders and fabricators are qualified to internationally recognised standards and specifications. A wide range of base metal/cladding combinations has been qualified to ASME IX, API 6A and NACE. In addition, Arc Energy offers in-house test weld, heat treatment, PMI and NDT facilities.

Arc Energy has recently invested £500,000 in two new rotating-head welding machines to increase productivity and extend the size and scope of work the company can handle. While conventional workstations move components around a fixed welding torch, the new machines use automated controls to manipulate the welding torch around a fixed component, accurately positioning it to apply the overlay while working close to the component’s footprint. The investment expands and enhances Arc Energy’s ability to handle complicated component geometries for the full or partial cladding and fabrication of a huge range of component sizes weighing anywhere up to 15 tonnes.

Managing director Alan Robinson is one of very few UK-registered European welding engineers. He has a Master's degree in welding and is a chartered engineer, a European engineer and a senior member of the Welding Institute. He has assembled a highly skilled team capable of delivering quality service from enquiry to delivery and beyond, which can engineer the perfect solution to the biggest of challenges.

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