“A requirement is an opportunity for improvement.”
Quality Engineer for Aurora Specialty Textiles Group
The scene: white cinderblock walls, speckled linoleum floor, a couple refrigerators, circular tables scattered like coins. Aurora Specialty Textiles Group’s lunchroom was standard fare — until you looked through a large picture window along the south-facing wall.
There, you saw the inner workings of an earnest manufacturing company, the kind striving to show up as a leader, the one hosting this second in a series of meetings by Valley Industrial Association’s Sustainability Committee headed up by Tim Tremain, president of MTH Pumps.
Beyond the single pane was an amalgam of clean silver metal, a patterned ceiling of conduit pipes crisscrossing like a maze, and massive industrial pendants showering brilliant light among people moving, walking, working with large rolls of multi-colored cloth and swaths of tape for industrial applications. In the distance, steam hissed and machines hummed.
ASTG President Dan LaTurno pointed to the window and said, “Out there, we have the best group of people.” Referencing ISO 14001, he added, “We’re a 100-plus-year-old company (that) needed more conformity.” For most manufacturers, conformity means ISO certification. ASTG’s Quality Engineer Paula Kirby (a Six Sigma Black Belt herself) talked about how the organization, a wide width coating and finishing company, approached ISO 14001.
To the more than 20 members and guests of the VIA, Paula shared: “ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 are about continuous improvement. It’s a journey. It’s an evolving management system.”
ISO 14001: Start Here
According to Paula, the first step is grabbing a copy of the “ISO 14001 Overview.” It outlines: benefits, challenges and key factors for successful implementation. Then, encourage everyone across the company to take a balanced approach to quality and environmental management systems (EMS).
• Look at the environmental needs and goals within the context of your organization
• Identify key stakeholders and their expectations
• Assign key roles and responsibilities
• Review requirements — the bulk of ISO 14001 is planning
• Get the leadership team on board
• Draft procedures and policies
The Plan-Do-Check-Act Approach
Getting ISO 14001-certified provides third-party feedback, which inspires confidence from others outside your company. Objectivity gives you critical improvement advice and may even exempt your company from some customer audits. Paula recommends putting a system in place and then getting certified. ISO experts will come in and do a gap assessment first.
Paula adds that ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 are 75 percent the same, but also cautions that ISO certifications do not remove legal requirements or even translate into 100 percent success. Instead, EMS is about continuous improvement.
• Find a registrar for certification
• Use a Plan-Do-Check-Act approach (see below)
• Implement and audit internally before bringing in the registrar
• Understand the relative severity of compliance points — know the difference between nice-to-haves and must-haves
Here’s a quick summary of a Plan-Do-Check-Act approach:
PLAN: Start here. A continuous improvement approach means you may be circling back to planning if you want greater improvement.
DO: Implement specific goals, requirements and steps to follow for line operators.
CHECK: Monitor key data points like electric use and paper recycling.
ACT: If you’re not performing up to par according to the data, take corrective action. Ask: can you do better?
Timeline to Certification and Critical Factors For Success
Aurora Specialty Textiles Group began allocating resources to ISO 14001 in 2009. The next year, they conducted internal of audits with an expert outside the organization. It takes about a year of preparation before a registrar comes in. In 2011, the company earned the initial certification. ASTG had five minor non-conformances. It responded with an implementation plan.
“In 2015, we started over because we moved (to Yorkville),” says Paula, “and we got certified that same year. They don’t have to fill in all the lines anymore. We have a mature system now with less than two minor non-conforms. We want to be sure we’re doing the right thing and controlling our impact. (ISO 14001 is) everything that impacts the environment, determining what is a risk, and the planning to minimize those impacts.”
Critical factors for success include:
• Invite top level managers to drive the program
• Inspire commitment and engagement from all levels of your organization
• Fully integrate ISO 14001 with your existing management system (the two are not separate)
• Embrace transparency — this may seem hard, but it’s necessary in order to improve
• Organize your information so it is easily accessible for auditors
• Provide resource allocation and training — get your workforce engaged
The biggest challenge with ISO 14001, oftentimes, is not knowing what may arise. An example: An auditor finds an aerosol can left by the cleaning staff. He or she asks: What’s your plan for aerosol? Having a cross-functional team to brainstorm possible scenarios is key.
“Buy-in was never a problem. They care about the environment. They don’t want to have an adverse impact,” says Paula. “You just have to make sure everyone understands the environmental policy — even temps or an electrician working for the day.”
• Don’t get hung up on your score
• Do a sanity check to ensure scores match the reality of where you should be expending effort
• Document requirements concisely, clear and focused
• Identify all requirements — but don’t get mired down in reference material. It’s good to have these on hand, but not necessary to memorize manuals from places like the Illinois EPA, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, OSHA, Department of Transportation, California Prop 65, and European Reach.
ASTG’s Environmental Projects Beyond ISO 14001
“We’ve worked on some sustainability projects on our own. We found where we can make our lives betters,” said Kevin Shroba, a plant engineer for ASTG. ASTG’s energy efficient building was built from the ground up. The lights are LED. There are new, highly efficient boilers. The company has even analyzed paper recycling since losing their waste hauler in the move.
Since the company opened its new 124,000-square-foot facility, it has received about $640,000 back in incentives from Nicor and ComEd (ASTG is a big user of heat and water). Using variable speed drives has netted about $8,000 back and using LED lighting with 1,000-watt fluorescent bulbs has resulted in $131,000 in incentives.
Future sustainability projects the company is kicking around: solar panels, and turning coated product and packaging material into solid fuel waste. This would redirect materials (off-spec product waste, plastic packaging bags, stretch wrap, etc.) from landfill to productive uses.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from VIA’s Sustainability Committee meeting is found in Steve Jobs’ quote: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”
As part of its strategy, ASTG embraced ISO 14001 as a company. VIA members and guests had the rare opportunity to learn how ASTG’s all-in, all-of-us culture is moving the company forward as a socially conscious, mindful manufacturer.
Michele Kelly is co-founder of K+L Storytellers, a B2B storytelling and content company for culture-driven organizations and the storytelling agency for the Valley Industrial Association.
Next VIA Sustainability Committee Meeting
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 @ Valley Industrial Association
2000 S. Batavia Ave, Suite 110 | Geneva, IL 60134