AFW Foundry, Inc. will not be trucking 1,920 tons of sand per year to the landfill as a result of its participation in the Wisconsin Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI). In addition, the company has achieved significant savings in landfill fees, transportation expenses and raw materials cost.
Established in 1953, Lannon-based AFW Foundry supplies non-ferrous sand castings complete-to-print for a diverse range of commercial applications. In recent years, the company has seen increased demand in its air-set business, but the amount of sand utilized in production and then shipped to the landfill as waste was a business concern.
Wisconsin Profitable Sustainability Initiative
“The PSI program came along at a very opportune time,” said Amy Dvornik, vice president of business development, a third-generation family owner who is certified in Lean and Six Sigma. “We saw strong opportunity to do the right thing for the environment and make some cost-effective improvements for our business.”
AFW Foundry had already invested in equipment to mechanically reclaim the sand used in its air-set production so it can be re-used to make new molds. But the new process required 30% of all reclaimed sand to be diverted to a silo, and as such, was still destined for the landfill. What was needed, Dvornik said, was engineering expertise to find another use for that sand.
The PSI program provided services and expertise to tackle the issue. PSI was launched last year by the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) to accelerate the adoption of sustainability strategies by small and midsize manufacturers. The goal is to help manufacturers reduce costs, gain competitive advantage and minimize environmental impacts. PSI brings together a team of energy, environmental, logistics and lean experts to identify and implement sustainability projects based on business needs, fast payback and high ROI.
“The PSI team came in was very helpful in validating the strong return on investment we could achieve by diverting the sand we could not reuse in our process away from the landfill,” Dvornik said.
Sam Cooke, principal and senior engineer for BT Squared, Inc., a Madison-based civil, environmental and energy engineering firm, conducted sampling and analysis of the sand, and applied for and received a Category 2 classification from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The designation is crucial because it negates the waste designation and allows the diverted sand to be used for roadbeds, embankments and other approved uses.
Sustainability as Strategy
“Our experience with the program has been fantastic,” Dvornik said. “The team from WMEP and BT Squared guided us through a very complex process to find out what things we could start taking action on today.”
Knowing where to get started on sustainability is a challenge facing many manufacturers.
AFW Foundry’s first foray into sustainability was about seven years ago with a Focus on Energy project to install new lighting. Dvornik recalls that started the conversation about a range of other potential improvements in the areas of packaging, routing and transportation and returnable dunnage containers. Ultimately, the company’s growing interest in sustainability led to the redesign of their foundry process and a capital equipment investment for sand reclamation.
Today, sustainability is part of the company’s strategic business plan. “We’re excited about finding new opportunities throughout our company to reduce our impact on the environment and improve our bottom line,” Dvornik said. “Our sustainability focus is giving us a competitive advantage, making us a more profitable company and enhancing our reputation as an industry leader.”
Going forward, the company hopes to share what it has learned with its key suppliers.
AFW Foundry PSI Results:
- Sand previously landfilled:
• 6500 tons / year
• Reduction in landfill cost $90,000 / year
- Reduction in raw material expenditures:
• 70% of foundry sand is re-used
- Beneficial re-use of excess sand
• 30% – 1920 tons / year for external use
• WDNR Category 2 Approval
Without the project, that sand would have been returned to the landfills.