“Exploring the potential of sustainability”
The Swiss company Conica is one of the world’s top suppliers of flooring solutions – i.e. functional floors for sports facilities and gymnasiums, industrial buildings, parking garages, as well as for residential construction, educational and healthcare facilities. However, the production of the floors is preceded by energy-intensive chemical processes. A glance at the details shows how Conica has nevertheless been able to achieve considerable success with environmental measures. In particular, the close cooperation with the Energy Agency Swiss Private Sector (EnAW) is paying off in terms of reducing energy consumption and costs.
Conica AG was founded in 1977 in Schaffhausen and employs around 180 people worldwide, 100 of whom are based in Schaffhausen. With customers from over 70 countries and production and sales locations in Switzerland, Great Britain, the USA and China, Conica has made a name for itself worldwide. Last year, the new Vallehermoso stadium in Madrid received particular attention, which was designed in shades of green, including the running tracks.
Long-lasting products are the main goal of sustainability
Being green is not only a popular colour for Conica, but a basic attitude. The challenge for the company, whose chemical work processes are energy-intensive per se, is to consciously question them and thereby increase energy efficiency. At the same time, the quality of the running tracks and floors must not suffer as a result.
Another point in Conica’s DNA is the goal of producing very durable products, because nothing is more sustainable than products with a long lifetime that do not lose their quality. Julio Fadel, Head of Marketing & Communication at Conica: “It’s no different with us than with good shoes, for example. There are some brands that are a little more expensive but last a long time. Viewed over the entire life cycle, a higher initial investment pays off, makes customers more satisfied and is particularly beneficial to the environment”.
Achieving greater energy efficiency with a strong partner
In order to improve sustainability, Conica did not want to remain in its own thinking, but joined forces with the EnAW as early as 2017. The Energy Agency was founded in 1999 by leading Swiss business associations to help companies and organizations to optimize their energy balance. EnAW’s energy management system is based on clearly defined target agreements and measures that are decided and implemented within the company and are subject to monitoring by EnAW.
Power consumption reduced by 20 percent
“The chemical industry consumes a lot of energy,” emphasizes André Heppa, Conica plant manager in Schaffhausen. “For chemical reactions we need mainly thermal and electrical energy.” In order to save energy during the production process for the manufacture of the various floors, the company has adapted its recipes. Certain products require a process heat of 70 degrees during production. This has been gradually reduced to 50 degrees. This measure alone saves energy worth around 23,000 Swiss francs a year.
In addition, heating pipes and warehouses have been better insulated and ventilation has been optimised. Switching the heating system from oil to gas has also resulted in significant savings. Overall, the company was able to save more than 30 percent gas and almost percent electricity in 2017/18. And electricity consumption per ton of material produced has fallen by around 20 percent.
Conica is increasingly focusing on prevention in its consumption of natural resources. The company is improving its environmental performance both by recycling and closing material cycles to avoid waste, and by developing innovative products that contain, for example, bio-based raw materials and have a longer service life. The company has now been able to save 60 percent of production-related waste, recycle 1 million tyres at its UK plant and make the material recovered usable again for its own production. In general, Conica aims to develop products that generate fewer and fewer emissions. All products are PAH-free, and 40 percent are already solvent-free.
Plant manager Heppa emphasizes that the cooperation with EnAW in particular has helped to see his own company with completely different eyes. A detailed example is the exhaust air system of a warehouse where solvents are stored. Because of too high concentration of solvents, the warehouse had to be regularly ventilated via a timer program, as required by the fire police regulations. A newly installed exhaust air system, on the other hand, now only runs if solvent sensors measure a too high concentration. “The effect was amazing,” says Heppa. “Since the new system went into operation at the beginning of June 2017, the exhaust air system has not run once.”
Putting pressure on yourself with ISO certifications
Julio Fadel from Marketing sums up: “Innovative products not only have to be state-of-the-art, they should also become more and more sustainable. As an ISO-90001:2015 and ISO-140001:2015 certified company, Conica attaches great importance to this. Proof that we are on the right track is that, in addition to the ISO certificates, we are also allowed to carry the efficiency label ‘CO2&kWh reduced’ of the EnAW as well as the Minergie Eco Quality Label for new buildings and modernised old buildings. In the end, we are just as ambitious as the athletes who run records on our floors. We want to improve from year to year. Our aim is to ensure that there is no area of our business that we have not examined in terms of sustainability. There is always a more sustainable way of doing things. You just have to be open to everything.”