“There’s always a more sustainable way”
When records are broken in track and field competitions, it also has something to do with the quality of the track. 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 halls, multi-storey car parks and residential construction, as well as educational and healthcare facilities. Producing floors, however, first requires energy-intensive chemical processes. How Conica has succeeded in implementing environmental measures shows that it is not the devil to be found in the details, but opportunities. The close cooperation with the Swiss Energy Agency for Industry (EnAW) pays off in particular when it comes to reducing energy consumption and costs.
Conica AG was founded in Schaffhausen in 1977 and employs around 180 people worldwide, including 100 in Schaffhausen. With customers from over 70 countries as well as 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 attracted special attention. It was designed entirely in green tones, including the athletic tracks.
Durable products as the core objective of sustainability
But green is more than just a popular colour at Conica: it’s a fundamental attitude. The challenge for the company, whose chemical work processes are inherently energy-intensive, is to look at them closely to find ways to increase energy efficiency. At the same time, the athletic tracks and floors must not be compromised as a result.
Another part of Conica’s DNA is their goal to produce highly durable products, because nothing is more sustainable than products with a long service life that retain their quality. Julio Fadel, Head of Marketing & Communication at Conica: “It’s no different for us than it is with good shoes, for example. Although some brands are a little more expensive, they last a long time. Considering the entire life cycle, a higher initial investment pays off, ensures more satisfied customers, and above all helps the environment.
Enhancing energy efficiency with a strong partner
To improve sustainability, Conica decided to seek external input, and in 2017 joined forces with EnAW. The Energy Agency was founded in 1999 by leading Swiss business associations to help companies and organisations optimise 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 monitored by EnAW.
Power consumption reduced by 20 percent
“The chemical industry consumes a lot of energy,” emphasises André Heppa, Conica plant manager in Schaffhausen. “We need mainly thermal and electrical energy for chemical reactions.” The plant adapted its formulas in order to save energy in the production of its various floors. Although certain products normally require a process heat of 70 degrees during production, that heat was gradually reduced to 50 degrees. This measure alone saves about CHF 23,000 worth of energy a year.
Heating pipes and warehouses were also better insulated, and ventilation systems were optimised. Switching from oil to gas heating also resulted in significant savings. Overall, the company reduced its gas consumption by 32 percent and its electricity consumption by 12 percent in 2017/18. And power consumption per ton of material produced fell by about 20 percent.
Conica is increasingly focusing on prevention in its use of natural resources. The company is improving its environmental performance by recycling and closing material cycles to avoid waste and by developing innovative products that, for example, contain bio-based raw materials and have an extended service life. Production-related waste has now been reduced by 60 percent, the plant in Great Britain has recycled 1 million tyres, and the recovered material can be reused for in-house production. Conica is pursuing the general goal of developing products that generate fewer and fewer emissions. All its products are PAH-free while 40 percent are already solvent-free.
Plant manager Heppa emphasizes that the cooperation with EnAW in particular has helped him see the plant with completely different eyes. One example is the exhaust air system of a warehouse that stores solvents. Due to the excessive solvent concentration, the warehouse had to be regularly ventilated using a timer program, as required by fire safety regulations. The newly installed exhaust air system, in contrast, now runs only if solvent sensors detect an excessively high concentration. “The effect was amazing,” says Heppa. Since it was commissioned at the beginning of June 2017, the new exhaust air system has not run a single time.”
Putting pressure on yourself with ISO certifications
Julio Fadel from the marketing department sums up: “Innovative products not only have to be state of the art, they should also become increasingly sustainable. As an ISO-90001:2015 and ISO-140001:2015 certified company, Conica attaches great importance to this. We have now become even more ambitious and want to improve every year. Proof that we are on the right track is that, in addition to the ISO certificates, we are also allowed to carry the EnAW efficiency label ‘CO2&kWh reduced’ as well as the Minergie Eco quality label for new buildings and modernised old buildings. Our goal is to ensure that there is no area of our business that has gone unchecked for sustainability. There’s always a more sustainable way You just have to be open to everything.”