The Clitheroe site in the UK has been pushing hard on several fronts to meet our targets for the Sustainability 2017 Vision...

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The Clitheroe site in the UK has been pushing hard on several fronts to meet Johnson Matthey's targets for 2017 and help realise the Sustainability 2017 Vision. With its impressive waste reduction and improved production through a project to release capacity making a significant impact internally, and outreach activities with local schools externally, this has been a good year for Clitheroe. Its efforts in making the best use of constrained capacity on its plants and revamping its waste management processes, along with its schools collaboration, have earned it Johnson Matthey's 2011/12 Award for Sustainable Business.

Targeting Efficiency Improvement

Much has been achieved on this busy site where there is high demand for its products. Indeed, it was market demand that prompted the continuous improvement initiative. The plants involved, which produce catalysts that are used in the oil, gas and petrochemicals industries, did not have enough capacity to meet the demands of the market. The plant equipment was ageing and the physical space available was limited. The Operations team found a way of squeezing additional capacity from the existing assets and looked at how capital investment might be phased in without disruption in the future.

The project was based on an approach known as the Theory of Constraints (TOC). In this methodical and transparent approach, sales demand for the financial year was analysed, capacity was calculated and the manufacturing constraint was identified. This is a complex production area, with three plants sharing a number of key assets, and greater simplicity had to be introduced. The operators were brought on board in the efforts to overcome the constraint involved, with strong visibility of the sales demand to be met.

It worked. The concept was rolled out and as it was implemented, full asset loading was achieved. In some of the processes, batch sizes were increased – thereby increasing capacity and reducing energy use. To test the improvements, tonnage output was measured over a nine week rolling average of output and showed sustained growth. In the 2011/12 financial year, output was over 20% higher than the previous year, beating an already ambitious stretch target. As well as realising additional capacity, the various efficiency improvements also had a positive impact on profitability.

Action on Waste

There is no manufacturing without waste but it is Johnson Matthey's aim to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2017. The Clitheroe site targeted non-hazardous waste as the priority area – around 67% of all waste was non-hazardous and being sent to landfill at levels that had remained stagnant for some years.

For waste reduction to work, it is important to improve the segregation of waste at source. To enable recycling, different bins are provided. The 2011/12 campaign was designed to move the site away from a system of 'any bin will do'.

To start the waste reduction drive, a new local contractor was selected for non-hazardous waste: Neales Waste Management. Neales shares Johnson Matthey's goals and aims to eliminate waste to landfill, making it an ideal supplier and partner for the Clitheroe site. Weekly collections were introduced, moving away from the old 'on call' system, and new, clearly labelled recycling bins were placed around the site. A 'Waste Watch' notice board was created to communicate progress and encourage staff to make their suggestions on ways to reduce waste further.

Three new balers were bought – equipment to compact plastic wrap and flexible intermediate bulk containers, or FIBCs, into mill-sized bales, which are sold for recycling. The site now receives an income for its efforts in baling and recycling these waste streams.

These efforts have produced excellent results. A target of 100 tonnes of non-hazardous waste to landfill was set; anything less would be a bonus. In fact, only 78 tonnes was sent – a 40% reduction on 2010/11, leading to cost savings of over £7,500.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists

While these sustainability efforts were going on within the site, Clitheroe employees were working on social sustainability and community action too. Johnson Matthey is uniquely placed to stimulate an interest in science among school children and in 2011/12 the Clitheroe team chose to work with two schools in the area. In previous years, the site had spread its activities too thinly across a number of schools and now decided to work with one secondary school (St Augustine's High School) and one primary (Pendle).

For the high school students, Clitheroe employees from various departments took part in a programme to offer careers advice, inspirational talks and an interactive workshop which included health and safety awareness. For the primary school children, a science week was set up and included a practical known as the Squashed Tomato Challenge. Clitheroe employees worked with their local STEM team – from a national initiative to promote education in science, technology, engineering and maths – to devise a solution to the problem of transporting tomatoes without squashing them. This is a real life problem faced by farmers living in the mountainous areas of Nepal, which provides a context to motivate these youthful scientists.

Other activities included a teacher placement and work experience. A teacher from a third local school, St Michael and St John, spent two weeks at the site and helped create a teaching plan based on work at the Clitheroe site. A work experience student from a fourth school then took the material and converted it into Johnson Matthey workbooks and information sheets.

Solid links with local schools have been forged, an interest in science among children awakened and the company's reputation enhanced.

All these endeavours – operational, waste reduction and community involvement – have been achieved against the backdrop of a busy site where the 'day job' is enough to keep employees fully occupied. Nonetheless, the Clitheroe site has made sustainability a way of working, making it a worthy winner of Johnson Matthey's 2011/12 Award for Sustainable Business.