In an ambitious drive to reach zero manufacturing waste in its North American facilities, Freudenberg North America's 16 companies will increasingly pursue industrial processes that focus on recycled product content, plant recycling, lower water and energy consumption and increased use of sustainable materials over the next decade, the company said recently.

The companies were challenged to reach this objective by parent corporation, Freudenberg and Co., during a recent internal Global Innovation Forum on raw materials and innovation. The two-day event, annually conducted and simultaneously video-cast from locations in Germany, Brazil, the United States, China and Japan, allowed Freudenberg's global contingent of scientists, chemists and other technical specialists to review green projects, share best practices and participate in critical discussions about ongoing environmental issues.

The impact that global megatrends such as population growth, global warming and an increasing scarcity of resources is having on Freudenberg's business and innovations - and how the corporation will respond - was central to the Global Innovation Forum.

"In the past, we have successfully issued challenges to our manufacturing facilities to achieve zero defects and zero accidents," said Dr. Martin Stark, a member of the Freudenberg and Co. Management Board. "We are now issuing a challenge to achieve zero manufacturing waste. The trends driving our business today mandate this kind of response if we are to maintain long-term growth and profitability."

Improving environmental sustainability

In North America, Freudenberg companies provide products and services as diverse as consumer cleaning products; medical devices; seals and gaskets for the transportation and construction industries; industrial components for the energy and oil and gas industries; nonwoven filters and materials; information technology outsourcing; and specialty lubricants and release agents.

All of the companies are said to be engaged in implementing processes and programs that will improve the environmental sustainability of their products and plants, said Leesa Smith, President, Freudenberg North America Limited Partnership. "Freudenberg's North America companies are committed to developing the highest quality products available in manufacturing facilities that protect people, communities and the environment," Smith said.

"Freudenberg has a 160-year history of conducting its business with integrity and a commitment to the welfare of its plant communities. The confluence of new environmental challenges and this long-standing corporate culture is pushing our people to develop green industrial innovations that will help solidify our success - and the health of our communities - into the next century."

Initiatives being pursued

Among the environmental initiatives that Freudenberg North America companies are pursuing are:

Freudenberg Nonwovens, headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, uses millions of pounds of 100% post consumer (PCR) and post industrial recycled plastic annually to produce Lutradur ECO, a polyester industrial backing used in building and construction substrates, landscaping materials and wallpaper and carpet backings. The company produces the material using a proprietary, closed-loop manufacturing process in plants that reuse all of their material scrap. Commercial use of Lutradur ECO is rapidly rising as contractors seek new ways to improve the sustainability of their own building and construction designs.

Project implementation

A number of Freudenberg North America companies, are implementing environmental projects in their facilities that range from installation of more energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems and production machinery to using recyclable shipping containers and sourcing vendors who offer their own green products and supplies.

Freudenberg North America Limited Partnership, the North American holding company for Freudenberg & Co. of Weinheim, Germany, owns a family of companies that operate 15 unique businesses. Together, these companies provide innovative products and solutions to customers in industries ranging from automotive, aerospace and medical to chemical, oil and gas and construction. Freudenberg North America companies develop and manufacture custom-engineered seals, vibration control technology, filters, nonwovens, release agents, lubricants, expansion joints, household products, and IT software and services.

This article was originally published in the Stitch Times, July, 2012.