Reducing solvent emissions – Huf leads the way
It was nearly a century ago that Huf first supplied lock sets to Mercedes Benz.
Today, the German automotive technology company has around 6,800 employees around the world, in locations as far apart as UK, Germany, USA, Romania, India, Brazil and China, designing and manufacturing mechanical and electronic locking systems, steering locks, remote control systems, telematic and tyre pressure monitoring systems for the automotive industry.
Always looking for the next technological innovation, Huf was the first company to develop components for new car access and immobilization systems such as “passive entry” and “keyless go”, as well as developing the “kick sensor”.
In the UK, Huf operates from a site in Tipton in the heart of the Black Country, close to the traditional car manufacturing industry of the West Midlands. A 300-strong workforce specialises in the painting and coating of car door handles and production of locksets for an impressive range of customers including Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo Audi, GM, Nissan and Tata.
Huf UK is currently working towards long term series production of large volume additional supply to Daimler and Jaguar Land Rover, and will also soon start to ship to BMW Mini in Oxford for the first time.
Paint spraying of components is a critical part of the operation, producing approximately 15 million individual components in a typical year using 180 different paint colours. Using the latest technology and methods to ensure their product is top quality, HUF’s most recent introduction is a plasma plant and aqueous power washer, making sure there are no impurities or blemishes on the outgoing product.
Historically, the site used to spray with solvent paint – a process that resulted in a high level of emissions. Looking to make its facility as safe and environmentally friendly as possible for its workforce and the surrounding area – as well as comply with the European Commission’s VOC Solvents Emission Directive – Huf UK turned to engineering and environmental consultancy Wardell Armstrong for specialist advice and support.
That was in 2008, when solvent emissions at the site were at an annual estimated level of 50.4 tonnes. Today, they’ve fallen by a massive 70% to just 14.69 tonnes – well within the limits of the Solvents Emission Directive. This significant achievement was recognised in 2013 with a Platinum Plus Award from Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council Awarded for exceeding Huf UK’s own ISO14001 standards and for their year-on-year continuous improvement in environmental performance.
To help the company achieve this remarkable reduction in emissions, Wardell Armstrong helped to implement a comprehensive solvent reduction management strategy and plan. Starting with a clear understanding of the Solvents Emission Directive this included monitoring, analysis, interpretation, permit applications and the management of subcontractors as the company moves towards a changeover to all water-based paints.
These do however have a solvent content (although quite small in comparison to historical solvent-based paints) – so intense trials were needed, lasting up to two years per component. They involved exposure to extreme temperatures and weather conditions before going through rigorous quality control by customers- and only customer acceptance of the product would steer the Tipton plant to complete changeover to water based paint.
Environmental emissions monitoring involved physical roof top stack emissions testing of all output stacks, and co-ordinating these with factory ducting from the process plant. Analysis led to carbon filtration of the highest emission stacks, with immediate improvements clear from further roof top monitoring.
Filter changeovers are made more frequently to further prevent solvent emissions. HUF also introduced an additional plasma plant which successfully improved product quality and also further reduced solvent emissions.
Wardell Armstrong also takes responsibility for preparing the annual solvent emissions report (including figures from procurement of paint and coatings to the management of disposal of residue solvent and fugitive emissions) to Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council – who have the power to revoke HUF UK’s permit if standards are not maintained.
But that now seems unlikely.
The planned reduction in solvent emissions happened even more quickly and efficiently than projected. And with emissions now at only 14.69 tonnes for the last recorded year, Huf is now well below the parameters set for large users – as well as being a global leader for solvent reduction in the automotive parts industry.
“Wardell Armstrong has supported us well through all the hurdles associated with paint spray emissions,” said Keith Lane, Health & Safety and Environmental Manager at HUF UK.