The carbon-neutral Green Factory

Carbon-neutral production is possible! Combine photo voltaic panels, a thermal power station, pellet heating and a production process aligned with the energy the system generates.

In 2019, Alois Müller GmbH in Allgäu opened their Green Factory in Ungerhausen, Germany. The Green Factory is a practically energy self-sufficient office and production building manufacturing heating and ventilation facilities as well as components for metal constructions. Over 200,000 solar cells on the roof provide two-thirds of the carbon-neutral electricity which is used directly onsite. Surplus electricity flows into the grid.

Production steps are aligned with the quantity of electricity available. High-powered electrical machines such as the laser are prioritized when the PV facility provides enough electricity. The same applies to lacquer and sandblasting work as well as production entailing various mediums such as liquid nitrogen, purified water and compressed air.

An important step toward carbon-neutral production is analyzing all material and energy flows required for manufacturing. An ERP system balances incoming orders and production data with the current weather prognoses. On days when there is not sufficient sunshine, the Green Factory draws its energy from a thermal power station. Additional energy is also supplied by a wood pellet boiler during extended cold periods.

Industry 4.0 illustrated – Resource efficiency through digitalisation

Digital and fully-automated processes boost resource efficiency for companies in the manufacturing sector. VDI ZRE’s new video uses Blechwarenfabrik Limburg to show how this works.

There, several management systems are used to digitalise production, while a business intelligence system is deployed to network these systems together, coordinate them and control them.

For example, a production planning system (PPS) directs production processes via a manufacturing execution system (MES), and an energy management system (EMS) analyses and regulates energy flows, compressed air and cooling water. All the data is collected by a business intelligence system (BI). If, say, the BI determines that more compressed air is being used for a certain number of tins, it will alert a technician to this. The technician can look for leaks straight away and fix them immediately, thereby saving energy.

The factory’s roof is home to more than 2,500 solar panels, which provide a third of the electricity required by the factory. What’s so special about this? The warehouse management system (WMS) automatically controls the flow of goods within the warehouse on the basis of the electricity available. This means that energy-intensive stock movements are carried out when the factory’s own photovoltaic equipment is producing particularly large quantities of electricity.

Furthermore, heat generated during production is used for heating and producing hot water.

All in all, this cuts the company’s expenditure on materials and energy by half a million euros a year. It also prevents more than 2,600 tons of greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalent) from being emitted, thereby making a successful contribution to protecting the planet.

Recycling plastics – Resource efficiency with an optimized sorting method

In Germany alone, two and a half million tons of plastic packaging land in the yellow trash can.*  Since the various plastics are very difficult to separate from one another, most of the material is utilized for energy.

The new film from VDI Resource Efficiency Center, Recycling plastics – Resource efficiency with an optimized sorting method depicts an improved sorting and processing method for valuable plastics, bringing the plastics life cycle full circle.

MEILO, a company in Gernsheim located in southern Hesse, sorts plastic trash from the yellow barrels in 30 repetitive sorting processes until the maximal purity of variety has been attained. Plastics are first separated according to size and then subjected to an air separator. In the following step, a near infrared scanner scans the plastics on the conveyor belt as they pass, communicating to a compressed air jet at the end of the conveyor belt which plastics are recyclable. Finally, the compressed air jet blows these material aside. Thus, varying plastics are sorted by an up to 98% purity of variety. In addition to the three major valuable plastics, HPDE, PP and PET, four other well-recyclable plastic varieties are gleaned from the river of trash.

At Systec Plastics GmbH in Eisfeld, Thuringia, the plastics sorted by MEILO GmbH are further processed to produce a premium commodity for the plastics industry. Here, plastics are shredded and cleansed. Repeated circuits beneath a near LED scanner sort the plastic flakes according to color before they are melted and once more filtered. The 99% pure granules are then filled into containers and transported.

Werner & Mertz GmbH, manufacturing laundry detergents and cleaning supplies, uses Systec Plastics GmbH granules to produce their packaging bottles. The granules are easily processed in Werner & Mertz GmbH’s standard production plants in Mainz. Their HDPE bottles and PP twist-off lids are made of 100% recycled plastics from the yellow trash can. Their PET bottles are composed of 20% recycled PET from yellow trash cans and 80% recycled
plastic from deposit bottles.

The plastic life cycle comes full circle, the raw materials are recovered.

Further information on MEILO Gesellschaft zur Rückgewinnung sortierter Werkstoffe (Corporation for the recovery of sorted raw materials) mbH & Co.

Further information on Systec Plastics GmbH:

Further information on Werner & Mertz GmbH:

* For a better understanding: German households pre-sort their garbage into four separate trash cans; yellow for plastics, brown for compost; blue for paper and black for non-recyclables.

Comprehensive resource efficiency information:

Commissioned by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety

Material efficient LED production in Germany


Material efficient LED production is also possible in Germany

LED lamps are similar to conventional incandescent light bulbs – externally. But they consume only about one-tenth of the energy. The market for innovative light source is huge. Engineers and technicians of the Seidel GmbH in Marburg, Germany, have analyzed LED lamps on the market. The result of the analysis: a mix of materials that are not optimally designed and poorly recyclable. The goal of Seidel is to enebale the material-efficient production of LED lamps in Germany. Because the majority of today’s LED models are imported from the Far East.

With a completely new design of the lamps, the Seidel company allows a material-efficient production of LED lamps. Fewer components that are assembled only by means of plug connections and eliminating glues and tin for soldering makes the lamp about 60 percent lighter than comparable products.

The savings potential of the new LED lamps can also be calculated by a tool of the Federal Environment Agency of Germany (Umweltbundesamt). With a special matrix environmental effects can be calculated that amount to the preproduction of the materials that are used. In the film, you will also see how this calculation matrix was applied and how the Seidel GmbH helps to use less material for producing LED bulbs.

More about the Federal Environmental Agency and the Environmental Innovation Programme

How LEDs are constructed and work: LED luminaires save energy.

Material efficient LED production in Germany

Material efficient LED production in Germany

Resource efficiency in the University Hospital Freiburg in Germany

The concept of “Green Hospital ” combines the goals of medical quality, economy and ecology in the operation of a hospital. For that the VDI Center for Resource Efficiency offers in several short films practice examples. The first film shows the integral measures at the University Hospital Freiburg in Germany. The clinic focuses on integral material flow management that includes many different resources. It has its own power supply and operates a combined cycle power plant and uses among other renewable resources such as wood pellets. Solar panels on the roofs of buildings and a sophisticated facility system, which turns heat into cold, form a complete green energy supply.

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Fine casting vs. rough machining

New techniques can revolutionize production processes, as demonstrated by the example of TITAL GmbH. TITAL GmbH saves 75% of the raw materials and energy use and one third of production costs by applying state-of-the-art precision casting technology. The medium-sized enterprises produces investment cast components for aerospace, motor sport and medical applications. Using 3D animations, the film shows how the engineers of TITAL GmbH reduce the consumption of expensive titanium and how they improve operating results by installing a new investment casting furnace.

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Final decision in the anodizing bath

Environmentally sound recycling technologies can revolutionise production processes and can also save rare as well as expensive resources and improve product quality: The company Süß Oberflächen GmbH saves 20,000 € per year and additionally increases product quality by recovering acid from the anodising bath. In addition, the engineers save a quarter of the energy and 90% of the water by applying smart process technology.

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Wine, heat and water

Well-designed technical solutions do not only improve production processes – if applied intelligent, they save resources and reduce operating costs as demonstrated by the Martin Pfaffmann wine jelly company. In the family business a smart heating management system halves the gas consumption, while a special evaporation cooling reduces water consumption by 90 percent.

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Investment casting, wine and anodizing

Three companies – three examples of resource efficiency: In foundry business quality and material savings do not exclude each other. Wine jelly spread is heated and cooled down with more efficient technology in a family business. A surface finishing company combines product quality and resource conservation.

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A network of heat

In an industrial park within Stade a group of industrial plants and a thermal power station are joining their forces in a resources-efficient network. The participating enterprises produce important components for the age of renewable energies such as units for wind-power plants and of bio fuels. The constant consumption of steam and electricity also provides economic operation conditions for the power station. Even the single consideration of the energy balance for the production of bio ethanol reveals benefits: In comparison to other processes commonly used for the production of bio ethanol in the EU, the energy balance is increased by 50 percent.

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