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

New from old: resource efficiency through remanufacturing

A new film on the subject of remanufacturing has been released by the VDI Resource Efficiency Center, showing how small and medium-size companies (SMEs) can save materials and energy by reconditioning old components. It features two firms operating in the fields of vehicle technology and water meter production.
Faulty engines, old rear axles, worn gearboxes: Herrmanns Fahrzeugtechnik in Hailtingen takes the components of old car engines and completely dismantles, cleans and, in some cases, reconditions them. The result is a fully functional engine of the same or even higher quality as a comparable new product.

The approach taken to scrapped cars also works for worn-out water meters: around ten million water meters have to be replaced every year in Germany in compliance with the country’s calibration laws. Schelklinger Lorenz GmbH & Co. KG sees to it that the old meters can be reused: in a multi-stage process, old products are dismantled, cleaned, tested and reassembled. After successful remanufacturing, the products are ready to use again.

Reconditioning second-hand products allows the consumption of materials to be reduced by up to almost 90 percent. Not only do companies save on materials by doing this, they also cut the amount of energy used in the manufacture of new products, thereby reducing their production costs.

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Industry 4.0 – Saving materials – in development and in production

There are numerous options companies can draw on to save materials and energy in production processes. The new VDI Resource Efficiency Center film, Industry 4.0 –  Saving materials in development and in production, depicts two practical, first-hand examples, clearly illustrating how digitalization measures can lead to a remarkable increase in resource efficiency.

Wetropa GmbH, in Hessian Mörfelden, designs individual foamed plastic packaging for their clients in the automobile and electronics industries, in medical and measurement engineering as well as in craftmanship enterprises. To accommodate even the smallest of lots, such as single tool or camera packaging, while increasing material and cost efficiency, the company developed an application with which customers can develop the packaging themselves. Thus, the foam lining and transport case can be adapted to specific needs. The advantages of this digitally generated construction data – easily created online – are that several smaller orders can be consolidated into one production process and customers no longer need extra test samples sent out before ordering. A doubly efficient method of saving materials.

J. Schmalz GmbH of Glatten, Germany also turns to digitalization to evoke resource efficiency. The company produces, among other products, customized vacuum grippers for machine engineering customers. Once the specific parameters are determined per telephone, the product is given a product key, which is digitally transferred to the production department. Industry 4.0 then optimizes the production procedure. According to the product key, only those components required for the so called “one-piece flow” are prefabricated, a just-in-time production allowing top material efficiency, as well as reducing storage to zero. Whether changes are made by the customer or a product becomes obsolete, this approach puts an end to superfluous inventory.

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Good advice saves resources


The wood processing company Holzwerke Bullinger GmbH & Co.KG in Neuruppin, Brandenburg is one of the largest European manufacturers of composite lumber. While timber prices have been steadily rising over the past years, the significance of efficient regenerative raw material handling has become equally important.  VDI Centre for Resource Efficiency (ZRE) online tools provide co-workers with an overview of possible resource efficiency potential. The resource check delivers the initial indicators. When further information is required, the VDI ZRE telephone service office provides assistance. Calling in an external advisor may also be a shrewd step. Implementing the VDI ZRE cost structure calculator, advisors gain an initial impression of company overhead. The cross-sectorial comparison quickly reveals whether and which costs are higher than average.

Once this groundwork has been laid, the resource efficiency advisor now analyses the production process. Step by step, each work procedure and the corresponding flow of material is examined. At Holzwerke Bullinger, a simple one-time investment of 4,000 to 5,000 euros brings a savings of 81,400 euros. As a result of the consultation, Holzwerke Bullinger has increased composite lumber production efficiency, an important step in holding one’s own in global competition.

VDI ZRE does more than provide advisors with the tools to unlock company resource efficiency potential.  Every year, VDI ZRE carries out in-house hands-on training or learning factories such as the one at the Ostfalia College in Wolfenbüttel. There are also seminars to train resource efficiency advisors, running over several days. In addition to the general basics, participants learn to compile the energy and material usage during a given process, as well as the knowledge to correctly analyse this information with the appropriate tools.

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Bionic vaulted structures – Nature’s own resource efficiency model

Bionic structures have become an integral part of industrial processes. The hexagonal vaulted structures found naturally in turtles or honeycombs is used for a variety of industrial products. The form provides materials with a strong stability and stiffness.

Dr. Mirtsch Wölbstrukturierung GmbH in Berlin has developed an innovative process for producing vaulted materials. The bionic structure is relatively easy to install in metals. The sheet metal is rolled over a mill equipped with lined braces. The varying levels of pressure cause the metal to ‘plop in’. What’s special about this, is that the bionic structure comes about automatically. Compared with conventional procedures for inducing stiffening structures, this vault structuring technology requires but a tenth of the re-shaping energy. Furthermore, vault-structured sheet metal is easier to continue re-shaping, thus, simplifying additional processing.

Gestamp Umformtechnik GmbH applies this production advantage to manufacture construction elements for the automobile industry. The rigidity inherent to vault-structured sheet metal allows the use of thin aluminum, with the aim to reduce weight. In addition, the thusly domed material eliminates the intrusive rattling that usually accompanies thin construction components.

Siteco Beleuchtungstechnik GmbH produces LED designer lamps with vault-structured aluminum. The structure provides an optimal reflecting surface for the LEDs, creating an exceptional light quality. The material serves as both housing and reflector, resulting in an enormous material savings of 80 percent. And yet another advantage, vault-structured sheet metal incurs less tension, even at higher temperatures.

Vault-structured materials are not only material and energy efficient, but have numerous other advantages. For this reason, they can be found in many other products such as catalyzers and washing machines, not to mention their frequent usage in architecture.

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Perfect material cycle for aluminium

Perfect recycling management means the complete recycling of a product at the end of its use phase, with the creation of a new product from the individual components. In order to turn this vision into reality, it is necessary to separate products as finely as possible into their single components. Then the resulting materials can be reused by type.

As far as the recycling of aluminium window frames is concerned, the Hydro Aluminium Recycling Deutschland GmbH has taken another step closer to the perfect materials cycle, as the VDI Center for Resource Efficiency shows in its new film: Following a precise analysis of the shredded aluminium parts, a new shredding plant separates the individual alloys so accurately that the recycled aluminium can be returned to the materials cycle. Since aluminium is used in a multitude of different alloys, proper sorting into clear fractions is essential for comprehensive recycling. Therefore, the shredding plant uses special x-ray equipment and different screening methods.

The metal separation by fractions enables the recycling of 30,000 tons of high-quality aluminium per year and a reduction of CO2 emissions by more than 200,000 tons. This key technology was funded within the framework of the Environmental Innovation Programme of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety of the Federal Republic of Germany.

For more information on the German Environment Agency and the Environmental Innovation Programme, please visit:

For more information on the recycling of aluminium by Hydro Aluminium Deutschland, please visit:

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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

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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