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Steelcase Cuts Waste, Costs Through Finishing Process Improvements

Green Manufacturer hosted a day-long workshop at Steelcase last week that highlighted the leading office furniture manufacturer and forum member’s recent efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of its finishing operations.  It was a great opportunity to highlight how a company can dramatically increase profitability by systematically reducing waste.

This is a particularly tricky issue for finishing operations, where a best practice powder coating process is only getting 60% of paint on the product.  Water and costly chemicals are literally evaporating and/or being flushed down the drain.

By working closely with its suppliers (chemical firm DuBois, Sherwin Williams) and asking them to find creative solutions, Steelcase was able to reinvent a number of key processes at its Kentwood plants over the course of a few short years.

Some quick stats from investments made on a pretreatment line (per year):

  • 52 million gallons of water saved
  • Up to 60% reduction in BTUs
  • Up to 30% less chemical volume
  • Up to 50% savings in labor costs
  • Total savings of more than $1 million.

Green Manufacturer has a case study on the DuBois partnership in its latest issue, which happens to be covered by Mary Ellen Mika, Steelcase’s Sustainability & Energy Manager, Global Procurement.  Read it online here.