Unipart Group employs more than 9,000 people worldwide and has a annual turnover of more than £1.1billion. It is a major force in logistics for blue-chip customer such as Vodafone UK, Halfords and Homebase, and is also the UK's largest independent supplier of car and truck parts, bodyshop parts and workshop consumables through its Unipart Automotive division.
Here Paul Sawko, Environmental Manager at Unipart Group, gives a short report about how they're addressing climate change.
The Unipart Way
In addressing the issue of climate change, Unipart considers waste at all levels within the organisation. This is embodied in its lean approach to business - operating "The Unipart Way." Unipart's OCC (Our Contribution Counts) lean thinking database is full of employee generated good ideas, a growing number devoted to green initiatives.
The use of energy (burning of fossil fuels) is traditionally associated with carbon emissions. At its Cowley warehouse, one of the biggest in Europe, Unipart has achieved reductions in the use of electricity by embracing new technology and raising employee awareness.
Voltage controllers have been installed. These reduce the input voltage whilst not affecting lighting levels. New low energy tri-phosphour tubes have been adopted, as have lux level sensors which automatically turn off lights when natural daylight provides sufficient illumination. Motion sensors have been installed in picking aisles, illuminating lighting only when required. Electricity consumption has been reduced by more than seven per cent, saving over £77000 in 2006.
In addition to reducing electricity usage, Unipart has also considered how its electricity is sourced. From November 2006, Unipart's major sites (including Cowley), have sourced electricity produced from 100% renewable resources.
Gas consumption is controlled through a microprocessor gas control system. This allows differential temperature setting as required, linked to a visual display, allowing temperatures to be pre-set, and heating shut down in areas when shifts have ended.
The importance of staff participation in energy saving has been supported by the running of energy awareness days and a Climate Change evening, in order to transfer good practice from the workplace to the home.
Action on energy usage is underpinned by quarterly meetings of the Energy Management for Unipart (EMU) group, which brings together decision makers from all parts of Unipart, and provides a practical discussion and demonstration forum for new products.
The impact of transport is being tackled through various initiatives. The installation of audio and video conferencing facilities in several locations has reduced the number of road and air miles travelled. A dedicated bus service for employees runs to the Cowley site.
A Unipart division, Unipart Automotive, operates a fleet of vans. The installation of a telematics (satellite tracking system) in all vehicles has resulted in a reduction in the fleet size through more efficient route planning. Company car drivers now have the choice of a hybrid vehicle.
Carbon emissions are also produced in the purification and pumping of potable water for domestic and industrial use. Cowley has managed consumption by fitting "Save-a-Flush" devices in toilet cisterns, reducing usage by 1 litre with every flush. Waterless urinals have also been installed, which do not require flushing, and the provision of push taps in hand basins has further reduced water usage.
The reduction in raw material usage , and substitution of raw materials with recycled materials also lessens carbon emissions.
The use of plastic shrinkwrap has been eliminated from certain packing operations. A recycling rate of over 90% was achieved in Cowley warehouse in 2006. Wooden pallets are re-used. Those that are damaged are chipped and used in landscaping applications. Cardboard and plastic shrinkwrap are baled and despatched for recycling. A target of zero waste to landfill has resulted in the setting up of an OCC to devise practical solutions for the remainder of waste currently landfilled.
Following a trial in conjunction with the Government's Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), Unipart switched to using recycled office paper, with no reduction in quality, (and a cost saving!). It is now engaged in a programme to extend its use of recycled office products.
Unipart is passionate about continuous improvement and whilst much has been achieved, it recognises both the environmental benefit and competitive advantage that tackling carbon emissions offers - a true win-win situation.