[Interview - Livio Elia, Eskenazi] - “Thinking about the impacts from the product design stage”
Eskenazi is a century-old family business with about forty employees. Managed by Livio Elia, the Carouge company produces a wide range of cutting tools used in the medical sector, watch and clock making and machine tools. It handles all manufacturing phases, from carbide powder to the finished product. Its director wants to reduce energy and material consumption throughout the production cycle.
You say you are continually trying to reduce your inputs. Can you tell us more about it?
Livio Elia. We try to keep our impacts to a minimum throughout the manufacturing cycle, using as little material as possible and reducing the energy used as much as possible. We try to waste a minimum amount of material, which begins by shaping forms as close as possible to those of the final tool. These various efforts are also a way to reduce our costs.
And are you also concerned about the end of life of your tools and equipment?
L.E. Yes, we can collect customers used tools and try to make them aware of this issue. Whenever possible, we sharpen them to recondition them. If this is not possible, we turn them over to the industry that recycles the carbide. This then becomes powder again and can be reused.
Do you use this powder to make new tools?
L.E. No, we can’t use recycled material for our tools because of the quality and precision demanded by users. But today cutting tools made from recycled carbide are available on the market.
Do you also recycle material during the manufacturing cycle?
L.E. Yes, we try to recycle everything, at every stage, not only sintered parts, but also the intermediate sources: paraffin, sludge, pre-sintered parts, etc. These different materials go back either to our own circuits, which avoids the need to use fresh material, or to the recycling processes.
The same goes for water: we work on circuits that are as closed as possible so as to be able to reuse it. When necessary, we filter it to keep it under constant conditions.
To manufacture your tools, you have to use furnaces heated up to 1,200 degrees and are therefore a big consumer of energy. What actions have you taken to reduce your consumption?
L.E. We are working with organizations such as the Industrial services of Geneva (Services industriels de Genève - SIG) to see where we can save energy. But even before that, we had taken various actions. About ten years ago, we installed an adiabatic cooling process instead of a traditional air-conditioning system that has saved us a lot of energy: hot air passes through humid honeycomb filters, which cools it down, because as it evaporates, the water absorbs the calories in the air. This process has been validated by SIG, who find it to be a good solution for cooling rooms with very little energy. Three years ago, we also replaced all our neon lights with LEDs. As for the hot air that comes out of the machines, this is blown directly into the workshops, which avoids having to heat them in winter. Also, our fully automated furnaces are very well insulated. Even though they can heat up to 1,200 degrees, you can still put your hand on them.
And are you still continuing your efforts today?
L.E. Yes, we are working with a Swiss machine manufacturer, who in turn is working with ETH Zurich to see how to reduce the energy consumption of its machines, especially outside working hours. We will be testing this process this month, and we are among the first to take concrete action on machine downtime. This is very motivating, because intellectually, we don’t understand why we should consume more energy than necessary.
What advice would you give to other manufacturers who would like to reduce their material and energy consumption?
L.E. In general, the company's DNA must be tuned into this theme at all stages. It’s a state of mind. Even when we’re first thinking about the product and designing it, we have to think about the impacts. We have to ask ourselves: why use a lot of energy, water or components when we can do with less? By asking these kinds of questions, we often simplify processes as well. This generally saves material and energy, but also time, which can then be used for activities with higher added value. We can also think about how the company operates, keeping only what is useful, which often reduces its energy and space requirements.
In addition to the processes, they should go to organizations such as SIG that have a lot of skills and professionals. And depending on what you do, you can get subsidies.
Interview and text by Aline Yazgi for the Genie.ch team.
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