Benefiting from waste streams

Operational UK Ltd develops solutions for industry that reduce energy consumption. Converter talked to UK managing director and group director Jim Colston about the breadth of expertise the company is able to offer

What are the aims of the business?

We target specific industry sectors, identify the processes therein which rely heavily on nergy and work out the most effective ways to improve them. Strategies such as installing heat recovery systems bring many benefits including improving product quality, line speed,productivity, process efficiency and safety while reducing energy usage and environmental impact.

Why does sustainability remain such a burning issue?

Manufacturing is under constant pressure to remain sustainable and efficient, burdened with ever-increasing operating costs due to higher energy prices. Optimising processes using energy efficiently and recovering heat is key to controlling these costs. We have developed skills and expertise to support customers in maximising efficiency, recovering energy and benefiting from waste streams.

What is your level of business with printers/converters?

We have worked on many projects in the packaging sector as this involves the use of solvents, lots of heat generated with drying ovens and a fair amount of waste product.

There is always an ebb and flow regarding doing business with low cost countries and Europe. For example, some work has gone to China then a few years later comes back to the UK because of quality or other supply issues. I believe there is a general overcapacity leading to consolidation. With lower investment in developed countries in Europe and a focus on China and other low cost Asian countries, the UK holds up well in the technical areas of complex high value products or security. It is an in-depth understanding of the processes involved that enables us to devise optimal solutions tailored specifically to each customer’s application which in turn allows them to make significant efficiencies and savings.


What level of savings are we talking about here?

To give you a few examples, we worked with a Dutch company which manufactures nonwovens (web substrate mats) that require treating, coating and drying – processes that demand huge amounts of heat.

Flexible packaging is an important area for us. When making a comparison with another supplier of heat recovery solutions, one customer based in Australia found that ours was 10% cheaper in terms of capital expenditure but perhaps more importantly, the long-term benefit was that it saved him 15 times less energy than the competitive tender. On just one of its many sites the business is making an annual saving of 200,000 Australian dollars.

Furthermore, we helped them to save 20 million litres of water annually – which is no mean achievement. Additional savings of thousands of dollars have been made through putting in place various waste reduction initiatives.

Operational UK Ltd developed a bespoke solution for a leading manufacturer of nonwoven glass fibre veil to recover heat from the drying and coating processes. Oven exhaust waste streams of 175 degrees Centigrade were being discharged to atmosphere. Fouling issues were addressed by means of a bespoke in situ cleaning system while process heat was recovered into hot water supplying the oven and other energy users on site.

The results for the customer included an energy recovery of 800kW/hour while saving more than £180,000 per year on their gas bills and seeing a return on investment within one year.

So customers can benefit from a short payback time?

Most customers achieve a return on investment in less than two years but for some it is much sooner as was true for a Korean tobacco carton manufacturer who saw the benefits immediately. Even so, we still often find a reluctance to invest despite the very good returns.

We always work on awareness through marketing but sometimes the message does not hit the mark and we need to look at alternatives to get it across more effectively to potential customers. We try to support customers with regard to financial assistance, working with the Carbon Trust and Siemens Finance to provide funding for energy-saving projects.

How do you support customers in the long-term?

It is absolutely vital that involvement with a customer does not stop with installation and commissioning of equipment. Our engineers carry out regular maintenance including calibration and emissions testing.

Around one third of our business comes from support services – both on our own equipment and that supplied by other companies which do not provide the same level of back-up that customers depend on.

In short our raison d’etre at Operational UK Ltd is to develop cost effective solutions that add value to our customers’ business while helping them reduce their carbon footprint.

Operational UK Ltd

T: +44 (0)1928 579473