Going green

Waupaca Foundry nation’s first metal caster to receive energy certification

Jessica Thiel
Posted by of Insight Publications

When you think of a green workplace, a foundry probably isn’t the first one that comes to mind.

Waupaca Foundry, recently recognized as the nation’s first metal caster to receive ISO 50001 Energy Management System Certification, would like to challenge that idea.

The certification is the culmination of years of work and a desire to lead the way for the industry in energy conservation. “For an industry as energy-intensive as ours, it’s a really big step,” says Michael Hoecker, energy manager for Waupaca Foundry.

Foundries were among the first recyclers, and Waupaca Foundry has long used a lot of scrap metal in its products. The iron castings manufacturer began to implement conservation efforts more than 10 years ago.

Around 2010, a paper came out discussing ways foundries could address sustainability. At that point, Hoecker says, Waupaca Foundry decided to ramp up its efforts.

The foundry has set a goal of reducing its environmental impact by 2020. Goals include reducing energy intensity by 25 percent, promoting pollution control technologies, reducing spent foundry sand generation and slashing water consumption by 80 percent.

In an effort to bring a more structured approach to its sustainability efforts, the company hired Hoecker two years ago. By that point, the foundry had pursued and exhausted the obvious avenues for conservation.

“At some point, you reach the end of low-hanging fruit,” Hoecker says, “and you need to start bringing some intention and focus.”

Hoecker and the company set out to achieve the ISO 50001 certification at the beginning of Hoecker’s tenure. To receive the certification, the company, which also received a $100,000 incentive from Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program, worked with an independent registrar to complete a verification audit.

The accredited certification confirms that a company has created a system of continual improvement in energy use, efficiency and consumption, according to Waupaca Foundry’s press release.

To achieve these goals, Hoecker worked to establish uniform structure across all six of the company’s plants, setting sustainability metrics and adjusting activities based on the results. Establishing employee awareness is key, Hoecker says, from middle management to production floor workers.

Some of the company’s initiatives include converting to LED lighting, replacing outdating compressors with newer, more efficient models and installing a new energy management system.

Joey Leonard, Waupaca Foundry’s vice president of human resources, says energy conservation has become increasingly important to the industry, and the certification boosts the company’s reputation.

Hoecker says containing the company’s energy costs allows the company to remain more financially secure and competitive. The benefits extend beyond financial, he says, providing the community a stable workplace.

Leonard agrees, saying that today’s potential employees want to work for a company that’s green, and other companies want to work with those organizations as well.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Leonard says. “The more times you can do the right thing, the better off you are.”