Recently, Helmer Scientific was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award for Pollution Prevention during the 2019 Indiana Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence. I sat down with Troy Rector, Vice President of Manufacturing and Supply Chain at Helmer Scientific, to discuss the efforts behind the project that propelled Helmer to this award, as well as other environmental and sustainability efforts in existence at Helmer.
When asked why Helmer embarked on a project to redesign the entire refrigeration line to operate with natural refrigerants, Rector responded, “Sustainability is a comprehensive approach to management of an organization which is focused on creating and maximizing long-term economic, social and environmental value. As a responsible corporate citizen, we must be accountable to environmental protection and the impact that we exert on our surroundings.”
This philosophy is shared from the top down with strong support from leadership and team members alike. Sound environmental practices are integrated into every facet of the core business with guiding principles embedded into business practices at each stage of the product life cycle. This includes an investment in best-in-class tools to drive environmentally sustainable projects.
The recent refrigeration redesign project converted all refrigerants to natural hydrocarbons and eliminated the use of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants which can cause detrimental effects to the environment. Helmer Scientific eliminated over 3,800 pounds of refrigerant charge, over 5,000 tons of CO2 equivalent, and over 5,000 pounds of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants annually. In addition, the project has resulted in reduced energy usage of over 31,000 kilowatt hours per day and reduced raw materials such as steel, copper, and aluminum by over 70 tons. Finally, this initiative will result in dramatic energy savings across the installed base of products.
Helmer Scientific has been committed to environmental sustainability for some time, with many initiatives in place well over seven years. A full-time EH&S (Environmental Health & Safety) specialist has been added to drive sustainability projects. “We are a zero land-fill facility,” said Rector. “All waste is sent to a transfer station where it is sorted and recycled, and the manufacturing facility is small quantity exempt for hazardous waste. In addition, there is a recycling program for pallets and corrugated materials, returnable containers are used, and we have invested in auto-lights throughout the manufacturing facility and home office, as well as a HVAC energy management system to reduce energy usage.”
Mr. Rector shared that part of being a responsible corporate citizen is sharing the successes and ideas for pollution prevention that have been developed. Helmer Scientific is a member of the Indiana Partners for Pollution Prevention which was founded by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) in 1996. IDEM partners with Indiana companies who are interested in participating in a forum to discuss and share pollution prevention successes and ideas for new pollution prevention policies and programs.
Helmer Scientific hosted a factory tour for many large Indiana companies who are fellow members of Partners for Pollution Prevention. “Executives from Subaru, Toyota, Honda, Eli Lilly, Dow and others were able to witness the transformation of Helmer products first-hand and see the impact that we are making toward improving environmental conditions,” said Rector.
Prior to the launch of the GX Solution Refrigerators, Helmer Scientific’s Lead Engineer, Dr. Chengzhi Tang, along with a representative of Embraco, the refrigerant compressor supply partner, spoke about the benefits of these natural refrigerant solutions at the ATMOsphere America conference in 2018. Helmer and Embraco worked jointly to develop the system solution that optimizes the environmental impact of the refrigeration system.
I asked Mr. Rector what’s next for Helmer. He responded, “We plan to continue to convert our entire product line to environmentally-friendly natural refrigerants. We will also focus on the processes and the way our products are produced to ensure that we are making every effort to continue our sustainability track record.”
When asked if there was anything further that he would like to include, Rector replied, “Sustainability is transformation and development of the organization as well as creation of its long-term value based on our innovation and the intellectual and relation capital. We are involved for the greater good of our company, state, country and world.”
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