Investing in a More Sustainable Future
How Capital Investments & Lean Initiatives Reduce Environmental Impacts, Improve Sustainability
As a manufacturer of steel and concrete water infrastructure products, our focus on lean production processes often intersects with our commitment to minimizing the impact of our business on the environment. The result is a consistent push toward increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and investing in a more sustainable future for our Company, our communities, and our planet. In recent years, Northwest Pipe Company has invested millions in capital improvements that have positively affected plant operations while minimizing our ecological footprint.
Improving Air Quality
Reducing emissions and improving air quality has been a top priority and a point of success at our operations facilities for many years. Two major capital projects completed last year improve environmental controls at our Parkersburg, WV, and SLRC, Mexico facilities. Both projects improved the efficiency of our coating processes and reduced atmospheric emissions.
Previously, painting operations at the Parkersburg facility required all team members in the area to wear additional PPE, affecting overall productivity. The new 25,000 SF hand blast and coating building includes a dedicated paint booth with a controlled environment to safely contain particulate release. Parkersburg also utilizes distillation systems that reuse solvent in coating operations, effectively reducing waste volumes.
At the SLRC plant, the construction of a new 10,000 SF facility has moved hand-painting operations indoors from a temporary outdoor space. The new building is equipped with environmental controls including an advanced HVAC system that cleans the exhaust air before releasing it into the atmosphere. This decreases the risk of coating failure due to contamination while further enhancing air quality.
A third major project is near completion at our plant in Portland, OR. Here, coating and lining processes are being consolidated under one roof, offering both improved environmental controls and a more streamlined operation.
In recognition of their contributions to preventing and controlling air pollution within their community, our plant in Adelanto, CA received the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District’s Exemplar Award in 2019. Continuing this success, the plant went on to receive a $522,000 Carl Moyer grant to use toward retiring six diesel engine vehicles in our fleet and purchasing two new modern units.
Reducing Energy Consumption
Our environmental sustainability efforts extend to our other plants as well, where upgrades to more efficient lighting systems are creating energy savings while improving visibility, including at our locations in Saginaw, TX, Parkersburg, WV, St Louis, MO, and Orem, UT. Specifically, at our Portland, OR plant, a full energy consumption audit in partnership with the Energy Trust of Oregon has led to the implementation of facility-wide energy-efficient upgrades, including:
- Programmable thermostats
- Dedicated compressor systems for specific production areas
- Compressed air storage
- Heat pump replacements for electric heater and window AC units
- Lighting controls for non-production areas
- Energy usage monitoring in key locations
With these and other changes in place, and a team dedicated to reducing energy usage across the facility, the Portland plant saved 372,641 kWh in the first year. This energy-usage upgrade comes on the heels of a 5-year, $2 million investment in environmental improvement projects at the plant that included installing a state-of-the-art stormwater treatment filtration system.
Recycling & Reducing Materials
Northwest Pipe Company procures and works with tens of thousands of tons of recycled material each year to manufacture high-quality steel pipe and precast concrete products, and our team continually strives to limit resource waste.
Our SLRC, Mexico plant has piloted a steel scrap reuse program that utilizes fishtail and tongue pieces (generated by the spiral mill) as raw materials for special assemblies. The discarded steel scraps gain a second life as fabricated fittings such as collars, reducers, banded bells, bases for shipping, or test plates. This program saved over 22 tons of steel plates in its first year.
Our SLRC plant has also been successful in finding outlets to reuse cement-related waste product as a raw construction material. Plant management recently worked with the local municipality to transfer 107 truckloads of rebound cement material for use in grading poor-conditioned roads.
Expanding Our Environmental Focus
While we’ve made great strides in recent years in minimizing air pollution, increasing energy efficiency, and reducing waste, there is much more progress ahead on the road to a sustainable future. Our Board of Directors has recently formed the Environmental and Social Governance Committee which will have an ecological focus and will help steer our climate-conscious strategy. Additionally, we’re investing in our team with a newly created position for Corporate Social Responsibility Manager. This position will partner with other leaders in our organization to drive our Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives.
At Northwest Pipe Company, we’re committed to ensuring our manufacturing processes are as sustainable as the water infrastructure solutions that we provide. By implementing lean principles, investing in capital improvements, and developing a leadership team dedicated to strong ESG-standards, we’re taking action to limit our environmental impact while advancing our position as an industry-leading manufacturer of quality water and wastewater systems.