At Cleveland Bridge Group, we firmly believe that sustainability is a pre-requisite for doing business in today’s world. As such, the entire steel industry must take responsibility for their impact on the environment and embed the values, practices, new techniques, and solutions across all aspects of their businesses.

While we understand that this is no simple task, our own efforts to go green have proven that the rewards are worth the work. In fact, we have successfully implemented over 300 separate initiatives that not only reduced our carbon footprint, but also improved our day-to-day processes and cost of operations.

Our local supply chain

As an international company, one of the biggest obstacles to reducing carbon emissions was the sheer size of our supply chain.

In total, we work with more than 400 providers, each supplying vital products, materials, and equipment for our construction projects. In terms of delivery miles alone, this large supplier base represents a potentially significant carbon footprint, if not managed proactively.

Our solution was to turn to the wealth of businesses in our local area – and this initiative has been a huge success. Today, more than 75 percent of our supply orders are sourced from the North East of England, very close to our headquarters in Darlington, with only specialist equipment being ordered from further afield or overseas. As a direct result, the carbon footprint of our supply chain has been considerably reduced, alongside lead times.

Furthermore, our renewed emphasis on local content is not exclusive to the Northeast – it also extends to our construction sites. As Chris Droogan, Managing Director at Cleveland Bridge reveals, “To minimise the carbon footprint of any given project, we aim to maximise local resources, where possible. For example, our recent project at Bridge Street, Newport operated with more than 50 percent of local labour and materials sourced in that region.”

Our lean manufacturing

As one of the biggest contributors to our carbon footprint, a complete overhaul of Cleveland Bridges traditional manufacturing was required. In its place, we sought to implement lean manufacturing principles that would change both the culture and processes of our day-to-day operations.

We started with our most prized asset: our staff. From efficiency improvements to waste-reduction ideas, to process improvements and energy reduction we educated our workforce to identify, suggest, and implement carbon footprint initiatives of their own. The aim of the training was to facilitate a change in mindset throughout the entire company, providing the foundation for a more sustainable future.

In terms of initiatives with more immediate benefits, we improved the production machinery. For example, we invested in advanced multi-functional equipment that completes more tasks with fewer machines, rationalising equipment, improving flow, and minimising downtime. Additionally, we improved production efficiency and minimised energy output, by implementing a greater degree of automation in our equipment – particularly in our cutting and welding operations.

Chris Droogan, Managing Director at Cleveland Bridge, believes that these manufacturing improvements result in benefits all along the supply chain, “Due to the scale of our plant and equipment, we can produce larger and more complex steel girders – up to 56 metres in length. When compared to shipping multiple smaller components, these large girders help reduce transport costs and thereby carbon emissions. And, with our improved production machinery, we can even carry out trial assemblies to ensure fittings and product dimensions and buildability is industry leading.”

Our energy efficient offices

In addition to our ambitious improvements to manufacturing and the supply chain, we also implemented several smaller – yet, equally important – initiatives in our offices and production facilities, supporting Cleveland Bridge being more energy efficient.

We started with the simple solutions – the easy, energy efficient changes that would quickly reduce our carbon footprint. For example, our maintenance team started to recycle all grey water, significantly improving our water utilisation. Another example was our plan to prevent lights being left on unnecessarily, we installed zonal, passive infra-red and sound sensitive switching as well as LED lighting throughout our offices. Within operations we installed LED lighting, providing significant carbon reduction when multiplied over our operational area of 30,000m2. Similarly, we also invested in a fleet of energy-saving photocopiers and printers and upgraded our heating system to enable greater zonal control and improved efficiency.

As Chris Droogan, Managing Director at Cleveland Bridge, explains, “The real challenge was deciding which initiative to prioritise to improve our existing office equipment and processes.”

One of the answers to this problem, for instance, was to update our IT servers with the latest processing technologies. This innovative improvement not only granted our servers a far greater energy-efficient ratio but also allowed us to scale down the number of IT servers by over 60 percent, further reducing our offices’ carbon emissions.

In all areas of the business, Cleveland Bridge has instilled a cultural change, which has been integral in the success of our carbon footprint initiatives. An example of this is the decision to install electric vehicle charging points prior to any employees utilising electric cars, this provided a catalyst for change.  We hope the rest of the industry will join us in our efforts to create a more sustainable future.