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How MAT Foundry is actioning sustainability

Measuring and cutting carbon emissions are becoming essential for all foundries. We talk to Shaun Lindfield, MAT Foundry Group’s commercial director, about making the foundry supply chain more sustainable and how DISA’s digital tools are helping.

"By 2025, if you can’t quantify your carbon emissions and discuss them in detail, I don’t think you will even be invited to tender."

Shaun Lindfield, Commercial Director, MAT Foundry Group

- Shaun, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. How does MAT Group approach sustainability?

My team take central responsibility for continuous process improvement and carbon reduction projects. For me, process improvement and carbon reduction go hand in hand. Improving your process or your casting quality means you consume fewer resources, which reduces energy consumption, transport costs and so on. There’s a double payback: lower emissions and lower costs as well.

Personally, I have a passion for sustainability; my degree is in environmental management and I spent my first seven years at MAT Group as health, safety and environmental manager. I knew that going into industry was how I could make a real difference.

 

- Norican recently committed to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Is this something MAT Group is considering?

All our facilities comply with ISO 14001 for environmental management and our OE plants are all ISO 50001 certified for energy management. We haven’t signed up to SBT, we’re waiting so we can align our standards with our customers. But we’ve been measuring scope 1 and 2 emissions across the group for the last two years and already offer our customers a product carbon footprint based on that. We started measuring scope 3 emissions in own supply chain this year.

- What is the priority for Scope 3 emissions data and are you using it for your own procurement?

Our raw material suppliers (scrap and ferro-alloys) are the first focus for us and our customers are pushing us in that direction too. They know that this is where the majority of emissions are coming from: the ferrosilicons and the carbon products that are produced at 2000 to 4000°C. 

Once we have a better handle on scope 3, we will definitely use it ourselves. For example, where should we buy ferrosilicon magnesium from? From suppliers in our region of Europe that use 100% green energy or from suppliers outside Europe that potentially use non-renewable energy?

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- What else do your customers want to know about?

They want to maximise secondary material content and are starting to ask how much secondary material is in each product. We already use a lot of iron scrap and we’re going through all our raw materials to classify each one as primary or secondary. For example, carbon could be defined as secondary because it’s a waste product from petroleum coke.

- Do you see any specific sectors taking a lead on sustainability and is emissions measurement becoming obligatory for foundries?

Automotive is the obvious one. We deal with both tier one suppliers and the OEMs themselves, and they all want to be carbon-neutral by a certain date – 2030 or 2040 is common. Most are starting to factor emissions into their tendering processes and we’re now being asked to quote for zero-carbon products.

So yes, measuring scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions is becoming essential to winning business, though how much it is genuinely being taken into account remains to be seen. But by 2025, if you can’t quantify your carbon emissions and discuss them in detail, I don’t think you will even be invited to tender.

- So if a foundry has high emissions then it won’t get the business?

We’re just getting to the quoting stage now so, frankly, we don’t know yet. Some companies seem to be very serious about carbon neutrality but it really comes down to whether the market is willing to pay more for a greener product. For example, our UK facility uses 100% renewable energy but that comes at a cost. And removing certain carbon emissions in our process is very difficult so we have to buy carbon credits or plant trees. 

If we quote for a carbon-neutral product to be fitted to a vehicle in Europe and that contract then goes to a Asian foundry, well, then it is unlikely that product could be zero carbon and still have a competitive price. They are most likely using non-renewable energy and shipping it halfway across the world. Unfortunately, we have seen this happen in the recent past, where it just comes down to the cheapest part, even though that company’s website might be all about how green they are.

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- What’s the best way to take account of sustainability in the procurement process?

Applying a correction factor to tender prices, based on a supplier’s quality and delivery performance, is a common approach and adding supplier emissions to this calculation would be a transparent way to make them part of tendering. A high score is bad and increases the price of the part. Reduce your emissions and you will be competitive.

 

- Can you give me any examples of current MAT projects that will boost your sustainability?

Our sand reclamation scheme recycles used green moulding sand from the DISA process to make cores for brake discs. It will cut waste moulding sand production by around 65% a year, increase our use of secondary material and slash our spend on new sand, transportation and landfill. It’s a serious investment but significantly reduces our carbon footprint and saves us a fortune at the same time.

Our ongoing Monitizer project in Poole is vital in helping improve both our process and sustainability. Monitizer lets you acquire a lot of reliable data very easily and quickly, and makes it simple to analyse and understand that data too. Our engineers and our managers can create reports and interrogate the data themselves. Then they can start to monitor and track, compare with historical performance, look at the trends and so forth.

That lets us make informed decisions on where to focus our efforts: energy reduction, carbon consumption or cutting waste. Implementing the Monitizer | PRESCRIBE AI will pinpoint where we can reduce scrap, emissions and costs – the potential is massive.

Beyond helping us to cut scrap, Monitizer already drives all sorts of emissions-linked process improvements. For example, we are steadily reducing blasting cycle times on our Wheelabrator machine. That cuts energy and shot blast material use, there’s less wear on the machine, and so on.

- And how about the physical foundry equipment?

You have to look at all sources of emissions, from the energy consumption and longevity of your machines to where you ship materials from. Our DISA equipment is the core of our foundry: the moulding lines, sand plant, sand systems, DISACOOL as well as Wheelabrator shot blasting. These machines operate 24 hours a day, 5-6 days a week for 20-30 years. Their energy efficiency, long lifetime and high quality production has a huge positive impact on our carbon footprint. We recently upgraded the PLC control systems on both our moulding machines which will extend their lifetime for many years.

In fact, DISA constantly comes up with new products and components that we can add or retrofit to the moulding lines to make them more efficient and sustainable. For example, the Mould Accuracy Controller that measures real-time mould alignment before pouring. Put that on your line and you’re immediately cutting mismatch and scrap. Over time, that has a massive effect on scrap, costs and emissions. 

- Is scrap reduction even more important in the age of sustainability?

Quality and emissions reduction are being linked like never before. When you start to reduce your scrap, there’s a significant reduction in scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. There’s the melting energy but also all the other carbon emissions that go into producing scrap – the alloys, the energy to dry the sand, bentonite, the transport emissions and so on.

There’s a complete shift in mindset coming over the next three to five years. Getting to zero scrap is going to be crucial because the effect on emissions will make you so much more competitive. If you are producing 3-5% scrap, it’s going to cost you a whole load more to get to carbon neutrality. Again, it’s about process improvement leading to fewer emissions. It saves you money and makes you more profitable – so why isn’t everybody doing this?

Many thanks to Shaun for taking the time to talk to us. 

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