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The Midas way – green credentials in a golden age

A cosy night in watching the television became the catalyst for a new way of life for the owner of a polyurethane moulding company, fast-forward a year and the passion and commitment has placed his business in the position of making extensive cost savings whilst on the road to being carbon neutral by June 2020!

Having made a personal commitment following what he describes as an “epiphany” moment, Midas Pattern Company Ltd managing director Alan Rance knew that if he was to truly commit to a more environmentally-friendly way of life the allegiance had to extend beyond home and to the company. The result, within ten months of said epiphany, is 100 per cent LED lighting and recyclable packaging: 100 per cent green electricity and biogas; zero landfill and single use plastics; and an increase in profitability. As Rance puts it: “We thought we would be helping to sustain the planet’s resources, we didn’t realise we would be reducing our costs. Green tastes very sweet, suddenly you are saving money.”

The epiphany came after watching a television programme that highlighted the extent of the environmental crisis and the damage being done to the planet on a daily basis. In a year where Midas was celebrating 30 years in business, Rance knew he couldn’t ignore the science and had to take responsibility for driving the company’s carbon neutral goal.

Midas Green Initiative

So exactly how can a company be environmentally responsible and improve the bottom line? For Midas it started with the obvious tick list, a long hard look at the waste being generated and how to reduce that – from the production aspect, through the offices and into every facet of functioning. Negotiating renewable energy supplies may be a starting point, but in the case of this Bedfordshire-based polyurethane moulding supplier that was just the tip of the iceberg (excuse the obvious pun).

Operating in a supply chain has its challenges but for Midas one of the greatest successes is the decision that all paper and cardboard coming into the company is shredded and re-used for packaging. Rance explains: “We purchased a 3-phase cardboard shredder plus two large paper shredders at a total investment of approximately £10,000. We now use all that shredding to package our mouldings for delivery to the customer. The packaging can come back to us or the customer can re-use it, it can also be pulped. It also means that we have stopped buying 30 rolls of bubble wrap a month, saving us money.”

Having built the business up from humble beginnings with two patternmakers into the 80-strong UK market-leading polyurethane company it is today, the culture at Midas has always been one of inclusivity. Rance eats and breathes the business and those working there are valued members of a close-knit team, as such they are urged to participate in the environmentally conscious journey. At Christmas they were encouraged to bring in all their unwanted wrapping paper and packaging and put it through the shredder.

A collaborative experience

Midas employees are aware of the journey Rance has undertaken, both personally and professionally, switching from gas-guzzling cars to fully electric and becoming vegan. He is also keen to encourage as many employees to take note of what he has done and consider their personal impact on the environment.

After making the personal decision to switch to an energy company which provides customers with 100 per cent renewable electricity from solar, wind and hydro sources (and 100 per cent carbon offset gas), he put forward a staff initiative to encourage take up. This has been incredibly successful with 20 employees benefitting from typically lower bills as well as positively contributing to their own green credentials.

Continued investment

Renewable energy, however, is just part of the story. Next on the agenda was an investment in a compressor system that has resulted in an energy saving of 30 per cent. “Technology has moved on so much in ten years and we were aware that compressed air was the biggest consumer of energy at Midas. We were using 215,000kW/h to power the existing compressor, which cost us £32,000 a year. The new system uses 70,000kW/h and will cost us £10,000 a year. The system cost £25,000 so it is easy to see how quick that payback will be,” he explains. The old compressor will be used for spares and other parts recycled responsibly.

In addition to saving money, the investment also ensures reliability for the company’s extensive CNC department, where seven large CNC machines permit Midas to operate 24/7 when required and enable any material to be machined on any machine – total flexibility.

Not content to reap these rewards and rest on their laurels, Rance and the team then delved deep into how they were using compressed air – such as air lines blowing swarf away – and whether they could further reduce their use on every machine. The most waste occurred overnight; with the air still on because of programmes running 24/7, air leaking and bleeding was inevitable. By installing machine code controlled solenoids into the CNC systems, air stops as soon as machining ends. “When we are not cutting, we are not wasting compressed air. It’s a wise investment and has saved us a fortune,” Rance enthuses.

The future’s bright

The next part of the journey is the installation of solar panels and a move towards 100 per cent renewable gas by June – that’s correct, the seemingly impossible is becoming achievable. Within the coming months Midas will have 100 per cent solar power coverage on both of its buildings, which will result in a further saving of 30 per cent energy usage, which can be released into the grid for use elsewhere. Rance has negotiated a fixed energy price for 25 years (the guaranteed lifespan of the panels), which will be less than a third of the current cost. Rance says they will be self-funding and profitable from year one. “It will provide us with a carbon credit that could cover three work’s vans and we’ve only got one!” Now the company has signed up for a three-year contract for 100 per cent renewable gas. “Although this has not been possible before, we have a broker who has found a supplier that can offer this. It means we don’t have to replace eight gas fuelled heaters and we can move away from natural gas. We also won’t have to spend tens of thousands of pounds on electric heating. It will mean that Midas can become truly carbon neutral in process and provide society with a big chunk of energy. Our process, the running of the company, and even our delivery van will be carbon neutral by June of this year.”

One would be forgiven for thinking that the green initiative launched by Midas is all consuming – it is clearly now fundamental to the ethos of the company – but pushing technological boundaries and providing guaranteed solutions to customer needs is a passion that sits next to an ethical commitment to sustainability for Rance. Midas is still the market leader for provision of large polyurethane mouldings and the busy shop floor is still bustling with pride at the level of quality and finish the skilled employees achieve every day, including a current job producing what Rance believes to be the largest PU moulding ever made. The 28-piece large, medical device moulding is typical of the nature of work carried out in this corner of the UK. “Customers come to us for the largest and most complex projects. Quality is also of vital importance – inserts and brass fittings are moulded in and we CNC mouldings.” In short, the jobs at Midas resemble works of art. The least amount of material is also used for patterns, which are made with attention to the B surface design as important as the finish and accuracy of the A surface.

Rance acknowledges that to the outside world it’s a big ask to listen to a company making polyurethane mouldings recite its ‘green’ credentials, but on closer inspection the justification is vindicated with a pledge to concentrate on manufacturing life enhancing and life improving products. “Our mouldings fit within that overall umbrella product category,” Rance tells Foundry Trade Journal. “They should have a 10-50 year lifespan. If we can justify making these products, we can justify using earth chemistry.”

The future will see Midas looking at what to do with all waste materials in the production process – possibly turning them into granules that can be used elsewhere. The company is also considering taking some level of responsibility for customer waste when they have finished using the pattern.

When Rance said he would take responsibility for the company’s carbon footprint, he wasn’t going to do that by half. He is a man of his word and his passion and diligence has enabled the company to reduce and practically negate its carbon footprint AND the finances stack up. For Rance it is a no-brainer: “The UK should be at the forefront of the green revolution. It’s a message we can send to the rest of the world. Other companies can copy us, that’s the point.”

From epiphany to carbon neutral and saving a fortune in just 14 months! Now that’s a message we should all heed.

Contact: Alan Rance, Midas Pattern Company Ltd, 22 Shuttleworth Road, Elm Farm Industrial Estate, Bedford MK41 0RX UK, Tel: +44 (0) 1234 358394, email: [email protected]

Foundry Trade Journal is going greener! Copies of Foundry Trade Journal are now being delivered in a more environmentally friendly wrapper that is made from potato starch and is 100 per cent compostable.

This move is helping us to reduce our plastic use and we would like to thank Midas Pattern Company Ltd for sponsoring the new wrapper and helping us to work towards our own green initiative.