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Energy efficient lighting makes economic sense

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In Good Company
Michael Schulz, from SOS Print and Media, explains how that company benefited from using light emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of fluorescent tubes.
SOS Print and Media employs around 120 people in its Alexandria factory. The factory complex has large production areas, all of which need lighting. The factory works 24 hours a day and, because a lot of the work is colour printing (both offset and digital), the right lighting is very important.
The company is known for its positive work on sustainability, featuring on the website for Environmentally Sustainable Initiatives. The company works with environmental organisations, recycles consumables such as printing plates, toner etc. and uses mostly paper from controlled forests. They were one of the first printers in NSW to be accredited by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council). In fact, it was a big effort to achieve this accreditation, and, ironically, there was quite a paper trail involved. Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) accreditation followed.

Electricity, of course, is a major expense, so the company looked at ways to reduce that cost, as well as different ways to light the factory halls. The company saw the use of modern lighting technology as an opportunity, especially in those factory areas which didn’t need controlled lighting. Those lights were fluorescent and, because of their short life, it was almost a full time job changing the fluorescent bulbs.

The LED bulbs were introduced to the company but there had never been a large scale installation done.     
They put up a couple of test LED tubes and discovered that LED was going to be a good alternative to the fluorescent lights.
They eventually decided to remove all the fluorescent tubes and replaced them with LEDs which had a longer life span. In all, some 700 tubes were replaced at a cost of $80,000.
They had calculated that the 30% reduction in electricity meant they would make a profit from the changeover in two to three years, which is exactly what happened.

The workers had to get used to the fact that the LED lights were not as bright but this was balanced by the fact that the light was constant and there were no drop out areas.
Other benefits from the changeover  are that LED lights are completely recyclable and their long life means they require far less frequent replacement. Still, it became the first large scale LED installation in the southern hemisphere, a considerable feat given that LED technology was in its infancy at that time.

The company has developed other ways to work more environmentally and economically efficiently, and reduce paper costs and paper use.     
Books are printed digitally and on demand, instead of print runs of 5,000 with some 2,000 having to be pulped later. SOS also digitally produce books that used to be out of print, instead of shipping them out from the United Kingdom and elsewhere, having great environmental impacts.

On demand printing also helps Australian publishers to reduce their stock levels.    
There are currently millions of books in warehouses, a third of which will be pulped. Digital technology is now so advanced the quality is as good as offset printing without the waste. Indeed, with digital technology different print runs can be combined into one digital run.
Soy-based inks are used and, because they are fully recyclable, they have a lesser environmental impact than oil-based inks.

They may take longer to dry (up to half a day longer) but Michael believes that is better than dealing with the chemicals in oil-based inks.
It seems he is in good company.

Text: V.B. October 2010
Images from Michael Schulz

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