NISP shifts focus to supply chains

In an attempt to reach smaller firms, the government’s National Industrial Symbiosis Programme has launched a programme that focuses on business clusters and their supply chains.

The free programme, launched in the West Midlands in January, is based on NISP’s existing system of trying to create commercial opportunities through the physical exchange of resources, logistics, expertise and assets between firms (ENDS Report 377, pp 32-35 ).

But whereas NISP’s objective is to pool information and spot opportunities across a range of businesses regardless of sector, the new programme, NISP++, is trying to get certain industries to engage with their supply chains.

NISP++ will work with two of the region’s biggest industries, the automotive and construction sectors. If successful the approach will be rolled out to other regions.

NISP director Peter Laybourn said he hopes the new programme will lead to greater engagement with the region’s small to medium-sized businesses. Running until April 2008, it has more than 60 companies on its books, including van manufacturer LDV, and Amtico and Marley Eternit in the construction sector.

The programme is now developing sector-specific training and business support. Free training at National Vocational Qualification levels 1 and 2, accredited by Chartered Institution of Waste Management, is planned for companies at local colleges.

NISP hopes the training will encourage businesses to spot opportunities for industrial symbiosis on the factory floor and improve regulatory compliance.

Raising awareness of environmental legislation and best practice among small- and medium-sized firms has always presented a challenge to authorities and business support groups. Last year, City and Guilds found nearly half of manufacturing SMEs in the UK were unaware of environmental legislation (ENDS Report 378, pp 8-9 ). According to the Environment Agency, such firms are accountable for 60% of commercial waste and 80% of all pollution incidents.

"Ultimately we want to help build strong skills so that companies understand and manage their resources in all forms and implement strategies to become more efficient and competitive," said NISP++ programme coordinator Fred Kertrestel.

Freudenberg, for example, which supplies filters for automotive paintshops and other industries, say it is planning to train someone in each of its factories.

"We would have eventually turned our attention to the issue, but probably not as quickly," said Peter Broomhall, the company’s automotive industry engineer. The company will also talk to other suppliers and some of its customers about the programme.

LDV says it will "take the opportunity to involve and pull onboard its suppliers." In-house, it is looking at options to deal with its plastic waste and difficult waste streams such as paint sludge. It is also keen to take advantage of the free training on offer.

Small plastics recycler Recycled UK, which is being brought in to look at LDV’s plastic waste, said NISP provided the firm with networking opportunities which "we just couldn’t do on our own".

In the construction industry, medium-sized business Space 4, which makes wall and floor panels for the public and private housing sector, joined the programme to look at waste management options for its waste particleboard. It produces 50 tonnes of the waste material each week, costing £200,000 per year.

"There’s little else to help us," said Space 4’s Bob Preston. "We need someone like NISP to stand back and take a look at the business."

Flooring designers and manufacturers Amtico agreed. Factory manager Rob Treadgold said the lessons learned through working with NISP would be transferred to the rest of the company and their partners.

"I always thought we were doing well on environmental issues, we are quite aware of waste and try very hard to reuse where possible," he said, "but NISP opened my eyes to what more we can do".