DIRECT – Dynamic Industry Resource - Efficiency Calculation Tool

"The accounts person is probably the gate keeper who would run the tool."

" The ratios and true cost of waste figures generated by DIRECT could be of benefit to companies that have any significant waste streams."

Heather Brae, 2014

Company background

HeatherBraeHeather Brae is situated 18 km north of Melbourne CBD, and supplies the food retail sector across Australia. Input ingredients include flour, sugar, spices and prepared ingredients such as margarine, jams and chocolate. These ingredients are generally packaged in cardboard boxes, and reusable jars. Bulk input ingredients are either directly trucked and pumped into silos, or packaged in polymer bags or tubs. Converted product is packaged in aluminium cups, polymer films, laminates (polymer and aluminium), rigid polymer trays and shelf ready cardboard boxes for distribution to customers. The product is stored in dry warehouse racking prior to shipping.  The production process is described in the diagram below:


Figure 1 – Food production process with waste occurrences and destinations

Resource issues

Production output is approximately 3-4 tonnes per day. Heather Brae is a small family run operation, designed on lean manufacturing and engineering principles and as such wastes very little of their resource throughput. Bins are generally lifted 2 times a week. In the recyclable bin all product needs to be clean, so waste includes clean cardboard and paper, and excludes margarine packaging, metal and plastics. In the general waste bin the fore mentioned flows and gloves, paper, and food waste that has touched the floor are included. This equates to around 6 m3 per week at around 70% full bins. A very small percentage of the waste stream is food, estimated at less than 1% of production throughput.

In the past, broken product has been sold as animal feed, up to 1 tonne a month (however this has ceased due to low volume/ value for the farms picking up the product). Broken product is also sold in factory seconds - but could be improved - not a lot of people come to buy directly from the factory.  It is very rare to have products that come back from the retailers – if there are problems; it is usually due to transport. A major innovation has been the move to bulk material delivery for a few major ingredient streams to reduce packaging, material, handling and Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) costs.

In regards to reuse, Heather Brae puts some of the input cardboard on pallets; store empty buckets in case people want to take them, and they used to share some broken product with other local manufacturers. Other efficiency innovations include:

  • Recycling and reuse of products for pets.
  • Mixtures of products to make different flavours when a line is changed, to utilise potential start-up and shut down waste.
  • Rainwater collected and used for toilets.
  • Hot jet stream water is used to clean the floor rather than detergents
  • Scrubbers used rather than water to clean machines.
  • Heat from the oven is recovered to heat the offices 5 months of the year.

Opportunities identified from audit visits and using DIRECT

Although Heather Brae did not use the DIRECT tool with their data, the opportunities identified in site visits included:

  • Extra sticky product on machinery could use some vibration or other device to push it off the production tools rather than be disposed of in cleaning
  • Tanks used for hot chocolate could be better insulted to retain heat.
  • There could be an industrial ecology application in selling broken product.
  • They could receive seeds or other ingredients from other companies for toppings.
  • There could be a branding exercise in promoting "direct from factory" seconds
  • Energy from solar panels on the roof (to help with electricity of $7000 per month).
  • Machines could be used to improve topping application reducing waste.

Heather Brae would like to implement other innovations such as light efficiency, more bulk purchasing (chocolate, margarine, etc.), and industrial ecology. Efficiency programs must still pass the cost benefit test i.e. payback on investment. Help with applying for grants (like the ones through Sustainability Victoria) would be highly beneficial to try and secure capital expenditure projects.

Business value of DIRECT – Positives and opportunities for improvement

Time is critical in any business function at the company. For that reason, the DIRECT tool would need to be something that helped with time management, and not be a burden. The problem is that time internally would need to be managed as the cost of consultants is prohibitive.

The accounts person is probably the gate keeper who would run the tool. Records such as inventory, bills, and purchasing are kept on a digital database, and various utilities are received and kept in paper bill form (electricity, gas, water, etc.). An exported CSV file of results would be helpful to integrate with these systems, which is currently possible with DIRECT being built in Microsoft Excel.

DIRECT may not be that beneficial for a company where the waste is a very small proportion of total throughput, or if they already have a resource efficiency program/ tool in place.  Overall DIRECT looks good and easy to use. According to Heather Brae the ratios and true cost of waste figures generated by DIRECT could be of benefit to companies that have any significant waste streams.