AVON, Ohio – April 13, 2023 – A more environmentally friendly manufacturing process combined with an advanced wastewater recovery system is making a massive, measurable difference in and around the Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC (Bendix) manufacturing operation in Huntington, Indiana – and earning high praise from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). For its efforts in reducing the environmental impact of its engine vibration damper production, Bendix Huntington has earned a 2023 Better Project award from the department’s Better Plants program.
Part of the DOE’s Better Buildings initiative, awards in the Better Plants program honor partners’ innovative, industry-leading work in energy efficiency, water efficiency, emissions reduction, and waste reduction. The Better Project award acknowledges partners for outstanding accomplishments in implementing industrial energy, water, and waste projects at individual facilities. The DOE formally recognized Bendix and other Better Project honorees at this year’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit on April 12.
“Bendix faced a complicated challenge when we expanded our Huntington operations in the summer of 2020 to include our vibration damper production,” said Maria Gutierrez, Bendix senior director, environmental, social, and governance (ESG). “First, we wanted to implement a water-based solution in our raw materials cleaning process to reduce the impact of chemicals on the environment. And second, we wanted to address the amount of water used in that process. As a result, Huntington reused 500,000 gallons of water in 2022 and cut carbon emissions associated with the old processes – and we’re proud and excited that our progress continues to earn recognition from the Department of Energy.”
This year marks the third consecutive year that the Better Plants program has honored Bendix: Bendix Huntington earned a Better Project award in 2022 for its 1.168-megawatt solar installation, and the company overall earned a 2021 Better Practice award for its Zero Waste to Landfill self-certification process.
Changes for the Better
Bendix engine vibration dampers are used to reduce torsional vibration on engine crankshafts to prevent shaft failure and reduce noise, giving them a role in safe vehicle operation and improved fuel economy.
Cleanliness of the raw materials and parts used in these dampers is a main factor in their quality and performance, so it’s a crucial production step. After switching from chemical cleaners to a more sustainable water-based cleaning solution, however, Bendix found itself facing much higher water usage to meet the cleanliness quality standards.
“Our goal from the start was to comply with our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – specifically SDG 12, which is Responsible Production and Consumption,” said Luis Quinones, Bendix corporate sustainability engineer. “In this case, that commitment meant a focus on extending the life of the water used in the washing process so we could minimize the overall usage.”
Bendix’s solution was to use a high-vacuum evaporator – one of the first of its type to be used in the country – that boils the wastewater from the cleaning process at a lower temperature, then cleans and condenses the steam to create a high-quality distillate that can be reused in the washing system. This process allows for recovery of 90% of the water that comes into the evaporator, with the remaining 10% becoming a nonhazardous concentrate liquid waste.
“In addition to drastically cutting the amount of water used, we’ve also reduced our carbon footprint, since the system now uses less energy to heat the water, relies on electricity as opposed to burning natural gas, and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles needed to transport waste,” Gutierrez said. “And the successes we’ve seen have led Bendix to place orders for an additional evaporator in another one of our Huntington plants, as well as one for our Bowling Green, Kentucky, operation.