The address, Henkelstraße (Henkel Street), says it all: This is where Henkel has its headquarters since 1899, as well as its biggest European production plant. Most employees and visitors enter through the turnstile at gate 1. Fritz-Henkel-Platz (Fritz Henkel Square), named after the company’s founder, lies right behind it. Dr. Daniel Kleine leads the way in one of the Henkel vehicle fleet’s electric cars. Holding a PhD in Physics, Kleine joined Henkel’s Research & Development department 16 years ago. After managing several adhesives production plants in Europe, most recently from Dublin, he took on the leadership of the Düsseldorf site in 2016.
Electromobility is a longstanding tradition at Henkel. The technology was already deployed for materials handling in the 1970s. Kleine explains that nowadays, every new car purchase for factory traffic is made according to e-mobility criteria. “Electromobility makes sense for these facilities, because we get the electricity for the electric vehicle fleet from our own, highly efficient power plant and mostly use the cars to travel short distances onsite,” he says.
The necessary infrastructure is available on the premises. To prove his point, Kleine pulls an electric charging cable out of the trunk and plugs it into the charging station on the parking lot. In total, there are 24 charging stations on Henkel’s premises, which have a surface area of approximately 1.4 square kilometres, and eight additional stations at the site boundaries that can also be used by external car owners. Add to that the industrial trucks, such as the pallet transporters, which are almost entirely electricity-powered. All of this is part of the “Green Mobility” project, for which the city of Düsseldorf presented Henkel with the Environmental Award in 2016.
For Henkel to achieve its ambitious sustainability goals, every emission-free kilometre counts. All the more so as the cars’, offices’ and production plant’s energy needs are covered by the company’s own power plant.
“The power plant works on the principle of efficient power-heat cogeneration. This means that electricity and waste heat are used in equal measure,” explains Michael Dragovic, Head of Technical Infrastructure. Kleine meets him in front of the block heat and power plant.
Two new cogeneration units were added to the highly efficient power plant in collaboration with BASF in 2016, both of which work on the basis of power-heat cogeneration. This is very cost-effective, “because the power generation creates waste heat that we can use and make available to production as an energy source,” Dragovic explains.
The advantage of this is that energy that used to be lost can now be utilized in an efficient manner. The power plant has a capacity of 89 megawatts and can use the generated heat to achieve an efficiency of about 85 percent. By way of comparison, conventional power plants only reach efficiency levels of 40 to 45 percent.
In detergent production, production manager Felix Sobotka is already expecting Kleine. The machines are working at full speed, and an industrious hum fills the air.
What makes the production of the Laundry & Home Care business unit in Düsseldorf so unique is that everything happens in one place. A significant portion of the value chain for detergents and cleaning agents like Persil, Spee or Somat are concentrated in just a few hundred metres. This means that, for example, the supplier of empty bottles produces them right on the other side of the wall from where they are filled. The bottles can be delivered “just in time” over conveyor belts – no long transport routes involved. Once filled, the bottles are packed into pallets and transported to the fully automated high-bay warehouse just a few metres down the line. This process – which Sobotka refers to as the wall-to-wall concept – enables highly efficient and flexible production that saves many kilometres of transport and carbon emissions. That pays right into Henkel’s sustainability strategy: “Henkel intends to reduce its carbon emissions per product ton by 30 percent by the year 2020,” Kleine explains.
If you want to save energy, however, you have to start by measuring it. Henkel does this digitally: The digital energy data collection system measures the consumption levels of production as a whole and of the individual facilities in real time – and transfers them into the “Digital Backbone.” “It allows us to identify and implement additional energy-saving measures in a targeted manner,” says Sobotka.
Henkel is on its way to achieving this goal not just thanks to saved and recycled energy, but also with renewable energy. Solar cells adorn the face of the site’s largest canteen. The electricity they generate is fed into the site’s power grid, too. Among other things, the buildings contribute to a lean energy footprint with their newly restored thermal insulation and the intelligent steering of their ventilation and heating installations.
The coffee bar is a popular spot among Henkel employees. Even in the late afternoons, lots of them can still be found at the white counters, huddled together in front of their laptops. The intelligent steering system makes sure the space is always comfortably warm – because energy efficiency doesn’t have to be synonymous with austerity. The well-regulated heating system of the adjoining building will save 25 percent more energy this year than in 2010. Thanks to smart technology, this will happen entirely automatically. It can keep the room temperature constant or lower it outside of working hours as needed. The building’s improved insulation also keeps the warmth indoors for longer.
E-mobility, energy supply, detergent production and building technology – these four examples show how Henkel pursues its sustainability targets in Düsseldorf and in all 171 of its other production plants in 59 countries. The company’s targets for 2020 are:
• To increase net sales per product ton by 22 percent,
• To increase occupational safety per million hours worked by 40 percent,
• To decrease energy consumption and CO2 emissions per product ton by 30 percent,
• To reduce the volume of waste generated per product ton by 30 percent and
• To reduce water consumption per product ton by 30 percent.
These measures will result in efficiency gains of 75 percent compared to 2010. (link)
“To reach these ambitious targets, every area – be it mobility, production or building management – has to engage with all the others,” says Kleine. “Just like we do it here in Düsseldorf.”