automation in a new dimension

Clima protection: “futronic is greening up”

Solar collectors: we currently have 322 solar panels on the shop roof with a total rating of nearly 100 kilowatts peak. That translates into around 90 megawatt hours of electricity per year. And there are plans to add more modules in the near future. (Photo: René Kius / futronic)

Takes pride in his electric car: futronic Managing Director Michael Preuss travels almost silently to work every morning in his E-BMW. (Photo: René Kius / futronic)

Much in demand: three wallboxes are currently available for employees to recharge the battery of company or private vehicles at any time – at no cost. (Photo: René Kius/ futronic)

Around two years ago at the end of 2019, we at futronic developed what we call our values guide. It sets out ground rules for respectful interaction in our relationships with customers, suppliers and colleagues. On the one hand, the guide describes personal values which emerged for our employees during the creation process. On the other, it also has to do with the corporate values which determine each individual’s professional conduct. And it spells out what matters most to our company as a whole.

Focus on climate and environmental protection
Top of the list is climate protection, for example. “We want futronic to make an active contribution to environmental and climate protection – and we’ve set ourselves some ambitious goals”, says Michael Preuss, Managing Director of futronic. The focus is on more sustainable management, resource conservation and more efficient use of energy, to name just a few of the central aspects. To ensure that words are swiftly turned into deeds, a team supported by external experts set to work planning and realising the first projects that same year. They kicked off with the photovoltaic system on the roof of the production shop, which has been collecting pure solar energy ever since February 2020. futronic’s investment here amounted to about 100,000 euros. We currently have 322 solar panels with a total rating of nearly 100 kilowatts peak. That translates into around 90 megawatt hours of electricity per year. The system also saves more than 73 tons of carbon dioxide over the same period, “which is equivalent to the amount that can be absorbed by 2000 or so trees”, Preuss explains.

The goal: self-sufficient power
All facts and figures on the most important performance parameters are supplied by a comprehensive monitoring system – practically in real time! “That way, we can observe and assess which energy efficiency measures have what effect in the medium to long term”, Preuss adds, “as well as how much energy can be saved where when all is said and done”. There are plans to set aside more space for this purpose and gradually extend the system with a view to doubling its capacity. Preuss also intends to use new, more efficient technologies, especially for storage, and of course cut costs in the process: “At present, we can meet approximately 40 percent of our energy needs with solar power. We’re hoping to become self-sufficient at some stage and, at the very least, generate all of the electricity we consume in-house ourselves.”

Bike, not car
Another important lever that futronic is applying when it comes to sustainability is electromobility. For some time now, futronic employees have been able to receive assistance with the purchase and use of pedelecs, for example in cooperation with Jobrad, the bike leasing provider. More and more people at the firm are nowadays resorting to pedelecs for the journey to and from work and leaving their car at home. It’s only logical that they should be allowed to charge the battery for free on the premises. Incidentally, since last year futronic has also been involved in a joint, nationwide initiative by the German Cyclists Association (ADFC) and AOK, the health insurance company, called “Mit dem Rad zur Arbeit” (Bike to Work, or MdRzA for short). The idea is to motivate as many employees as possible to bike to work permanently – by arousing their enthusiasm for cycling and keeping fit, whether on a pedelec or a conventional model.

Hybrid vehicle fleet
The systematic conversion of our vehicle fleet to hybrid is one undisputed milestone. “Electromobility is an irreversible trend, and one I fully approve of”, Preuss asserts, and he’s looking forward to further incentives from the federal government in this area. The two pool cars, the boss’s BMW and the three company cars belonging to futronic’s sales people already have a licence plate ending with the letter ‘E’ and another vehicle is due to be delivered in the next few weeks. Only the mobile workshop is still a Sprinter with a conventional combustion engine, but that too has been earmarked to go and will be replaced sooner or later with a model with an electric drive – it’s simply a question of time.

Preuss would be very happy to change over completely to electric, but to be frank the technology isn’t yet far enough advanced for that – it’s the range that’s the problem. “The battery installed in electric vehicles is sufficient to commute to and from work or to travel from the hotel to the customer’s facility”, he comments. “But often a long journey is unavoidable and for the moment there’s no alternative to classic combustion models.” “For the moment” being the operative words here.

Free electricity for private electric cars
The energy storage systems of our fleet vehicles are currently recharged at three stations. Employees, too, can refill their private electric cars at our wallbox chargers – at no cost. Our Production Manager's Jaguar, for example, can regularly be seen plugged into one of the charging points and a colleague from Order Processing / Purchasing parks her Tesla at a wallbox whenever her battery runs low. Several other vehicles with an ‘E’-type licence plate likewise roll softly into the yard every morning and the number is increasing steadily. It’s not uncommon for them to have to take turns at the charging stations and more are in the pipeline for that reason. At present, part of the electricity comes from the PV system and the company contributes the rest. “We want to create added incentives for people to switch to electric”, Preuss comments.

Respect for natural resources
“As an automation specialist, it’s our job to develop technologies that enable our customers to operate their machines and equipment in an energy efficient way. We’re understandably keen to set a good example ourselves”, the futronic MD admits – in steps big and small. Solar power from the shop roof, electric company cars – it’s these ‘nice to have’ projects that give us the most pleasure.

Of course, we’re also fulfilling the ‘must do’ requirements bit by bit – the things that are expected of businesses as a matter of course, whether they’re laid down as part of an ISO 9001 audit or prescribed by law. For instance, the lighting throughout the premises is gradually being replaced by energy-efficient LED technology. Our small, modern pool of machinery already belongs to the highest energy efficiency class today and the compressed air system – one of the biggest energy guzzlers in any manufacturing plant – was replaced just a while ago. And those are only a few examples of how natural resources can be used with more respect. Preuss is delighted that “things are moving now. Everyone here is pulling together as futronic greens up.”