An interview with Ian Burley, Farsound’s Operations Director
who is leading the new company wide sustainability programme
Q. When did you start the new Farsound sustainability programme?
A. We have been implementing greener ways of doing business over the last twelve months, throughout the pandemic. Earlier this year, we achieved our ISO14001 and as part of obtaining that approval we set about looking at all of our packaging to become more eco-friendly. That was from boxes to bags, to literally everything involved with our parts going out the door.
Q. How have you made your packaging eco-friendlier?
A. One of the first changes we made was to source grip seal bags that are made from 50% recycled plastic. The next thing we tackled, was that all our boxes are taped with plastic polythene tape that’s reinforced to give it strength. What we’ve decided to do is look at an eco-friendlier tape material and this is a paper gummed tape that is fully recyclable.
Q. What are you using inside of the boxes, instead of using plastic bubble wrap?
A. Bubble wrap is a thing of the past. We now use shredded paper or cardboard inside all our packaging boxes. We recycle all our cartons that come in as goods inwards, and we clear all the tape, plastic bags, document wallets, so we just have plain cardboard. We remove any sections of the cardboard that have got staples and we’ve leased a machine that actually slits the cardboard. You put a box into the machine and out comes a mat of slitted cardboard ready to use.
Q. Are your packaging boxes different sizes?
A. Yes, every day we are shipping aero engine parts all over the world. Some boxes are very small, and others can be the size of a pallet. We are now looking at the next stage of all the different things we’re using such as stretch film, where you stretch the pallets. We are even looking at recycled plastic stretch film. Our specialised lay flat tubing that we use, is now going to be made from recyclable material. So, every item of packaging is going to be scrutinised and reviewed and replaced.
Q. Has the whole Farsound team been involved in these green changes?
A. Yes, everyone has been involved from the Chairman down. I asked for volunteers to step forward and it was fantastic to see everyone putting themselves forward. We have developed a project plan, so as soon as we think of an idea, we put it on there and try to implement it throughout our business. We ask for ideas from everyone in the company not just the main people on the project team. We have open discussions with each other regarding all the ideas that have been put forward and we believe we want to implement. We’ve done some big layout changes as well, improved peoples’ working environment. For instance, in the despatch area, the team desks were previously quite cluttered. We have put in stands that actually hold their screens off the desks to give them more workspace and we’ve also designed bespoke workstations so that everything is within touching distance.
Q. What changes have you made to transportation?
A. All our Sales team company vehicles are now hybrid or fully electric. We’ve got charging points installed at our current building, so whoever’s got either a plugin or a fully electric car is allowed to plug in and charge their vehicles, to try and encourage more team members to go towards electric. We have recently introduced a Bike To Work scheme for those members that live close to the Head Office.
Q. How are you making your facility eco-friendlier?
A. We’re reviewing our heating, electric and gas usage, trying to reduce that. At the moment we are in quite an old facility but we are moving to a new modern building within the next 18 months and we’re working on a specification to ensure it is completely state of the art eco-friendly. Within the new facility, we are aiming to implement a new automation picking system, which has the same running cost as a kettle for the day. We will have a new improved layout and as many green initiatives as possible.
Q. How have your customers taken onboard all these greener ways of doing business?
A. Our customers have been very much involved and are inspired to make changes in their own businesses. We are now sharing information of ideas and what we have been doing with our customers, for things they could perhaps implement!
Q. Have you saved money with all these sustainability changes across Farsound?
A. Unfortunately, some of the times it’s not just about cost saving because much of the recyclable material is a lot more expensive. It’s more about how much we are actually saving the planet at the end of the day.
Q. These changes started at Farsound HQ in the UK but what about Farsound’s other facilities around the world?
A. At our warehouse in Madrid, we have been working closely with the team to also make more sustainable choices. We’re looking to improve their packaging usage. We’re putting our kits straight into metal cabinets that are wheeled directly onto the shop floor and then returned back to us when they’re empty for us to put the next kits in. So, completely eliminating cardboard in all their packaging. In Canada, the team are currently in the process of moving into a new modern more eco-friendly facility and they will be adopting a lot of the same things we’re doing here.