Sustainability ‘Made in Austria’.

The employees in BMW Group’s Steyr plant in Austria show how to consistently manufacture their products sustainably. Their ideas have made it possible to recycle enough aluminium and steel to build two Eiffel Towers every year. Moreover, they demonstrate how new approaches in energy monitoring achieve energy savings measurable in gigawatts.

Visitors rave about the successful the combination of historic architecture and lifestyle with one of the most advanced industrial locations in Austria. In Steyr, located in the very heart of Europe, the BMW Group produces not only 6,100 diesel and petrol engines a day. Here, interesting and sustainable ideas for environmentally sound and energy-saving production processes are also developed. The main focus includes recycling aluminium and steel shavings and saving as much water and electricity as possible in order to protect natural resources. The employees in Steyr have achieved impressive results:

  • With specialised cleaning processes and by using magnetic separators, 16,000 tonnes of clean and pure aluminium and steel are collected annually, enough to cast 400,000 four-cylinder crankcases (or two Eiffel Towers).
  • With evaporation and the help of membranes, 6,000 tonnes of sludge per year are reduced to 1,800 tonnes. Emulsions and metal particles are filtered out so effectively that approximately 30,000 litres of water per working day can be reused in the production process. More than 13 million litres of water per year are treated with this process.
  • This year, the production plant is reducing its energy consumption by approximately ten gigawatt hours (the equivalent of the electricity consumption of around 2,700 households).

However, the engineers are particularly proud of their innovative method for saving an additional 1.1 GWh per year through monitoring the energy of all machines. “We have developed specialised software that alerts employees immediately, for example, when machines do not sufficiently or do not at all enter a standby mode when they are not in use”, explains Gerhard Fuchs, who is responsible for engine and sustainability process technology. Through their research, the employees have also discovered methods for tracking the machines’ energy consumption using smart technology so effectively that these methods can even drive the development of electricity-saving devices almost as a by-product. The colleagues in Steyr have, for example, investigated the reasons for the exceptionally high energy consumption of around 30 cleaning engines. The machines are used to clean cylinder heads or crankshafts, among other things. Until recently, each of these machines consumed around 600 MWh of energy. “That equals the energy consumption of more than 160 single-family homes,” Fuchs estimates. The engineers thus identifed a number of energy intensive working modes of the cleaning equipment and, in collaboration with the manufacturers, modified these modes to reduce energy consumption by 45 per cent. “We can now transfer our knowledge to other plants in the manufacturing network of BMW Group, for example in China, the UK or Germany where 70 further cleaning machines are used, which will now also be modified in order to conserve energy. In addition, the manufacturers can utilise this knowledge to drive more energy savings and develop machines that are significantly more energy-efficient ,” states Fuchs. This results in a sustainable win-win-win situation for the machine manufacturers, the BMW Group and, above all, the environment.