The manufacturing factor

The IWEX Report, commissioned by the organisers of this year's biggest water industry event (Birmingham NEC, 18-20 October), casts an interesting light on the relationship between manufacturing and water

The IWEX Report makes fascinating reading for any consultant, water equipment manufacturer or water company seeking to target potential clients more effectively. Particularly startling is what the survey says about the manufacturing industry, its use of water, and its surprising sense of helplessness with regard to reduction and reuse of water. Note that all statistics below refer to respondents to the survey and not the sector as a whole.

According to the survey, industrial manufacturers spend on average 2.37% of turnover on the use and management of water (0.89% on water use and 1.48% on management of wastewater and effluent).

Although this sector is not the biggest user of water (spending less than 1% of turnover on it), these companies have seen the biggest increase in water consumption over the last three years (35% said it had increased, compared to only 12% in paper and pulp and 14% in brewing and food manufacture). And although 59% of industrial manufacturers said consumption had stayed the same, only 6% said it had fallen. In other sectors, such as food and brewing and chemicals, a third of companies decreased water consumption over the same period.

This also translates to the year ahead, where only 6% expect to decrease water consumption compared to 18% in paper and pulp and 24% in food and brewing. Again this sector predicts only a small decrease in spend on wastewater and effluent (6%) compared to other sectors such as chemicals (12%) and food and brewing (24%).

This suggests that although these companies are aware they need to decrease their water consumption, they do not have an innovative approach to doing so, nor are they maximising the potential to reuse water in the manufacturing process.

This is perhaps because water is more peripheral to the manufacturing process in this sector, where it is often used for cleaning and cooling. Over a third of these companies do not even have a water strategy and do not discuss the issue at board level.

Where the Board do discuss water strategy, key reasons for reviewing it focus on cutting costs, resolving product quality problems, or environmental factors. Not surprisingly, therefore, key strategy drivers were cited as reducing costs and improving environmental performance. The latter is a higher priority than for any other sector (35% cite this as a key priority compared to 18% in paper and pulp and 17% in food & brewing), reflecting the potentially detrimental effect these heavy manufacturing firms can have on the environment.

The highest priority for these companies is reducing water consumption, followed by reusing more water in manufacturing process, reducing the strength of wastewater and effluent, then reducing the volume of effluent and reducing the disposal costs of wastewater.

But less than half of these companies know where to go for help, compared with sectors such as chemicals (83%). Over a third felt that suppliers were not focussing enough on the needs of industry. Of those that do know where to get advice, only 18% rate them as good or excellent and 59% rate them as average.

This tallies with the fact that 47% feel “very few understand my business sector”. This is four times higher than paper and pulp and chemicals and pharmaceuticals (12%).

This lack of dialogue is also mirrored with the water companies, nearly two thirds rating their relationships as merely average, and a high proportion stating that water companies should do more to provide advice about reducing water bills. Over a third felt that the water companies do not understand their business needs – and, as with suppliers, this is much higher than in other industry sectors.

On average, these companies spend 0.74% of turnover on pumps, 0.59% on wastewater treatment, 0.16% on recycling, 0.21% on water consultants and 0.58% on environmental monitoring and assessment. However, 18% of them plan to invest in these areas in the next two years, while another quarter have planned spend in the next five years. These companies need more support from suppliers and consultants than any other sector, so there is a huge opportunity to get close to them, take the time to assess what they need, and deliver cost-saving solutions.

The IWEX report can be downloaded in its entirety at

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