As the environmental aspects of any manufacturing process become more and more important, we at V.A.V. Group have taken the matter into our own hands by paying attention to the ecological aspects throughout the supply chain. A notable incentive is our location in the greenest municipality in Finland, Ii.
Finding the perfect raw materials is the key
Industrial seals can be made of multiple materials as long as they meet defined requirements for the intended usage. Rubber seals used to be the standard in the industry due to the durability of the material, but nowadays rubber is often replaced with other, more sustainable options, such as TPE (Thermoplastic elastomer) that can be recycled at the end of the product’s life cycle. Pasi Vilén, Chairman of the board of V.A.V. Group explains why TPE and TPV are superior to rubber also from the environmental point of view: “TPE is an oil-based material like plastic, but unlike rubber, it can be smelted and then reused in standard manufacturing processes. Rubber, on the other hand, must be incinerated, which is not the greenest solution.”
Recyclability is not the only definition of ecological raw materials, though. We at V.A.V. Group are striving for a longer lifecycle of our products, which is beneficial for us, our customers, and the environment. Most of our products are made to last 10 years, which is good according to the industry standards, but especially the silicone seals are environmentally friendly, as they can last up to 15 years, after which they can be disposed of along with other mixed waste. “Silicone rubber is made of silicon, which is the second most common element in the world. Manufacturing silicone seals also requires far fewer fossil materials than plastic or rubber components, so it’s a win-win situation, given the longer lifespan and the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process”, Vilén summarises.
Components of the future
Having found better alternatives for the raw materials of our products is, of course, a good thing, but one can’t settle there yet. We want to minimize our carbon footprint as much as possible, so V.A.V. Group is constantly seeking new alternatives for both the raw materials and the production itself. Pasi Vilén shares his thoughts about the future prospects in seal manufacturing: “The progress we have made is just the initial steps on our journey to become a highly sustainable and ecological manufacturer. We have discussed with our suppliers about 100% recyclable and bio-oil-based materials, but their availability is still insufficient for our needs. However, those are the components of the future and we are ready for the transition as soon as these materials are sufficiently available.”
Cooperating with the local authorities
The eco-friendliness of a product is more than the sum of its parts, which we have taken into account in our supply chain. By investing in modern facilities, reducing wastage, and optimizing product packaging and logistics are all important pieces of the puzzle – not to forget the energy that powers the whole facility. Sharing the same ecological values with the municipality we operate from is a major asset when striving towards our environmental goals – the municipality of Ii is a pioneer in renewable energy, producing up to ten times more energy from renewable sources than what is actually being used in Ii. V.A.V. Group’s production facility also gets its energy from renewable sources nearby, such as wind and hydropower.
“We are working closely with Iilaakso Oy, a property company owned by the municipality, to become more energy-efficient and improve our facility”, says Pasi Vilén. “They are very supportive in many ways, as it is in their interest to help local businesses reach their environmental goals”, he continues.
Antti Tuomaala, CEO of Iilaakso Oy is of like mind with Vilén: “We have been working together for quite some time already, developing, improving and expanding V.A.V. Group’s facilities over the years. It’s our duty to make the facilities grow with our client’s business.” Other than that, Iilaakso Oy strives to provide its customers with as much green energy as they would ever need. “We are constantly testing new alternatives to either save energy or produce it sustainably at Micropolis. The innovation that works will then be implemented in all Iilaakso’s properties. We are very eager to test out different solutions that lower the acquisition costs and help them save energy and the environment”, Tuomaala explains. Iilaakso Oy does not make a profit from these implementations or innovations, which may come as a surprise. “It is not our business, as simple as that. Our interest is in providing companies with good facilities, helping them save the environment and at the same time, money. When both parties benefit from the cooperation, you have a solid base to build on”, Tuomaala continues.
It all comes down to customer benefits
“What’s in it for me?” one might think at this point. The answer is rather simple: by making these choices on sustainability, eco-friendly materials, green energy, and modern facilities together with local authorities, it is the customer who reaps the benefits. What we save in our production, our customers will save on their products – be it money or the environment. “The way we see it is not only making an impact locally at our facilities but also making an impact globally with our products”, Pasi Vilén explains. “By striving to be the most environmentally friendly business in the market we can also help our customers to become eco-friendlier”, he continues.
Eco-friendliness and sustainability are not achieved by one single action, but the process consists of multiple choices. We at V.A.V. Group want to do our part for the environment so that our customers have the possibility to do theirs.