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Green manufacturing initiative builds momentum

Dec. 15, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's green manufacturing initiative gained two new member companies at a meeting this month, with a third expected to sign on in the near future.

Landscape Forms and Fabri-Kal, both of Kalamazoo, committed to the Green Manufacturing Industrial Consortium, or GMIC, a partnership between faculty and students to assist West Michigan businesses in developing greener practices.

An assessment of energy and material operations at Landscape Forms is already under way by a team from WMU. The group is expected to have its recommendations ready for the company by mid-January, when the process will begin for Fabri-Kal, according to Dr. David Meade, GMIC associate director. The process for each company is expected to take several months, up to a year, to conduct on-site assessments and identify one opportunity for investigation and development of an engineered solution. Projects are typically led by a faculty member, with the students conducting the bulk of the analysis and engineering.

Green projects have been completed for numerous companies that have already contacted WMU with specific environmental issues, and many more are underway. As GMIC members, however, Landscape Forms and Fabri-Kal have the opportunity to have their energy and material operations fully assessed by the WMU teams to determine what issues need to be addressed.

The consortium will identify and promote projects of mutual interest throughout the manufacturing enterprise. The efforts they undertake will range from focused projects such as material selection in product design and green manufacturing processes to general activities such as waste reduction and elimination in manufacturing--lean manufacturing--and energy conservation.

"Things are moving along well. We are looking at our member companies to recruit new companies to the consortium in the coming months," says Meade, adding the consortium hopes to have a total of five member companies signed on during the next six months.

This month's gathering was the second for the consortium and part of a green manufacturing initiative funded in fall 2009 with a close to $1 million federal award to Dr. John Patten, chair of manufacturing engineering and director of the WMU Center for Manufacturing Research. The award was intended to assist businesses throughout West Michigan in creating more energy efficient and environmentally benign processes and products. It also is sustained through the dues, $25,000 per year, paid by member organizations.

Besides the announcement of new members to the consortium, the GMIC also reviewed activities over the past seven months since the initiative's kickoff in May and discussed updates pertaining to the federal grant. The next consortium meeting will be May 3 at WMU.

For more information about the Green Manufacturing Initiative at WMU, contact Dr. John Patten at john.patten@wmich.edu or (269) 276-3246; Dr. David Meade at david.meade@wmich.edu or (231) 777-8529; or Carey Schoolmaster at carey.schoolmaster@wmich.edu or (269) 276-3245.

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Media contact: Deanne Puca, (269) 387-8400, deanne.puca@wmich.edu

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