Boddingtons Electrical Ltd Tackles Sustainability Challenge Head-On

Sarah is a sales & marketing content writer, with ten years of experience within the engineering & manufacturing industry.  Working both at Qimtek and on a freelance basis, she can usually be found hammering away at a keyboard or with her head in a pile of engineering drawings. 

boddingtons electrical tool case

As we continue to become more aware of how our actions impact the environment, sustainability has reached the forefront of many manufacturers' minds. In an industry in which internal processes can significantly lessen or worsen the wider implications of climate change, manufacturing as a whole has a responsibility to look at its operations and see where positive changes can be made. However, overall responsibility is nothing without the compliance of individual organisations, who will ultimately need to bring these improvements into practice.

One company who has risen to the challenge is Boddingtons Electrical Ltd - a manufacturer of high-quality insulated hand tools based in Essex. As with many manufacturers, a lot of their issues surrounding sustainability centred upon waste; material waste was routed into their general waste, whilst the products themselves were destined for landfill once they reached the end of their lifecycle.

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boddingtons electrical plastic waste sustainability

Questions & Collaborations:

Design and manufacturing engineer Alex Baines started to take a keen interest in the issue of sustainability at the beginning of 2021, with a focus on how Boddingtons Electrical Ltd could look to implement more sustainable business and production practises. During the national lockdown of early 2021, Alex started taking a more proactive approach to investigating alternative, more environmentally-friendly production strategies.

'During the COVID-19 pandemic, I took part in webinars, discussions and listened to a few podcasts that address the sustainability issue,' Alex explained. 'While taking part in Protolab’s InspirON Event (Apr 20 - May 28 2020) and listening to the Age of Plastic podcast, I kept hearing multiple stories where a waste or bi-product was being transformed into a solution or product of its own. For example, the company Elvis & Kresse reclaim old fire hoses and transform them into luxury belts! 

'During the COVID-19 pandemic, I took part in webinars, discussions and listened to a few podcasts that address the sustainability issue.'

'These stories were captivating and at the end of one work day, the production team were sweeping the floors and throwing a large volume of plastic off-cuts into the bin. It was there that I first asked, "where does this end up?" and “why?”'

Alex's curiosity into Boddingtons Electrical Ltd's current waste management processes was the start of an illuminating, yet inspiring journey for both the company and himself, as well as numerous other organisations that were grappling for sustainable change. By beginning to ask questions internally, Alex was able not only to bring about much-needed enhancements to the company's processes, but also to enlist the help and collaboration of other companies with similar challenges.

'The webinars, discussions & podcasts had a host of people talking about their difficulties, issues and personal stories,' he said. 'As everyone was bored at home during COVID lockdowns, I decided to start messaging these people. I messaged anyone who had a great opinion, comment, or gave even a tiny reason to just throw them a message.

'Even without the COVID context, I think that sending messages & questions out there can be a great way to learn and get contacts - even the daftest of questions can be great!'

This quest for knowledge and collaboration with external sources proved extremely successful for Alex, who soon built up a roster of contacts with the ideas and knowledge needed to turn his concerns into viable solutions. By creating a virtual think-tank for the exploration of sustainability within manufacturing, he was able to come up with a range of options for transforming Boddingtons Electrical Ltd's production processes into something greener and more environmentally-responsible.

'Of the messages that I sent, 1 out of 3 people responded,' he elaborated. 'From there, I continued to ask questions, have occasional Zoom meetings, FaceTime discussions or text conversations. 

'I would normally leave these chats with an interesting bit of trivia, a contact or possible solution to follow up with, or in the worst-case scenario, simply meet someone to discuss like-minded topics. From this, I’ve met some incredible individuals - some of whom I now work with, or want to investigate more sustainable options.'

'Thanks to the company ethos, I have been able to continue looking into sustainability. I continue to ask questions internally even now.'

These discussions were the catalyst for a number of key changes within the waste management cycle, as well as the company taking a vested interest in the life cycle of its products. In August 2021, Boddingtons Electrical Ltd was bought out by SICAME - a French group - which meant that production stood to increase drastically. The potential for an even greater amount of waste meant that the sustainability challenge could not simply be put on ice - it had to be met head-on to avoid a greater environmental impact.

Fortunately, Alex had the full support of Boddingtons Electrical Ltd surrounding the implementation of sustainable measures. 'My boss, Nick Jordan, is sustainably-minded and keen to help his employees and any charity. He even has a fair share of indoor plants in the office, worm farms outside and takes a genuine care over the products we make so that we can be genuinely liable for what we continue to produce. 

'Thanks to the company ethos, I have been able to continue looking into sustainability. I continue to ask questions internally even now.'

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Material Wastage & More:

One of the major dilemmas facing Boddingtons Electrical Ltd was their use of PVC. Due to the need to meet certain standards within the manufacture of their products, PVC is an ideal solution thanks to its properties. However, from a sustainability standpoint, the use of PVC is not without its difficulties.

'We were able to find a solution to a 20-year-old problem by finding a way to reuse our plastic waste with a UK-based company.'

'PVC is most known as a problematic plastic to some,' Alex said. 'However, we were able to find a solution to a 20-year-old problem by finding a way to reuse our plastic waste with a UK-based company. This is something I hope to have completely implemented by late 2022.'

In addition to looking at the fate of plastic waste, Boddingtons Electrical Ltd also began to consider their product life cycle, which - at times - had led to some uncomfortable revelations. 'To be liable for the products we manufacture we must know all stages of the product life cycle,' Alex explained. 'As Boddingtons continues to map its product life cycle, it has required asking our suppliers and customers some hard-hitting questions, which has only resulted in some interesting and shocking answers.

plastic waste boddingtons electrical

'I am now a member of Sicame’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) team, which means that the group is taking sustainability seriously as I am able to continue asking questions, while helping to set the goalposts and guidelines for a greener company and group.'

The cascade of influence that Boddingtons Electrical Ltd's questioning has brought about is, without a doubt, extremely impressive. From internal change, through to supply chain investigation and external collaboration, Alex's questioning demonstrates the power of not only one company, but one individual. The admirable reception of Boddingtons Electrical Ltd to Alex's concerns provides the industry with a blueprint of how key sustainability questions should be tackled - not only in the boardroom, with profit and margins front and centre, but company-wide and beyond.

The cascade of influence that Boddingtons Electrical Ltd's questioning has brought about is, without a doubt, extremely impressive.

However, Alex stresses that their work is not yet done and that their quest to become more sustainable is certainly an ongoing venture. 'I plan to keep asking questions as I know I don’t know everything,' he said. 'Yet I do know that PVC plastic is not our only wastage - we still have several materials that need tackling and with further collaboration with the Sicame Group, we will continue to source solutions. 

'With developments in technology and legislation hopefully catching up, I hope to keep looking and sourcing solutions, as I will not allow us to greenwash at any level.'

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Inspiring Change:

boddingtons electrical

The story of Alex's and Boddingtons Electrical Ltd's sustainability journey highlights how much can be achieved if companies are prepared to take a microscope to their internal processes and admit that there is more that can be done. As an industry, we are all responsible for our environmental impact, which means that without change at an organisational level, there is little hope that the manufacturing sector will become greener as a collective.

OEMs and their supply chains alike need to adopt an ahead-of-the-curve approach towards sustainability.

Although official legislation has not yet been brought into place with regards to manufacturing and the environment, the climate change issue is one that is ever-growing in size and relevance; consequently, OEMs and their supply chains alike need to adopt an ahead-of-the-curve approach towards sustainability.

So what can other manufacturers do to kick-start greener processes within their own organisations? Alex advises that awareness, collaboration and curiosity is key to catalysing change - as well as having knowledge of your limitations.

'To become more sustainable, the first step is to take part in things, read more, watch more, ask questions and most of all, just be curious enough to ask the simple questions,' he explains.

'The cruel reality is that you need to acknowledge that as a company or individual, you will never truly be carbon neutral - that doesn’t mean you give up and call it a day though! 

'The mindset should be to leave the planet in a better way than when you first found it.'

'The mindset should be to leave the planet in a better way than when you first found it. We all contribute to landfills, ocean floors and other continents’ waste issues, even if we don’t mean to. If you feel any level of guilt, see an opportunity, or even wake up and think that today you can make a difference, even a small one, then start asking questions and reach out to people. 

'There is no harm in trying - just do it!'

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If you would like to discuss the issue of sustainability further or share ideas, please contact Alex Baines at alex@boddingtons-electrical.com, or find him on LinkedIn.