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Nanhua Case Study: Saving Water and Energy to Stay Competitive

Published: 20 August 2020
5 min read
Media Type
Case study iconCase Study
Aii Programs

August 20, 2020

Clean by Design (CbD), a program created by NRDC, is leveraged by Aii as a benchmark to identify, fund, scale and measure stepwise solutions for reducing the environmental impacts of textile manufacturing. Aii convenes the Mill Improvement Alliance of supply chain program implementers in order to standardize and align tools and criteria for impact projects. By providing a collaborative, continuous improvement framework that builds upon CbD’s “Best Practice” methodology, Aii can support mills of any size, type or location to reduce their environmental footprint. We focus on scaling improvements across key areas of known impact in textile production: Energy, Water, Chemistry & Wastewater and Materials. The following case study is an example of how one facility has maximized the value of Clean by Design on their production floor.

The idea that saving water and energy will lead to a healthier planet is a no-brainer. But many people don’t understand the financial benefits that come with taking these steps toward a more sustainable factory.

Suzhou Nanhua Textile Finishing Technology Co., Ltd., or “Nanhua” for short, is a factory in the Wujiang District of Suzhou City in Jiangsu, China. We had the pleasure of connecting directly with Zeng Xuefeng, Quality Manager and Clean by Design leader in Nanhua, for a conversation about the implementation of more sustainable practices, and how it led to achieving positive outcomes beyond positive impacts on the environment. Here’s what we learned.

The main motivation for joining the Clean by Design (CbD) program was personal to the factory leadership team. Zeng said, “The chairman personally values this work. As both a private entrepreneur and a representative of the local people’s congress, he wants to do what’s right for the enterprise and serve as a model for his peers.”

The decision to invest in this work goes beyond show. Each day, factory leadership checks the factory’s energy use, sewage discharge, product output, and other sustainability factors, and actively works towards finding solutions for any issues discovered. It’s said that swift and public action is taken to address any improvements that need to be made for the sake of environmental protection.

A secondary motivator is government requirements. As the government continues to step in on issues like sewage discharge and mandate inspections with strict requirements, factories are forced to take accountability for things like waste and chemical usage.

Finally, market pressure is another factor in why factories like Nanhua are stepping up their sustainability efforts. There’s a clear correlation between the desire for consumers to invest in products that are made sustainability and brands that are demanding that actions be taken at the factory level to decrease their own carbon footprint. In order for factories to meet that market demand, investments must be made.

Through the CbD program, Nanhua has invested resources in the following projects toward a more sustainable factory:

  • Water management
  • Chemical reuse
  • Equipment upgrades
  • Process improvement

“The CbD concept is very consistent with our factory,” said Zeng. “In the process of participating in the project, some knowledge and cases gave us great inspiration, such as letting us rethink the issue of heat preservation, traps, and process water use.”

Onsite inspections also proved useful in inspiring confidence in the CbD local experts who worked closely with the factory to identify and resolve problems. The solutions-driven approach to the program, and the practical nature of the suggestions, greatly benefited the factory in making the changes needed to improve sustainability efforts and reduce costs. Below is a breakdown of the initial investment cost, annual savings, and investment payback period.

  • One-time investment: $3 million USD (21.45 million RMB)
  • Annual savings: $3.8 million USD (26.85 million RMB)
  • Investment payback: ~10 months

Participating in the CbD program did not come without challenges. Technical implementation was cited as one of the main barriers that Nanhua needed to overcome. Through continuous experimentation, improvements, and a spirit of perseverance, the factory was able to move from theoretical to practical changes. Other challenges came in the forms of addressing process capacity, temperature control issues, and equipment barriers, but with the support of the CbD team, each was resolved.

The issue that required a greatest investment of time was related to management. After implementing some energy-saving technologies, the original process needed to be changed, which led to several departments and specific personnel needing to be retrained. As you can imagine, this created some difficulties internally, but the solution was quickly discovered when workers were shown the immense benefits of reused water. Mid-level managers strengthened their supervision of the implementation changes and worked closely with the team to make the adjustments needed to be successful.

While Nanhua has experienced great success through the CbD project, they believe even more potential is possible through the offering of more technical instruction and support.

To date, Nanhua has achieved the following through CbD:

● Water savings of 70%: In 2019 alone, Nanhua saved about 1.2 million cubic meters of water and 2,300 tons of carbon dioxide from greenhouse gas emissions.
● Energy savings of 30%
● Greenhouse gas savings of about 30%, which has significantly reduced production costs and improved the market competitiveness of the plant.

Final thoughts
Zeng shared, “Now that environmental protection policies are becoming more and more stringent, and international brand markets have higher environmental protection requirements, it will be very difficult for companies that ignore environmental impacts to survive. Therefore, we must raise our awareness of energy saving, water saving, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and actively seek opportunities to implement energy saving and emission reduction projects. This will ultimately reflect production costs and market orders, and help enterprises obtain greater profits.”

2、地址: 中国江苏苏州市吴江区,主要经营染整加工布等化纤类产品。
法人代表: 鲍惠荣(吴江区涂层商会会长)
3、讲述人:曾雪峰(职位:品质经理)(TBC, 及照片)


6.1 2018-2019年,贵厂在CbD项目中取得了什么成绩?

6.2 主要做了哪些节能减排的项目?
(2) 推动化学品回用。前处理的碱水,单独采用碱处理系统后再用,既节省污水膜处理、回用中水,碱处理系统的水回用车间,还节约了化学品用量和费用。

6.3 为什么贵厂愿意在节能减排方面实施这么多项目?

6.4 在项目过程中,遇到了哪些问题、挑战以及如何解决这些问题的?
一方面是技术实施上的问题。在节能项目设计好了之后,理论与实践的差别,导致一些技术实施后对产品质量、生产进度产生了影响。但是我们都通过不断的实验,改进,多方尝试,最终解决了问题。 例如

中层管理者加强监督,亲自实验用水情况,给工人展示回用水的好处。 另外制定了详细的KPI,规定每天必须用完多少回用水,并督促检查完成情况。还有就是固定几台缸,规定某类产品在这些缸内染色,且只能使用回用水等措施。

6.5 参加CbD项目对贵厂的主要帮助是什么?



6.7 您对CbD项目本身改进,有没有一些建议