Thursday, 24 June 2010 21:18

LKQ Knows ‘It’s Not Cheap or Easy Being Green’ But Sees Quick Cost Benefits

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Many companies talk a big game when it comes to being lean and green, but LKQ says it is 100% dedicated to saving fuel, electricity and recycling everything that the enormous company can possibly touch, use, or produce. It’s not easy being lean and green because it involves a considerable investment in time, money and personnel to achieve sustainability and a high level of true greenness. But LKQ is dedicated to making the investment and leading the way among companies its size to being a trendsetter in taking the green approach to a whole new level.

LKQ operates from 290 facilities nationwide and passed $2 billion for revenue in 2009. “In 2010, we’re headed to hit that number again and higher,” Steven Jones, Vice-President of LKQ’s West-Northwest Regions said. Jones has been one of the prime movers behind the company’s transition to becoming greener nationwide.

Jones attended a recent conference sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy, in which most of the country’s Fortune 500 companies was represented. The subject of the conference was on newly constructed building sustainably, Jones explained.

“The experts told us that when we build new facilities, let’s try to educate ourselves on how to build them so that they’re sustainable,” he said. “By using re-used materials and incorporating things that require less energy, we can become a better, productive and more responsible company. During this three-day conference, I learned that some of the most simple things you can do while constructing new buildings can help you to save more power and be forward-thinking in every aspect of reusing and saving.”

The conference made a huge impression on Jones, who took the information back to LKQ for implementation. “It was a real eye-opener on many levels. Getting green isn’t easy, but in the end you win, because you save money and you save energy. One is good for the company and the other is good for everyone. We’ll be building approximately 50 brand new facilities from the ground up this year—warehouses, self-service and full-service salvage yards and distribution centers—throughout the country, to support our product.”

A big part of this efficiency-focused reform involved changing LKQ’s lighting systems in new and existing facilities. “One prime example where we can save tons of money and energy is by embracing the newest lighting in our buildings. Most of our warehouses have 30-ft. tall ceilings. We want them high and tight to save space, because land is expensive and building new facilities is very costly.

In the past, we used metal halide and sodium vapor lights—if you go to most average warehouses, these are the lights you’ll find there. They use a ton of energy and they don’t put off that much light. A T5HO is a high output light designed for these tall warehouses, and it uses roughly 25% of the energy that the standard lights we used to have. To take it even further, we’ve equipped these lighting systems with motion sensors on every light. It’s now a law in California to incorporate to them in every newly constructed building because it makes sense and saves a lot of energy.”

Saving energy is a priority across the board, Jones said, which also includes the offices within every LKQ facility. “Each of our new offices now has two light switches, one for half-light and another for full light. So if there’s a sunny day outside, maybe you only need to have half of the light running. All these little things added up can make a big difference in our consumption of energy, so we’ve embraced all of these policies in all of the construction of our buildings from the ground up.”

The savings derived from the company’s new lighting was apparent almost instantly, Jones said. “It’s a huge effort. For example, we installed T5HO lighting in a 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Santa Fe Springs, CA, and we haven’t had a light bill exceeding $2,000 monthly since we opened it, although it is operating 18 hours per day. There are 70 people working out of that facility and the building’s energy consumption is considerably less than many of our older facilities. It’s just remarkable how much money we can save by designing these new facilities using the latest technology in energy-saving innovation. Of course it’s not cheap installing these types of systems in our new facilities, but they will pay for themselves if you do it right. For instance, those T5HO lights will get your money back within the range of 1-2 years, I would estimate. But, it does take that initial investment.”

Tapping into natural light is another method of saving money and energy. “We’re also requiring that skylights be built into the warehouses, depending on the local codes in each city. It will run between 4-10% of the light derived from sky lighting a facility. And of course, that’s the most sustainable energy you can find and it’s free. Skylights aren’t cheap either, but in the end it’s not all about the cost. It’s about taking the environmental high road versus just the economics. You’re making a commitment that says ‘hey, we have to make a decision.’ You know we have to make a difference—that’s what we’re doing. We’ve decided that being green does matter and [as a company we want to do] something that is the right thing to do that’s sustainable.”

LKQ is going green in every room, even in several of their bathrooms in some facilities.

“We’ve invested in Dyson hand dryers in the West region, a new device that allows us to eliminate the use of paper towels in all of our bathrooms. At $1,400 installed, these units aren’t inexpensive, but they’ll dry your hands in ten seconds, so it saves energy and paper, of course. We made a decision that we don’t want to create a bunch of trash in our daily lives. Why cut down a bunch of trees to use paper towels when you can use a Dyson hand dryer and save. We’ve installed 15 of these devices in our buildings and the response has been outstanding. They’ll pay for themselves in roughly 16 months.”

LKQ has always focused on recycling and reusing everything, but now they’re even more adept at keeping car parts in circulation. “Reusing something that somebody already used and rebuilding it to get it back into a vehicle is as green as you can get. This way, we keep them out of the landfill and make them usable once again, the way it should be designed. We’re also stocking re-manufactured products more than ever, including engines, transmissions, rear ends, steering gears, steering pumps, rack & pinions. We’re stocking all of these things, so that our end users don’t have to buy new ones. An entirely new transmission costs a ton to make, but our re-manufactured transmissions are just as good. Rebuilding one will use one-half of the overall energy it takes to manufacture a new transmission.”

Manufacturers buy cores from LKQ to rebuild their engines and transmissions, for example. “When a manufacturer wants a core, they call us. This way, we make sure that these products ultimately get back into the main stream of commerce, so that they don’t have to build a new one.”

Saving energy, reusing, reconditioning, recycling and doing their part to help preserve the environment is LKQ’s ongoing commitment. “Being green never ends. It’s not a momentary thing or something we do to because it’s popular today. We’re in for the long-term and committed and that will never change.”

According to the company’s Web site, “LKQ is a leader in recycled auto parts and environmentally friendly business practices and recycled 492,000 vehicles last year. That is equivalent to recycling about 540,000 tons of steel, 47,000 tons of aluminum, and 13,000 tons of copper. Through its operations, LKQ helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 890,000 tons, which is about the same as the annual emissions of a city of 82,200 people.

“In addition, LKQ recently partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to give its customers and anyone else interested in helping the environment an additional way to be green in our LKQ Get Green promotion. Anyone who visits www.LKQGetGreen.com between April 22 and June 30, 2010 and enters a valid email address will receive 1 tree planted in their honor. Customers can also print a savings coupon to use with their next LKQ recycled purchase.  Those who use the coupon will receive $25 off their purchase or can choose to have 25 trees planted in their honor. Together with its customers, LKQ anticipates planting a forest at the conclusion of the program.”

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