Driving Environmental Change

03 . 04 . 2020
Robert Gianello

At Planex sustainability matters. Along with offering the very best in high-quality adaptive steel products the ideas of sustainability are incorporated into every area of manufacture.

As Research Manager at Planex, Robert Gianello spearheads an innovative approach to sustainable manufacturing working to reduce waste and energy usage to lower the carbon footprint of the Planex factory located at Hallam in Melbourne’s South-Eastern suburbs.

Robert met the managing director of Planex, Jean-Pierre Jardel when both were studying at Monash University. After completing his PhD, Robert pursued an academic career in the area of medicine specialising in the areas of arthritis, connective tissue, cancer and resurrection plants but at Jean-Pierre’s invitation, he changed professional direction and commenced work at Planex in 2016. His scientific background had schooled him well and he brought to his new position an understanding of the importance of process, analysis and research coupled with a passion for the environment. He is dedicated to helping realise a dream of sustainable manufacturing and already work practices are moving quickly in this direction.

Jean-Pierre had already embraced the idea of solar power at Planex installing 1020 solar panels on the factory roof to supplement electricity usage. This alternative power has been a success and to date solar now supplements the traditional electricity source at Planex by a third in summer and 10% in winter.

Following Jean-Pierre’s lead, Robert investigated other areas of waste and established a relationship with Sustainability Victoria to help implement more change within the plant.

In 2016 a gas usage audit by Sustainability Victoria identified ways to increase productivity and reduce wastage through oven modifications. These changes were implemented and have increased gas emission efficiency by 15%. However ever mindful of refining practice Robert is working to raise this percentage to 20% in the near future.

There have also been other waste reduction initiatives and again with the help of Sustainability Victoria and the application of new processes, Planex now recycles 95% of all paper, cardboard, steel, plastics and soft film waste. But perhaps the most challenging waste situation is the excess from powder coat. As all Planex products are powder coat paint finished there is a certain amount of powder wastage that is eventually sent to landfill, however, Robert has devised a process that bakes the residual powder into a solid that is then re-used along with steel off-cuts as counterweights in cabinets produced at Planex. This is re-use and recycling at its very best and the statistics are impressive with an annual 30-tonne saving in greenhouse gas emissions now being achieved.

Planex is leading the way in sustainable manufacturing and has initiated a working group with other companies within the powder coat industry. Driven by Robert and Planex the group is collaborating with Professor Sankar Bhattcharya at Monash University who is developing a pyrolysis process (heating substances without oxygen) to help reduce powder waste. At the moment there is an application under consideration for Government funding that, should it be successful, will ensure the continuation of this research. This working group is at the very forefront of waste management initiatives due to Planex’ commitment to investigating and implementing sustainable manufacture.

For Robert respect for the earth and sustainable living has been a life-long passion and with Jean-Pierre’s support, emissions and waste at Planex have been drastically reduced – something that could only be dreamt about a few years ago. Planex is driving the industry in which it participates to a more sustainable and renewable future. The company is searching for ways to support the environment and its actions are making a real difference. Planex is looking to the future and through the support of people such as Robert change for the better is happening.