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NCI Plastics, an injection moulding company based in Victoria, improved factory lighting, resulting in greater productivity, and making workers feel better about their surroundings. An added benefit was reduced energy costs.
In 1994, NCI Plastics (Vic) Pty Ltd, an injection moulding company, had a factory at Northcote in Victoria, which employed 20 staff. Operations were conducted on a 24 hour, 6 day a week basis.
However, by 1996, the company had outgrown the site and had moved operations to Bayswater. The Northcote site, which NCI still owns, is now occupied by a sister company, Speciality Metal Products Pty Ltd.
The lighting level at the Northcote factory was low and very uneven. Almost no light reached the ceiling and the tops of the walls, distorting the appearance of the work-place and giving the space a gloomy appearance.
The lighting system was very unsatisfactory and affected operations. Staff had difficulty reading labels on boxes or shelves, and night shift staff were unable to reliably colour match plastic products.
NCI expected it would be necessary to have to install more light fittings and incur higher electricity bills. The recommended solution, however, was to replace the 25 excisting fittings (400 watt mercury vapour lamps with metal reflectors) with 26 high efficiency 250 watt metal halide lamps.
The new lamps provided high light levels for the amount of electricity consumed. Fittings included efficient acrylic reflectors, and were carefully chosen so that light distribution matched mounting height and spacing of the excisting lights, minimising modification costs. The reflector allowed a small portion of light to pass through, illuminating the ceiling and tops of walls. As a result, the appearance of the working environment was vastly improved.
Controllers were installed in both the warehouse and the factory to automatically switch off the lights when sufficient light was available from skylights. Use of the controller cut lighting hours by 45 percent, reducing both electricity and maintenance costs. Controllers had to be switched on manually in the late afternoon, eliminating the risk of the lights automatically switching on when the factory was empty.
The major benefit of the lighting upgrade was the greatly improved working environment. This led to greater productivity and safety, and made workers feel better about their surroundings. An added benefit was the reduction in lighting power and hours of use, resulting in cost savings.
Lighting improvements at NCI cost just over $14,000 with a payback period of 4.3 years. The main benefit to the company, however, has been the improvement in safety and working conditions.
The reduction in electricity consumption has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34.7 tonnes per year.
NCI Plastics realised that it had problems with the factory lighting, when staff had difficulty reading labels on boxes or shelves, and night shift staff could not reliably colour match plastic products.
No barriers were encountered. The initiative was employee-led and implemented by specialist lighting consultants.
NCI has continued to benefit from these initiatives.
However, as daytime only operations are now conducted at Northcote, full advantage of these lighting initiatives has not been as fully realised in recent years.
Mr Eric Virgona
NCI Plastics (Vic) Pty Ltd
31-35 Burgess Road
Ph: 61 3 9720 1777
Fax: 61 3 9761 4338
Date of implementation: 1996
Date of further initiatives:
Case study prepared: April 1998 by the Environment Management Industry Association of Australia (EMIAA)
Date last modified: May 2001.