Phenolic Process Improves Environmental Impact, Meets Call Of Vision 2030

January 31, 2022

When Vanessa Scott heard a single sentence from Essex Furukawa CEO Brian Kim during the announcement of Vision 2030 — a holistic sustainability program launched in April 2020 — it not only resonated with her, but it opened the door to re-energize a project she had begun working on years prior.

Kim said that Essex Furukawa would not only work to push boundaries of what we had thought possible, but that he wanted to empower people to look back at previous ideas to see if there are creative solutions that we simply could not execute before.

There was. Her project. Greening the Phenolic production process.

In simpler terms: rework the process used to produce our phenolic resin intermediate.  The resulting benefits are reduced environmental impact while also reducing the quantity of chemical types needed.

It was something Scott had previously researched, formulated, and tested. She was armed with a Master’s Degree in Chemistry from Vanderbilt, and a decade of experience in our Polymer Development Lab. She knew all the enamels, thinners, and lubricants that Essex Furukawa makes and had the three-ring binder full of information she collected previously.

She said that she was ready to get everything across the finish line.

“I spent years working on this project, being in the lab, doing the development work,” Scott said. “It is both personally, and professionally rewarding to have this project move to the next step.

“It means we have one less chemical we need to source.  It is less waste generated. And it is better for the environment.”

As she is proving, there are direct benefits tangible through the entire value chain.

Previously, Essex Furukawa was making a phenolic resin a traditional way — how the rest of the industry has always worked — versus the improvement she was proposing. Embracing Essex Furukawa’s core value of Disruptive Innovation, she challenged this approach.

Scott changed that. For the better.

“The environmental impact as well as the safety aspect is very exciting because we aren’t using formaldehyde anymore,” Scott said. “That is obviously better for green production but ultimately is better for everyone involved.”

The original process also resulted in a lot of wastewater from the creation of the final product. The new process resulted in a reduction in wastewater and allowed byproducts to be reclaimed by a third-party in support of a Circular Economy. It was a change that helped the Chemical Processing Center achieve Zero Waste to Landfill, with a 98% diversion rate.

Since Scott was able to create the exact same chemical, her innovation was able to generate positive environmental impacts as well as help with the supply chain shortage affecting many of the most commonly used magnet wire products.

“I think as more major corporations give considerations to their supply chain, as it relates to environmental impact, this is something that will excite the market,” Austin Robinson, Sustainability Project Manager for Essex Furukawa, said. “There are aspects of our industry that are more difficult to truly make sustainable, and so in times when we can change something essential that is also classified as Green Production and Disruptive Innovation, it helps advance our Vision 2030 initiative.”

The Vision 2030 program commits Essex Furukawa to be motivated by and dedicated to creating a sustainable future. Each decision, partnership, and investment we make as a company will be driven by this common goal. The company is committed to being a part of the solution in improving environmental issues facing the world.

Looking at formulaic composition through each step of our supply chain is another example of the commitment made to sustainability. One that Scott was excited to see move forward.

“There were several iterations of lab work and such, pilot batches and lab trials,” she said. “After proof of concept you know endpoint time and to see it get there, through Vision 2030, is rewarding.”

About Essex Furukawa

Essex Furukawa Magnet Wire LLC is the leading, global provider of magnet wire that is used by most major OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, and industry leaders in the automotive, energy, industrial, and commercial & residential sectors. The Atlanta-based company is a global joint venture formed in 2020 between Essex Magnet Wire and Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd., both leaders in magnet wire product development, and custom solutions. The combined entity, relying on the strengths of both Essex Magnet Wire and Furukawa Electric, draws on more than two centuries of combined experience and knowledge to push forward innovation while also remaining focused on delivering manufacturing excellence and outstanding customer service.

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