At Yelm, Lasco manufactures and delivers its products directly to its customers, including some of the better known retail home improvement stores such as Eagle Hardware and Garden and Home Base in western Washington and Thurman's Supply in the eastern portion of the state. The company also enjoys a very strong market in manufactured housing, with many of their products customized for installation in popular models.
Lasco BathwareThe Lasco Bathware plant in Yelm, Washington, manufactures fiberglass and acrylic bathtubs, showers and whirlpools. With roughly 260 employees, the Yelm plant is the largest such facility in the state. The company, part of Tomkins PLC, maintains headquarters in Anaheim, California, but operates seven other plants throughout the United States. The Yelm plant is remarkable for the improvements it has made in preventing pollution through the use of lean manufacturing techniques.
Waste-Free Manufacturing Means Improved Product QualityTo remain competitive, Lasco aggressively cut costs by reducing the amount of waste. It just so happens that while improving the bottom line, the Yelm facility has achieved unprecedented improvements in pollution prevention and energy efficiency while improving the quality of its product. The company's Profit Enhancement Program has also helped to involve employees in finding solutions by offering monetary rewards based on cost savings captured.
Since developing the Pollution Prevention Plan in 1992, Lasco has dramatically reduced its generation of hazardous wastes from 24,581 pounds annually to less than 220 pounds per month (more than 89 percent reduction). The plant is now classified by the Department of Ecology as a "small quantity generator," easing their burden of paperwork in addition to providing considerable savings in waste disposal fees and taxes.
Progress in reducing air emissions has been tremendous. Lasco bathtubs may now have the lowest styrene content in the industry, which translates into lower emissions. Product engineers were able to substitute inert ingredients to replace the styrene monomer. Further technical improvements that reduce the amount of vaporization of ingredients during application not only lower costs and air pollution, they also help build a stronger, higher-quality fiberglass product.
Lasco replaced solvents used for cleaning with a nonhazardous aqueous emulsifier and other nonhazardous solvents. In a key process change, the company simply eliminated the use of solvents to clean the spray systems used to apply gel coats when changing between colors. Instead, they use pure polyester resin used to laminate the back side of the product while flushing the color from the sprayers.
Cooperation Between Government and IndustryThe bathware maker has worked closely with government regulators during the past several years to advance pollution control efforts and improve the knowledge base of government and industry. Washington Department of Ecology seminars for the fiberglass industry were very helpful to Lasco in constructing their pollution prevention program. And the company continues to work with the Olympic Air Pollution Authority to control emissions through innovative methods. Lasco also continues to provide technical assistance to the regulatory agencies, and the company is pleased to note that new resources and information repositories are now available to help the state and new manufacturers make informed decisions for managing the industry.
While Lasco has remained focused on improving efficiencies and lowering costs, they have also been willing to tackle some risky projects. Not all of their efforts have succeeded. But Lasco plans to continue to make improvements. As Lyle Sundsmo, the Manufactured Housing Manager at the Yelm plant remarks, "If you don't continue to reach and advance ahead of the rest, your competitors will do it!"