Contrax Furniture reduces energy bills with RBS Mentor Energy Audit


Over the past 25 years, Contrax Furniture has grown into a £1.2 million-a-year company, with 15 employees on the factory floor, four administration staff and two directors.

Director Simon Baldwin explains that when the business needed to review its operations to ensure it was using energy efficiently, it felt natural to turn to Mentor for help.

Challenges & Actions
While Simon was expecting to identify some savings during the process, he never expected these to amount to tens of thousands of pounds a year.

“Our Mentor Consultant Dr Chris Wilson spent a day on-site, as well as a series of phone calls, getting to know the business and helping us follow through on his recommendations,” he continues.

“His thorough research included looking at our use of energy for heating and running electrical equipment. He then prompted us to investigate how much energy we actually use, rather than simply paying a set amount to our supplier – we discovered we were overpaying by £650 per month and Chris has since helped us to negotiate a refund of £11,000 from our provider.”

Chris also highlighted that the furniture maker’s disposal of waste materials such as sawdust, wood off-cuts, pallets and veneer left over from the manufacturing process could be burnt on-site in an industrial wood waste heater unit, not only saving money on waste disposal in commercial skips, but also reducing the amount of oil needed to heat its two buildings.

He adds: “The energy audit helped Contrax to identify and prioritise the areas of energy management that give the largest return. Staff time is so precious that having an independent person advise on where to start can save a lot of time and allow savings to be made more easily.”

Simon details that the business used to spend £20,000 a year on waste disposal and £7,500 a year on heating oil across its two factories. “Burning our waste materials has halved our oil bill and our waste has been reduced by a third,” he enthuses.

“Another bonus is that the factory floor is now much tidier, as we don’t need to store waste for the next skip. This means the factories are a safer and more open place to work.”

Simon identifies that Mentor’s key role has been to provide the impetus and framework for management to identify, and act on, where improvements are needed. “Senior management can often be put off doing such research because they feel they are too busy,” he comments.

Lessons & Results

  • Annual energy spend: £22,118
  • Cost to implement changes: £2,610
  • Indicative annual energy savings based on implementation of audit recommendations: £6,016
  • One-off energy refund: £11,000 – Indicative payback period: instant

“Now we have seen how much we can save, we have been inspired to look at other areas where we can improve. Chris has pointed out that we can save further money by fixing leaks in our air lines and introducing a system for monitoring the CNC extraction fan during lunch hours, for instance. Working with Chris has been a great experience, as he is so professional.”

The business’s relationship with Mentor has grown from its experience of Mentor’s core services. On deciding that its existing employment law consultant no longer met its requirements, the business moved to the Bank’s Mentor Employment & HR Service a few years ago. As Simon explains, while having an out-of-hours service was the major attraction, the business continues to benefit from what is a more robust and comprehensive offering.

“I was very impressed with the way Mentor handled our first employment law case. We were guided through the correct process and got the result we wanted,” he comments.

“We have since added the Mentor Health & Safety Service, which has helped the business ensure it is complying with all the latest regulations and has dragged us from the dark ages. In legal terms, you can’t put a price on that.

“We now have a check sheet on every machine so their operator is prompted to make the correct checks. You can’t qualify the cost of this kind of peace of mind, to know that we’re not exposed.”

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