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BLOG: Towards a Greener Leicestershire #2 Andy Statham CIWS, Coalville

10 June 2021

Cast Iron Welding Services (CIWS), based in Coalville, has been operating for 75 years and, in the words of Sales Director, Andy Statham, “using what one might describe as a foundry process, we look less of a hi-tech manufacturer and more like a “dark satanic mill” from the Coleridge poem!”, but what they do is officially verified, in accordance with ISO14040, as achieving a reduction in carbon emissions by as much as 89%.  Peter Allen finds out more.

Very simply, what is that you do?

If you’ve ever lifted the bonnet of your car, you may have seen that the engine has four cylinders and on top of them is the cylinder head that covers all four pistons. On a ship’s engine or in a powerplant where a diesel engine is used for producing huge amounts of power – and these are engines that are nearly the size of your house – the cylinder heads are anything between 300mm and 600mm in diameter and can weigh a tonne or more.  Each cylinder has its own head, for practical reasons. The head is made of cast iron which, typically, in service can begin to corrode. Sometimes, for operational reasons, cracks can occur.  When that happens, the owner is under pressure to buy a new one from the engine maker or from companies that make copy parts.  CIWS compete with those two options by offering a remanufacturing service.  The operator sends the cracked cylinder head to us and we use a unique foundry process to bring it back to its original condition.

What is the green aspect of this process?

Each time we remanufacture a broken cylinder head, we are saving up to 89% of the CO2 emissions when compared to that emitted if a brand-new cylinder head had been manufactured.  That’s huge.  We know this because we invested in auditing the carbon trail of a new cylinder head, (using a Danish specialist company called Reflow).  They tracked the carbon from the mining of the metal, through to the casting and then on to the freight for transporting it around the world and compared the findings to a detailed audit of our process.  The audit was carried out in accordance with ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 (both relate to life cycle assessments) and so is verified to an international standard.

Does this give you an advantage in the market?

“Absolutely.  We’re pretty much unique in offering this service around the world and we’re very proud of the carbon emissions it saves.  We also have a price advantage.  We repair cylinder heads for between 25% to 40% of a new one from the engine builder.  We save them a huge amount of money and we save a lot of emissions, so it is all good. More and more clients are interested in both benefits, not just the economic advantage!”

What was the starting point for this?

“If I’m honest, I was criticised by my daughter because I’ve always worked with ‘dirty’ diesel engines; additionally, an acquaintance who is working for the United Nations in Paris in a Climate Change department kept challenging me on my own “green credentials”. By coincidence, the Danish environments auditors (Reflow) tracked us down as a potential guinea pig for their specialist evaluation process.

My colleagues and I wanted to be at the beginning of this inevitable move toward accreditation.

That all took place in 2020 but since then, and because we believe in this carbon auditing process so passionately, we’ve worked with Reflow to develop a much lower cost assessment “app”. This lightweight version does not qualify a company for ISO 14040 accreditation, but it is a starting point after which a client may decide to invest in the fully accredited analysis.

Increasingly, this accreditation will become important to our customers – cost already is, and we’re ahead of the game when it comes to environmental impact.”

Not just cylinder heads

“Everything we do is re-manufacturing, so it always has a green benefit.”  As he speaks to me, Andy reveals that the factory is full of pieces of architectural bridge and lamp-posts.  “They’re grade 1 listed lamp-posts that the councils can’t knock down.  If someone crashes a car into them, the council has to have them fixed.  And we’ve just got a contract with the Royal Mail for their classic red pillar boxes.  They used to be repaired by bolting them together but now they’ll be fixed seamlessly and restored to their former glory.

“70% of our business is engine cylinder heads and the rest is what you could describe as heritage or vintage – that could be anything from lamp-posts to the North Bridge project where we’re repairing parts of Edinburgh’s iconic bridge over the coming year.  Today we have a cast iron differential off a fork-lift truck, or there’s a steering support bracket from a 1933 Alvis which has just arrived with us.  We get lots of classic car cylinder heads, lovely stuff, steam engines, locomotives, piano frames.  You never know what you’re going to get an enquiry for next, but it makes the job so interesting”.

What other things do you do to be green in your day to day business?

“We’re a tiny business so we use nothing like the energy of larger companies. Nevertheless, we do our diligence on that by paying our carbon levies etc.  We’re fully compliant on responsible disposal of items such as lead paint which go to an accredited disposal organisation”.

What do you see as the future of the company?        

“We’re looking to grow annually with our core service.  But we also see real growth on the heritage side with bridges, lamp-posts, steam heritage; large projects like the bridge I mentioned earlier, or some of our classic seaside piers.  Our most prestigious job was on part of London Bridge and there are plenty of heritage bridges that need looking after!”

And what does your daughter think of you now?

“She’s still not impressed but we’re very proud of what we do.  We are making a difference, and now – we can prove it!”

If you’d like your company to be greener reduce your carbon emissions, you could take part in a pilot for Zellar, an online platform that enables you to track your emissions and then do something about them.  Business Gateway is looking for 100 Leicestershire companies to take part and there is no cost involved.  If you’d like to find out more, please visit