“Environmental stuff” is fine for some industries, but it can’t be applied to auto manufacturing, can it? Actually, it can. Auto manufacturers find that not only is sustainability good for the environment, but it helps them save money as well.
Ford Motor Company is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its Dearborn Truck Plant, set up to be Ford’s vision of sustainable manufacturing. The plant has produced more than 2.6 million F-150 trucks – up to nine models on three vehicle platforms, using almost 350 robots, between its body and paint shops and final assembly area.
Ford isn’t stopping there. It’s retooling the factory to build the next generation of the F-150, which uses advanced materials such as more high-strength steel in the frame and high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy throughout the vehicle body to improve durability while saving up to 700 pounds. This is intended to give customers greater towing, payload and fuel efficiency performance, Ford says.
Similarly, Volkswagen has the goal of becoming the world’s most environmentally compatible automaker. The company says it is engaged in environmental protection and wants its customers to also be motivated to practice environmental awareness. This includes its “Think Blue. Factory.” “We believe that efficient vehicles should originate from an efficient production line,” the company says, describing its sustainable manufacturing program – from components to vehicles — noting that it considers sustainable and efficient production to be a clear competitive advantage.
Volkswagen’s goal by 2018 is to reduce the environmental impact of its vehicle and components by 25 percent, using five indicators: energy, water, waste, CO2 and solvent emissions. For example, the company recycles production remnants, packaging materials and workshop leftovers, and tries to minimize waste requiring disposal, such as using filtering processes that don’t require filtering aids.
On the other hand, Toyota is famous for its “lean” manufacturing techniques, but it turns out that “lean” manufacturing is inherently more environmentally friendly. “The three pillars of Lean — increasing value, reducing waste and respecting people — fit neatly into a sustainable perspective,” writes Ben Chandler of GreenBiz.com.
In particular, there’s “lean” manufacturing’s emphasis on taking ideas from all levels of the organization, Chandler writes. “It assumes that the people actually closest to the work, whether they are working on an assembly line or cleaning up a hazardous waste site, are best suited to identify problems and devise robust solutions,” he writes.
If the big automakers find sustainability useful, don’t you think it could help you?
Steve Leavitt, GM of U.S. Cloud Solutions for Exact