By Hromadka, Erik
TWENTY YEARS AGO, the first joint venture between two Japanese automotive companies completed a new manufacturing facility in Lafayette, replacing green cornfields with a plant that would produce more than 2 million Subaru and Isuzu vehicles. However, few would have guessed that the site would also become a symbol of “green manufacturing” in the United States.
Indeed, with all the emphasis on “green” products and lifestyles that seek to help the environment, Indiana’s heavy manufacturing industries would seem to be an unlikely place to find such efforts. However, Subaru of Indiana Automotive and a growing number of other manufacturers across the state have been seeing green as a way to both help the planet and improve their bottom lines.
Subaru’s Lafayette plant, which manufactures the Outback, Legacy and Tribeca vehicles, has been a pioneer in reducing waste and recycling materials. In 1998, it became the first auto assembly plant in the U.S. to receive an ISO 14001 certification, meeting the international standard for implementing an environmental management system. Similar to quality management systems, the program establishes procedures to identify,. document and improve the environmental aspects of a company’s activities and is reviewed by third-party organizations.
The facility became the first auto assembly plant in the nation with an on-site solvent recovery system in 2002. The next year, its 832-acre campus was designated an official backyard wildlife habitat and has been home to a wide range of animals, including deer, coyotes, beaver and blue heron.
Then the Lafayette operation set out to become the first auto assembly plenty to achieve zero-landfill status, a goal it achieved in 2004. Now Subaru says 99.8 percent of the plant’s refuse is recycled, reused or sent to an Indianapolis waste-to-energy plant instead of being sent to landfills.
“The average household in America sends more to a landfill every day than our entire Subaru manufacturing plant,” says senior vice president Tom Easterday.
So how did Subaru’s Lafayette operations achieve its environmental milestones?
It starts with leadership from the top of the organization, such as the company’s decision to achieve zero-landfill status, and is then supported by the 1,300 individuals who work at the facility, explains Brent Lank, an associate in Subaru’s Corporate Planning Department.
That support resulted in a massive effort to recycle everything that wasn’t shipped out on the new vehicles that come off the assembly line every two minutes, after winding their way around the plant for approximately 17 hours. From obvious recyclables such as steel, glass and wood pallets to various types of packaging materials, plastic caps and coverings for engine parts and even the metal slag left over from robotic welding operations, the plant seeks to recycle everything,
“If it’s not going on the vehicle, you have to manage it somehow,” Lank says. “A lot of the ideas came from associates who asked, ‘why aren’t we recycling this?’”
Those efforts have paid off and in 2007 the plant recycled 13,142 tons of steel, 1,448 tons of cardboard and paper, 194 tons of plastics, 10 tons of solvent-soaked rags and four tons of light bulbs. Employee break areas at the plant added 20 tons of pop cans and bottles to its recycling total.
Sometimes materials can be sent back to suppliers for reuse. For example, the company has found it is more efficient to ship Styrofoam packaging and plastic caps that cover engine parts back to Japan instead of buying new materials.
Other materials must be sorted, stored and sent to local recycling companies. To help with that effort, Subaru has partnered with Allegiant Global, an Indianapolis company that maintains on- site recycling operations with 30 employees at the plant.
“Anything that doesn’t go out that side of the plant comes out of this side,” says Allegiant’s program manager, Terry Jacot, as he contrasts the finished vehicles coming off the assembly line and with trucks arriving to pick up bales of recycled cardboard, scrap door panels and damaged plastic bumpers.
Jacot says he works with a dozen different recycling companies and helps to coordinate their needs with the materials that Subaru uses. For example, some colors of plastics are easier to recycle and asking suppliers to make such adjustments in the materials coming into the plant helps to recycle it on the way out.
“We’ll take all the different materials and we’ll find a home for them,” Jacot says.CLEAN MANUFACTURING
Subaru is not the only Indiana company that has implement extensive green manufacturing procedures in recent years.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management works with a number of Indiana companies to encourage pollution prevention by using materials and energy more efficiently and conserving natural resources. An Environmental Stewardship Program encourages companies to develop environment management systems, taking advantages of resources such as Purdue University’s Clean Manufacturing Technology Institute that helps companies comply with ISO 14001 standards.
The state also recognizes Indiana companies that have implemented outstanding environmental strategies in their operations through the annual Governor’s Awards for Environmental Excellence. The program commends ongoing efforts in several categories and also those achieving five years of continuous environmental improvements, with winners that include Subaru, Rolls-Royce and Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing.
Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing (TIEM) in Columbus is a good example of how pollution can be prevented. Last year the facility introduced an environmentally friendly series of forklifts powered by gasoline and propane that produce 70 percent less smog- forming emissions than current federal standards. However, the plant has also been working to reduce its pollution here in Indiana.
In 2006, TIEM received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence for successfully implementing an environmental management system that reduced volatile organic compounds emissions by 33 percent, reduced hazardous air pollutants by 80 percent, cut energy consumption by 40 percent and reduced its natural gas consumption by 65 percent. It also implemented recycling initiatives to make it a zero-landfill facility and has increased the amount of recycled items by 70 percent during the last three years. A water-treatment process at the facility has resulted in substantial reduction of pollutants in TIEM’s processed water. The water is cleaner than required by government standards.
In 2007, TIEM gained a charter member position with the Indiana Environmental Stewardship Program, and is a member of the Indiana Partners for Pollution Prevention (P2) organization, a voluntary program for Indiana businesses to benchmark and share their success in environmental improvement.
Also improving the environment around its plants is TogetherGreen, a partnership with the National Audubon Society that Toyota launched to fund conservation projects, train environmental leaders, and offer volunteer. opportunities to significantly benefit the environment.
A $20 million Toyota grant – the largest Audubon has received in its 103-year history – will fund TogetherGreen for five years, enabling Audubon to expand the scope and reach of its internationally known conservation programs.
That effort includes an event this month in Columbus where TIEM employees will plant indigenous trees including Scarlet Oaks and Sugar Maples at Noblitt Park and Lincoln Park as a part of its community “greening” program.
“Toyota is committed to preserving the environment by not only producing products that are environmentally friendly, but also through conservation efforts that benefit the local community,” says Sonny Toyoda, president of Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing. “As a member of Indiana’s Environmental Stewardship Program, TIEM has the responsibility to safeguard our local communities, and events such as the tree-planting event in Columbus will provide environmental benefits for future generations.”
Beyond its own initiatives, TIEM requires their top 65 suppliers, who account for more than 75 percent of the materials purchased locally, to be ISO 14001 certified or have an equivalent environmental management system.
That company philosophy is shared at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI) in Princeton which produces the Tundra full-size pickup, the Sequoia full-size sport utility vehicle and the Sienna minivan. The facility, which has a total annual capacity of 350,000 units, is also encouraging the spread of green manufacturing practices by requiring its suppliers maintain ISO 14001 certifications.
“It’s important that we form partnerships with suppliers who share our environmental values and work with us to produce vehicles with the least impact on the environment as possible,” says Jason Guess, manager of environmental, health, safety and security at TMMI.
For example, TMMI produces plastic instrument panel shells for vehicles and then turns to Vuteq, an environmentally certified supplier that also has operations in Princeton, to add the instruments, gauges, radios and CD players before the units are installed into its trucks and minivans.
Toyota is also making plans to add new environmentally friendly suppliers to its vehicles, such as an anticipated new clean-diesel V8 engine for both the Tundra truck and Sequoia SUV.
“I am happy to confirm that a new clean-diesel V8 engine will be offered in both the Tundra and Sequoia in the near future,” Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe announced at the 2008 North American International Auto Show.
If Toyota wants an environmentally friendly supplier of clean diesel engines, it doesn’t have to look far. As a world leader in the production of diesel engines, Columbus-based Cummins has taken great strides to reshape the image of diesel engines as a “green” product.
Cummins recently announced new technology for its highway diesel engines that is the first to meet 2010 federal emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency. The company plans a new lineup of such engines for highway use and is also working to reduce emissions on off-road vehicles and machinery. The company’s 6.7- liter diesel engine is currently used in the Dodge Ram pickup and its diesel particulate filter is part of the Cummins technology solution for meeting 2007 EPA emission standards for on-highway vehicles.
However, the company is also working to reduce emissions from its own manufacturing facilities. It has pledged to reduce its corporate- wide greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2010, an additional 20 percent cutback from the reduction it accomplished from 2000 to 2005.
“While Cummins is a leader in developing new products to meet tough emission standards, I am equally impressed by the work people in our plants are doing to reduce energy usage and focus on the prudent use of our natural resources,” says Cummins chairman and CEO Tim Solso. “Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes good business sense for the company.”
Another way that Cummins is going green is through what it calls ReCon, a program to produce genuine factory-remanufactured products. Noting that it takes 85 percent less energy to remanufacture products such as engine blocks rather than making them from new parts, the company estimates it reuses or recycles some 48 million pounds of materials each year.
Another international company that is making an environmental effort to develop green manufacturing in Indiana is Rolls-Royce Corp., which has operations in Indianapolis.
Also recognized by the state for five years of continuous environmental improvements, Rolls Royce implemented an environmental management plan in 2000 and then reduced electricity consumption by 13 percent, water usage by 44 percent, cold cleaning solvent usage by 54 percent, and the generation of hazardous waste by 73 percent. The company estimates those reductions have resulted in an annual savings of over $2 million, as well as lower its injury and illness rates, and improve its neighborhood relations.
One effort at the Indianapolis facility is now cited as a case study for the company. By updating the coolant in its metal machining activities, the company was able to extend the life of that product from just one or two weeks to nearly three months.
In addition to providing cost savings, recognition of such efforts can also provide a competitive advantage from an investment perspective. Rolls-Royce has now retained its position in the Dow Jones Sustainability World and European Indices for the sixth successive year. The Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) is a global index that tracks the financial performance of leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide. The index is based on a thorough assessment of corporate economic, environmental and social performance, and measures areas such as corporate governance, risk management, branding, climate change, supply chain standards and labor practices.
POWERED BY LANDFILL GAS
In addition to finding ways to recycle and reduce waste, a key element of green manufacturing is also find ways to reuse materials and resources. One excellent example of that is taking place at General Motors Fort Wayne Assembly operations that employ 2,500 workers manufacturing the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.
The facility is one of GM’s seven operations that have developed an innovative way to use methane gas from a landfill as fuel that provides power for the plant. The methane gas is delivered via a pipeline from a local landfill situated nine miles away. The Fort Wayne truck plant uses the methane gas in a boiler to make steam; which in return heats and cools the plant. The steam also is used to drive turbines to pump water that drives large industrial chillers.
“Fort Wayne has saved over $7 million since 2002,” says plant manager Mike Glinski. “We are currently looking into doubling the amount of methane gas that we use in the boiler. Using the methane gas from the local landfill is a win-win situation because when the gas is converted into energy, it does not pollute the environment and companies save on energy”antifreeze, batteries, copper, glass, paper, plastics, steel, tires, used oil and wood. Obsolete plastic vehicle parts are sent to another recycler, and polypropylene wipes are made into plastic pellets that get used to make vehicle parts, such as wheel well liners, for other GM vehicles.
The Fort Wayne plant also has an aggressive recycling effort that captures more than 8,500 tons of a wide range of materials, including aluminum, In addition to recycling, the plant also focuses on efforts to reduce and reformulate. A chemical management program aggressively sought to reduce the amount of solvents and volatile compounds and has reduced the number of chemical produces in use at the facility from more than 4,000 in the 1990s to fewer than 900 today. Reformulating vehicle paints has also reduced both air pollutants and the amount of lead used in manufacturing.
Copyright Curtis Magazine Group, Inc. May 2008
(c) 2008 Indiana Business Magazine. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.