Investing in New Technologies
In 2004, we opened the rebuilt Dearborn Truck Plant at the Ford Rouge Center as a model of sustainable manufacturing. The facility incorporates extensive natural stormwater management systems and what was then the largest green roof in the world. As we invest in new and existing facilities globally, we have been building on what we learned at the Ford Rouge Center and implementing other sustainable manufacturing technologies that use water more efficiently and provide environmental benefits.
In recent years, we have taken a broad range of actions that have helped us minimize our water footprint. For example, we implemented a reverse-osmosis process to recycle water in a number of our production plants, allowing us to avoid using high-quality water suitable for human consumption in our manufacturing processes. We’ve employed an innovative parts-washing system to reduce wastewater and cut energy consumption. We have also looked to new technologies, including a process known as “dry-machining” that lubricates cutting tools with a fine spray of oil, rather than the conventional “wet-machining” that required large amounts of metal-working fluids and water to cool and lubricate the tools. For a typical production line, dry-machining can save more than 280,000 gallons of water per year.
Actions like these don’t attract many headlines – but they make an impact. And they reflect our commitment to reduce our environmental footprint.
We have come a long way since we began our water conservation initiative in 2000. Back then, many of our facilities had little ability to even track their water usage. When the initiative started, our engineers developed patented software – called the Water Estimation Tool (or WET) – to predict water usage. Another kind of software was developed to track water use at each facility and generate a monthly report that would identify successes and potential opportunities for improvement.
We began building reduction actions into our Environmental Operating System (EOS), which provides a globally standardized, streamlined approach to meeting all environmental requirements, including sustainability objectives and targets. The EOS allows us to track basic water-reduction actions, such as uncontrolled water loss and cooling tower optimization, at every manufacturing site worldwide.
As we continue to reduce our water footprint, we are implementing a more global approach that cascades best practices from our own plants – and from other industries. We have been benchmarking our peers and other manufacturers to look for water-saving techniques that can be adapted to Ford locations. We are also investigating how to better monitor water use and integrate new technologies into facility upgrades.
In addition, through our ongoing water footprinting work, we have realized that the amount of water we use in office buildings and labs can be significant. Therefore, we’re examining how to reduce our water use in these facilities, too.