Executive Vice President, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, Ford Motor Company
“There are any number of investments a company like ours can make to better manage its environmental footprint. But there’s a balancing act when choosing which ones to implement. Sometimes it’s an easy decision and the returns on investment are immediate. Other times, you have to take a much longer view and accept the fact that it will take time to realize the financial gains.”
Here at Ford, we take environmental considerations into account at every stage of manufacturing. At the most basic level, there’s the issue of compliance. We want to be sure that what we do every day stays within the law and that we are operating as good neighbors.
But our efforts go well beyond mere compliance. We want our facilities to be the best in the world when it comes to our environmental footprint. Our Environmental Operating System, which offers a disciplined and common approach to manufacturing, is designed so that each of our facilities can learn from the others. We share best practices and apply leading technologies that help to minimize our impacts. We have also developed challenging improvement goals for all our operations in key environmental areas, such as our goal to reduce facility CO2 emissions by 30 percent per vehicle produced from 2010 to 2025. And, we set specific annual improvement targets for every facility to make sure we meet or exceed these goals.
We have a standard set of environmental systems that are applied globally across all of Ford, enabling each of our 65 manufacturing facilities to operate under the same criteria when it comes to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and waste management. We monitor and measure our plants every day and, if problems are found, we immediately set to work to correct the issues.
Beyond incremental improvements, we are always looking for opportunities to make more substantive changes. When we’re building new plants or revamping product lines, we explore all sorts of opportunities that can take our facilities to the next level – from management practices such as shutting down parts of the plant when not in use to more complex manufacturing improvements that use the latest in cutting-edge technologies.
In 2014, we’re launching a historic number of products around the world. From the manufacturing perspective, we’ve been preparing for these launches since these new vehicles were in the earliest of development phases. It takes, on average, more than three years for a new vehicle to move from an initial concept to full production. Right from the start of a new product, we plan out a production road map that will allow us to build the vehicle in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
For every new vehicle we create, we follow a 100-point environmental checklist that helps us identify the production and facilities improvements we can make as we’re pushing it through development. The same 100-point system is also used to pinpoint and evaluate environmental best practices at new plants as well as older plants that are getting a significant refresh. We rate each plant on four key environmental areas that we then use to set targets and improvement goals.
When we consider building a new plant, we look at the same issues no matter where we are thinking of locating the facility – air emissions, water usage, waste water and waste. But of course the emphases may vary depending on the local conditions.
One of our biggest areas of focus is water use. Water conservation is a bigger problem in some countries than others, but water consumption is a critical issue for the planet no matter where we operate. We are proud to say that we achieved our 30 percent per vehicle water reduction target two years ahead of schedule.
There are any number of investments a company like ours can make to better manage its environmental footprint. But there’s a balancing act when choosing which ones to implement. Sometimes it’s an easy decision and the returns on investment are immediate. Other times, you have to take a much longer view and accept the fact that it will take time to realize the financial gains. For example, we have given ourselves the task of reducing energy consumption per vehicle globally by 25 percent, from 2011 to 2016. Several projects we have completed – such as solar panels at our Michigan Assembly Plant and windmills in Europe – will take many years to recover the outlay of expenses. The fact that we are willing to invest in projects with a long-term return on investment shows that Ford is willing to take a broad view of our business. We want to be good neighbors and we want to contribute to a better world.
Of course, we won’t make an investment in a project that makes no business sense whatsoever. It has to have a relationship to the business but it doesn’t necessarily have to pay back quickly for us to pursue it. In some cases, projects may have no payback at all but they help us to learn more cost-effective ways to make operational changes that will ultimately reduce our impacts.
There are many environmentally friendly projects we have instituted that I’m especially proud of – from the three-wet paint system, which reduces CO2 emissions, improves energy and reduces volatile organic compounds (VOCs), to dry machining, which can save more than 280,000 gallons of water per year on a typical production line.
I was just 16 years old when I started as an apprentice at Ford in 1967 and I never left. We are so much more aware of our environmental impacts these days than we were back then and we have truly integrated environmental concerns into our business. Just think about our One Ford goal – great products, strong business and a better world. Forty years ago, we hardly focused on the negative impacts our company could have on our planet. Today, it’s one of our top considerations.
© 2014 Ford Motor Company