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Investing in New Technologies

Ford has successfully implemented many water-savings initiatives across our plants to shrink our water footprint. Wherever feasible, we take successful projects and mirror them in other locations. Our newest plants use a set of advanced and environmentally friendly technologies to dramatically cut water use. Many of these new systems require substantial capital investments, so we have been adding them on a rolling basis as we update equipment and bring new facilities online, especially in areas where water is more scarce.

For example, we have implemented a membrane biological reactor (MBR) and reverse-osmosis process to recycle water from our on-site wastewater treatment plants in a number of our global production facilities that are located in more arid regions. This allows us to avoid using high-quality water suitable for human consumption in our manufacturing processes. By doing so at plants in Chihuahua and Hermosillo, Mexico; Pretoria, South Africa; Chennai, India; and Chongqing, China, we have been able to reuse more than 976,000 cubic meters of water, which means we have not had to withdraw that water from the environment.

In Pretoria, for example, our $2.5 million on-site wastewater treatment plant at the Silverton Assembly Plant is increasing the amount of water that can be reused by up to 15 percent. A similar system installed at the Chennai Assembly Plant allows the plant to recycle 100 percent of its water. And two assembly plants in Chongqing, China, added advanced water treatment equipment to improve recycling. One plant recycles an average of 100,000 gallons daily while the other recycles an average of 65,000 gallons daily.

We also continue to replicate 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 – also known as Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL) – can save more than 280,000 gallons of water per year.

Over the last few years, we have further expanded our use of MQL. We currently have the capability in six plants around the world – a number that will nearly double in the next few years. These plants are as follows:

  • Changan Ford Engine Plant (China)
  • Craiova Engine Plant (Romania)
  • Cologne Engine Plant (Germany)
  • Livonia Transmission Plant (Michigan, U.S.A.)
  • Romeo Engine Plant (Michigan, U.S.A.)
  • Van Dyke Transmission Plant (Michigan, U.S.A.)

MQL has other benefits in addition to water savings. It reduces the amount of oil needed to machine an engine or transmission by 80 percent or more to approximately 100 milliliters – or about half the size of an average drinking glass. And by avoiding the need for a coolant system across most engine production lines, MQL helps to reduce energy use. MQL also improves plant air quality by eliminating the airborne mist produced by traditional wet-machining.

We also have been pilot testing ways to save water at our cooling towers, which are one of the biggest water users at our plants. We’re trying new technologies that soften the water so that there are fewer salts to cause equipment scaling. This allows us to reuse the water through the cooling towers many more times before the hardness requires us to bring freshwater in, reducing the amount of freshwater needed for cooling processes and comfort cooling.

In 2014, we are marking the 10th anniversary of the rebuilt Dearborn Truck Plant at the Ford Rouge Center, which was hailed as a model of sustainable manufacturing when we rebuilt it in 2004. The facility incorporates extensive natural stormwater management systems and what was then the largest green roof in the world. (Studies have shown that the roof has reduced runoff by 42 percent.) As we invest in new and existing facilities globally, we have built on what we learned at the Ford Rouge Center and put in place other sustainable manufacturing technologies that use water more efficiently and provide environmental benefits.

For example, in 2012, we replaced a portion of the roof at our world headquarters in Dearborn, installing 5,000 square feet of green sedum on the west side of the building. Our Louisville, Kentucky, and Cuautitlán, Mexico, plants installed porous pavement systems in the parking areas to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff. Read more in the Environment section.

Water Assessments

While all of our plants measure incoming water use, we wanted to further define water usage within the plants. Therefore, we are conducting water assessments to help us gain a better understanding of our internal water usage. We began in 2012, hiring an outside consultant to conduct reviews at two assembly plants in the U.S. and one in Cologne, Germany. As of early 2014, we have conducted assessments at 12 global sites and continue to add new plants for assessment each year. We are in the process of evaluating the results to determine what measures can feasibly be taken to reduce water and save our company money at the same time.

The following plants have been evaluated under the project:

  • AutoAlliance (Thailand)
  • Changan Assembly 2 (China)
  • Louisville Assembly (Kentucky, U.S.A.)
  • Kentucky Truck Plant (U.S.A.)
  • Cuautitlán Stamping and Assembly (Mexico)
  • Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly (Mexico)
  • Flat Rock Assembly Plant (Michigan, U.S.A.)
  • Ohio Assembly (U.S.A.)
  • Van Dyke Transmission Plant (Michigan, U.S.A.)
  • Cologne Body and Assembly (Germany)
  • Valencia Body and Assembly (Spain)
  • Pacheco Stamping and Assembly (Argentina)

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