Green Manufacturing: Subaru

There was an interesting article in the WSJ today on how the US Subaru manufacturing plant has become rather environmentally efficient.
Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc., a factory of more than 3,000 workers who make roughly 800 automobiles a day, has pursued green initiatives since its launch 20 years ago in Lafayette, Ind., by Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. With employees at every level of the plant looking for ways to save energy, reduce waste and generally make processes more efficient, one measure of its success is a 14% reduction in electricity consumption on a per-car basis since 2000. An even bigger achievement: It has not shipped any waste to a landfill since May 2004.

The authors, skeptical themselves at first, have confirmed the company's claims with their own detailed research. How did Subaru do it? By redesigning numerous plant processes, thus producing less waste and requiring less material as inputs. Since 2000, the company says, it has reduced the amount of waste it generates per vehicle by about 47%. Of the solid waste that the factory still generates, 99.9% is recycled or used by other companies as manufacturing inputs or as raw materials that they process to resell. The remaining 0.1% is hazardous waste that must by law be incinerated by a licensed facility.

Though I drive a Subaru and in general would buy another one (uncertain whether this is due to the quirkiness factor or the great service i get currently at the dealer) what particularly caught my eye was this particular algorithm below:
1. To burn material for energy is better than sending it to a landfill.

2. To recycle it is better than burning it.

3. To reuse material is better than recycling it.

4. To reduce the amount needed is better than reusing it.

5. To eliminate the need for material is better than reducing it.

That it is not just an act but a whole process, and each steps leads to a better thought, idea, and potential solution.


geosmythe said...

Although I became aware of the facts you just wrote about through some research myself- the thought that Subaru has a 'green' mentality throughout their organization is a misnomer. The general manager in the city that I live in in northern Indiana not only did not know that their plant in Lafayette showed green initiative, he, himself thought the whole concept of 'green' living practices was 'not too exciting' (his words). Northern Indiana is a tough nut to crack when it comes to persuading the general public to 'go green' but most citizens are now at least willing to listen and get to know more about all the innovation that are taking place and are drawn to finding products and services that can help them reduce their own carbon footprint and help planet Earth. However, there are still those (like this gentleman I spoke of) who did their heels in and refuse to move forward.

Sad for Subaru that they have someone of that type leading one of their dealerships.

Huan said...

Thing is though is that going "green" is not a revolutionary process, an epiphany, or even an imposed mandate. Going green, as this article from the WSJ illustrates, is an evolutionary process both in those buying into the process as well as how the process itself grows and change with more buy ins.