DEARBORN — Cutting waste-to-landfill at Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant has always been important to workers there, but they weren’t satisfied until last fall, when a small, diligent local committee played a major role in solving a nagging 10-ton problem.
The solution — a way to keep 10 tons’ worth of 8-foot-long, 350-pound fabric coolant filters from being landfilled monthly — means the Van Dyke facility is Ford’s first North American zero waste-to-landfill transmission plant and now diverts a total of 15 tons of waste-from-landfill monthly.
Moreover, the solution exemplifies how Ford already is making progress on plans to reduce the amount of waste-to-landfill from its facilities worldwide as outlined in the company’s new five-year global waste reduction strategy. Under the plan, waste-to-landfill will drop to just 13.4 pounds — or by 40 percent — per vehicle by 2016.
The comprehensive strategy covers all angles of Ford’s waste reduction plans – from working with global suppliers to use more eco-friendly packaging, to enabling employees such as those at Van Dyke to play an active role in coming up with ways to help Ford reach its goals. Even kitchen waste is addressed.
“Reducing waste is a crucial part of our strategy toward building a world-class manufacturing system,” John Fleming, executive vice president of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs, said. “By applying standard waste reduction processes across our global facilities, we are, through our actions — and not just words — improving the quality of life where we do business.”
There can also be financial benefits: In 2012, Ford generated $225 million in revenue through the recycling of 568,000 tons of scrap metal in the U.S. and Canada alone.
The resulting financial and environmental benefits mean Ford’s new five-year global waste reduction strategy encompasses the company’s overall “Reduce, reuse, and recycle” commitment that applies to everything from the vehicles it builds to the facilities where they are made.
The new strategy also builds on the success the company saw between 2007 and 2011, when the amount of waste sent to landfill per vehicle dropped from 37.9 to 22.7 pounds — a 40 percent reduction. Reductions were accomplished through the launch of new initiatives and programs, such as paint waste recycling at facilities in Australia, Thailand, India, and Spain.
Ford plans to continue reducing the amount of waste-to-landfill by emphasizing prevention, minimization, reuse, and recycle of waste whenever possible. Specific actions include trying to reduce or eliminate the amount of certain kinds of waste from entering Ford facilities in the first place.
Other actions identified as key near-term goals for waste reduction at Ford facilities around the world include:
-Identifying the five largest volume waste-to-landfill streams at each plant, developing plans to reduce each and tracking progress
-Minimizing waste by leveraging the Ford production system – a continuously improving, flexible and disciplined common global production system that encompasses a set of principles and processes to drive lean manufacturing
- Improving waste sorting procedures to make recycling and reuse easier
- Investing in new technologies that minimize waste, such as dry-machining
- Expanding programs that deal with managing specific kinds of waste like metallic particles from the grinding process and paint sludge
Dave Lewis, environmental engineer at the Van Dyke plant, said he believes one particular aspect of the new global waste strategy could yield the best results — enabling and encouraging local personnel to affect change.
“It’s very empowering to be able to address a problem that is so important — and not just to our plant or our company — but society in general,” Lewis said. “Without the power to implement such change, some of the best solutions could never see the light of day.”
Between 2010 and 2012, Van Dyke kept 111 tons of waste from landfill. Van Dyke became a zero waste-to-landfill plant in late 2012 after the environmental committee there figured out on their own how to deal with giant, 8-foot-long, 350-pound fabric coolant filters that were creating 10 tons of waste a month.
The local committee worked with Ford’s Powertrain Operations and the Environmental Quality Office to develop a way to properly manage the waste filters by finding separate recyclers for the used filters and the materials they contained post-use.
Robert Brown, vice president of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, said Van Dyke is being used as a model for Ford facilities around the world, exemplifying how Ford will succeed in reaching the goals outlined in the new waste reduction strategy.
“We are always evaluating how our operations handle waste around the world, and we consider Van Dyke just one of many successes we’ve had,” says Brown. “We use Van Dyke’s waste reduction efforts to not only exemplify what can be done, but what should be done.”
Ford’s push to establish more zero waste-to-landfill facilities globally is one element of the company’s commitment to reducing its environmental impact. Other initiatives include:
- Greenhouse gas emissions: Reduce from manufacturing facilities by 30 percent per vehicle between 2010 and 2025
- Water use: Reduce the amount used in the manufacture of each vehicle by 30 percent between 2009 and 2015
- Energy consumption: 25 percent reduction in average consumption per vehicle globally between 2011 and 2016