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HOW ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS INFLUENCE MANUFACTURING

PROCESSES

V. Ryan 2010

 

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Since the early 1970s the vehicle manufacturer Volvo, has been committed to reducing the impact of their manufacturing on the environment, covering the entire life cycle of every car they manufacture. This has been central to Volvo’s approach to design.
 
REDUCED CO2 EMISSIONS
When designing a new car, consideration is given to the manufacturing process. Volvo strive to use energy efficiently and consequently, the company has reduced it’s carbon footprint. Volvo have even introduced their own recycling train, which transports scrap steel to their press factory at Olostrom. The introduction of a recycle train transporting scrap steel, means that 5000 fewer truck journeys are needed and 55 percent less CO2 emissions, per year. Their factory has five new efficient presses, used to form the recycled steel into car body components for the XC60 new. One of the most energy efficient car plants in Europe, manufacturing one of Volvo’s ‘green’ cars.
 
 
 
 
CARBON NEUTRAL ELECTRICITY

Since 2008, Volvo has only used green electricity, produced through hydroelectricity. This means that Volvo is manufacturing its cars with climate neutral electricity production.
Volvo’s truck plant in Ghent, Belgium, is now entirely carbon neutral. The plant’s energy needs are provided by onsite renewable technologies and imported hydroelectricity.
Between 2001 and 2005 Volvo managed to reduce energy consumption per manufactured truck by 24%. This was achieved by using recycled materials and keeping their manufacturing technology up to date.
The Tuve plant in Sweden uses energy produced via wind generators and also reclaims waste heat. The factory plans to build its own biomass facility for its heating requirements and is currently waiting for permission to construct its own wind farm.
   
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

Car manufacturers support the management philosophy, ‘Continuous Improvement’ (CI), aiming to continually improve their manufacturing/production lines. This is built into the design philosophy of successful companies such as Volvo.
The workers and management are encouraged to suggest improvements to the production process. This influences the design of new cars and leads to increased efficiency. Increased efficiencies often have environmental benefits, such as the introduction of measures to reduce waste.
Companies such as Ford, Peugeot, BMW and Toyota are competing directly against each other. In order to ensure their survival it is essential that they continually improve their products and customer service.
 
 
 
RECYCLED MATERIALS

All designers consider the cost of materials, when developing a product. Volvo use recycled materials, where possible. Volvo cars are designed so that 85% of the materials used can be recycled. This makes economic and environmental sense. Not only is the cost of each car reduced, the environment is given a measure of protection. Much less newly mined raw materials are required saving natural resources. Less energy is required to return the recycled materials to a usable state, compared to using newly mined and expensively processed materials.
 
The economic savings of running a carbon neutral manufacturing plant are just as significant as the benefits of the company being able to claim environmental credentials. Volvo’s philosophy is that there is a requirement, for all aspects of car design and manufacture, to be based on technology that reduces the negative impact of manufacturing, on the environment.
 
 
 
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