DEARBORN – Ford enters 2012 with plans to further reduce the amount of water used to make vehicles and continue showing efficiency is not only inherent in its vehicle lineup, but also in its manufacturing practices.
A new goal calls for Ford to cut the amount of water used to make each vehicle 30 percent globally by 2015, compared with the amount of water used per vehicle in 2009.
Ford is also developing year-over-year efficiency targets as part of its annual environmental business planning process and has established a cross-functional team spanning several divisions to review water usage more holistically.
“Water remains one of our top environmental priorities and our aggressive reduction target helps ensure continued focus on this critical resource,” said Sue Cischke, group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering.
Ford’s latest water reduction initiatives are designed to build on the success the company has had with its Global Water Management Initiative that launched in 2000. Between 2000 and 2010, Ford reduced its global water use by 62 percent, or 10.5 billion gallons. That’s the equivalent of how much water 105,000 average American residences use annually, based on figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If Ford meets its goal of reducing the amount of water used by 30 percent between 2009 and 2015, the amount of water used to make a vehicle will have dropped from 9.5 cubic meters in 2000 to approximately 3.5 cubic meters in 2015. One cubic meter is equal to 264.2 gallons of water.
Leading by example
When it comes to water, drought and extensive population growth are just two of many challenges in places such as Mexico’s Sonoran Desert, home to Ford’s Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant. The plant produces the Ford Fusion, Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ.
Production at Hermosillo Stamping and Assembly Plant doubled between 2000 and 2010. However, water usage at the plant dropped during the same period by 40 percent.
“We applied innovative technology to our Hermosillo plant to reduce water consumption, minimize impact on the community and build vehicles in a more sustainable manner,” said Larry Merritt, manager, Environmental Quality Office.
To reduce water use, a membrane biological reactor – a biological water treatment system – was installed. The complex system is able to make up to 65 percent of the plant’s wastewater suitable for high-quality reuse elsewhere in the facility or for irrigation. The water treatment system also is being used at Ford plants in Chennai, India and Chongqing, China.
More technology, less water
Another approach is to cut the amount of water necessary to complete a task – a strategy afforded by the use of advanced technologies and processes.
“As we invest in new and existing facilities globally, our water strategy prioritizes sustainable manufacturing technologies,” said John Fleming, executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. “This disciplined approach allows us to make significant progress in water reduction and other environmental efforts over time.”
For example, several of Ford’s engine plants around the world are using Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL) machining, also known as dry-machining.
This technology lubricates the cutting tool with a very small amount of oil sprayed directly on the tip in a finely atomized mist, instead of with a large quantity of coolant/water mixture. The process saves hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and oil per year. By eliminating the coolant/water mixture, dry-machining eliminates the need to treat and dispose of an oily waste stream.
Dry-machining also is delivering significant benefits in energy use, waste production, quality, working conditions and costs. For a typical 450,000-unit line, more than 280,000 gallons of water can be saved annually.
In the U.S., the dry-machining system has been implemented at Ford’s Livonia Transmission Plant, Van Dyke Transmission Plant and Romeo Engine Plant. Ford also has implemented the system at a number of transmission and engine plants in Europe and applications in other plants around the world currently are being considered.
Before Ford launched the Global Water Management Initiative in 2000, many facilities had little ability to even track water usage. The picture is very different today.
When the initiative started, Ford engineers developed software to predict water usage. Another kind of software was developed to track water use at each facility and generate a monthly report so successes and potential opportunities for improvement could be identified.
Also, water reduction actions are built into Ford’s Environmental Operating System (EOS), which provides a standardized, streamlined approach to meeting all environmental requirements, including sustainability objectives and targets within each of Ford’s plants around the world.
EOS allows Ford to track its plants’ performance of fundamental water reduction actions such as leak identification and repair, and cooling tower optimization at every manufacturing site worldwide.
Further, Ford’s progress against its water reduction target will be communicated in the company’s annual sustainability report and through participation in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Water Disclosure, which Ford joined in 2010 – the first automaker to do so.
CDP Water Disclosure serves as a central clearinghouse for Ford and other participating companies to report on water usage, water risks and water management plans of company operations and their supply chains.
“We recognize that these environmental issues are increasingly important to our stakeholders, including our customers, investors and business partners,” said Merritt. “Water conservation is integral to Ford’s global sustainability strategy. By reporting our progress, we support positive social change and reduce the environmental impact of our facilities.”