STERLING HEIGHTS (WWJ) – As the entire auto industry looks for unique ways to clean up the manufacturing process, Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant has reached a significant milestone.
“We’re really excited about the Van Dyke Plant,” said Larry Merritt, Ford’s manager of Global Environmental Policy. “They just announced that they have reached a zero waste to landfill status. Which, in Ford, means that no waste from any of our operations at that plant go to landfill.”
Interview: Ford Environmental Policy Manager Larry Merritt talks with WWJ’s Jeff Gilbert.
Merritt says this will help Ford in its goal to reduce the amount of waste its factories sent to landfills by 40 percent between 2011 and 2014.
“It builds on a 40 percent reduction that we’ve had already.”
The Van Dyke Plant has found unique ways to recycle paper used in manufacturing transmissions, as well as other initiatives that–between 2010 and 2012–kept 111 tons of waste out of landfills.
Dave Lewis, who’s an environmental engineer at the plant says allowing local workers to make changes is one of the keys to reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills.
“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,” says Lewis. “Without the power to implement such change, some of the best solutions could never see the light of day.”
Ford says the global initiative means the amount of waste sent to landfills–per vehicle–fell from 37.9 pounds in 2007, to 22.7 pounds in 2011.
Sometimes it’s something as simple as finding a creative way to use waste from the painting process.
“One of the unique ways we found to recycle is working with utility company partners, that can use some of the paint solids from our assembly plants as a fuel, as an alternative to coal,” said Ford’s Larry Merritt.
Ford–in a press release–outlining a number of initiatives:
•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
There can be environmental benefits. Ford says it gained $225 million dollars last year by recycling scrap metal in the U.S. and Canada.
“Reducing waste is a crucial part of our strategy toward building a world-class manufacturing system,” said John Fleming, Ford executive vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. “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.”
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