May 08, 2020

How Can Manufacturers Become More Sustainable


Why is Sustainability so Important for Manufacturers

The AIAG Virtual Corporate Responsibility Summit

The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) is hosting a Virtual Corporate Responsibility Summit on April 28. Leading automotive manufacturers will come together to discuss production planning and scheduling, and to promote sustainable supply chain practices.

The AIAG sets automotive industry standards, for all Tier 1 suppliers, including the advanced product quality planning (APQP) and production part approval process (PPAP).

Consumers and Manufacturers Care About Sustainability

sustainable manufacturing aps

Sustainable practices are becoming an important part of the supply chain strategy. Consumers care about sustainability. A research study featured in Forbes showed that “88% will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues”. Another study conducted by Brandwatch found that only 7% of consumers prioritized sustainability when selecting a car brand. What accounts for this discrepancy? People may not be willing to pay a heavy premium for sustainable products. But they will pay a smaller premium to engage with organizations that have strong sustainability branding.

Manufacturers also care about sustainability. Automotive manufacturing requires large quantities of plastics, rubber, glass, steel, and other products. These products are expensive to source and difficult to recycle or dispose of. Additionally, it takes a huge amount of fossil fuel energy to move, process, and assemble these materials into vehicles.

Sustainable manufacturing reduces waste, increases efficiency, and drives down the cost of production. In other words, sustainability can be a competitive advantage. Conserving natural resources is also the right thing to do. Many automotive manufacturers are taking a proactive role in taking care of our planet.

Conserving and Protecting Clean Water Through Optimized Production Planning & Scheduling

One key topic at the AIAG Corporate Responsibility Summit is the protection of our clean water resources. Water is utilized in the automotive paint shop in its raw state, as well as in solvents, to flush paint lines. The solvents are expensive to process. For this reason they, are often disposed of improperly and contaminate our drinking water.  One way that water and solvents can be conserved is to reduce the amount of times the paint lines have to be flushed.

Typically, paint lines have to be flushed any time you change from painting with a dark color to a light color.  Take for example a dark color like red and a light color like white.  If you just finished painting one car red and the next car needs to be painted white, then you need to flush the paint lines. If you don't flush the paint lines, the red pigment residue in the paint lines will mix with the white paint and the car may come out looking pink.  On the other hand, if you change the paint from one dark color to another dark color, you don't have to flush the paint lines. Eliminating the need for a changeover reduces the use of water and solvents.  It also reduces the downtime associated with changeovers and increases efficiency.

Therefore, the key to conserving water and solvents is color blocking.  Color blocking is when you paint the cars with a similar color one after the other.  This allows you to reduce color changeovers. Unfortunately, arranging the production sequence to solely prioritize color blocking is not possible. The sequence is determined by many different production rules and color blocking is just one. Tradeoffs have to be made between production rules and this is best done by powerful advanced planning and scheduling (APS) software. This software can reduce changeovers while observing other production rules.

Reducing Energy Usage By Material Handling Systems

Manufacturing requires the large scale transportation of raw materials, components and finished goods. These products can be transported globally through international supply chains, or locally though a factory's Material Handling Systems (MHS).  The MHS includes equipment like cranes, forklifts, and conveyors to move products throughout the production facility. 

APS can play a significant role in making MHS “green” and sustainable by optimizing movement and reducing wasteful energy consumption. For example, the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS), stores “work in progress” items or finished goods in the production facility.  Cranes use a lot of energy to load and unload the products in ASRS.    

Some ASRSs, such as the ones in car plants, are very large and sometimes store more than 400 painted car bodies, before the final assembly stage. A modern APS solution can consider not only various final assembly business rules, such as spacing of high work content vehicles, but also minimize the movement of cranes in loading and unloading of car bodies. Likewise, APS solutions can be used to schedule and dispatch forklifts to reduce overall transportation costs. In the future, APS systems will also help reduce energy usage for taxi fleets of autonomous vehicles.

Conserving Human Resources by Reducing Stress with APS

Reduce Physical Strain by Smoothing Production

Another important resource we must conserve is our workers. By smoothing production we allow our workers to work at an even, sustainable pace. This reduces their stress and allows them to be more productive.

Today, most car buyers like to accessorize their cars with an assortment of different features. One popular add-on is the moonroof. Moonroof installation is very physically demanding for assembly line operators. It also takes much longer for workers to install a moonroof than other features. This is a challenge because the production line in automotive facilities runs at a set rate.

Workers must sprint every time they have to install a moonroof to prevent the line from stopping. When workers install back to back moonroofs they become exhausted and make mistakes. This can lower the quality of the product. If there are enough back to back installations, the workers cannot keep up. The line is stopped and the factory experiences expensive downtime.

Reduce The Time It Takes to Produce A Feasible Production Schedule

The goal is to reduce waste in materials and energy usage through planning and scheduling that explicitly takes sustainability into account. This is a difficult task for the schedulers. They are already managing dozens of scheduling rules, like plant, material and labor capacity constraints.

Most schedulers work in Excel while others use APS software that only offers visibility or drag and drop functionality. These tools do not help schedulers account for all of the different production constraints. The result is that scheduling takes a long time. When the schedule is implemented on the shop floor, it falls apart. The line stops and the schedulers have to work at a feverish pace to fix the schedule.

What the schedulers need is a constraint-based, optimization driven APS software. They need a system that can generate a high-quality sequence that can be executed as-is on the production floor.

Take A Step Towards Sustainable Manufacturing with Optessa

Optessa is helping four Fortune 100 automotive manufacturers achieve these sustainability initiatives. These manufacturers are all part of AIAG and have deployed Optessa's APS software globally. Contact us today to see how we can help you make a difference.

Erwin Paes on Modern CTO Podcast

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