With automobile manufacturers demanding more eco-friendly products from their suppliers, the adoption rate of greener technology among component manufacturers is expected to increase in the near future, says Rakesh Rao.
There are three key challenges currently before the Indian automotive industry - pollution, high import bill (crude oil) and congestion on roads. Today, many of the Indian cities have reached an alarming rate of pollution and they appear on the list of world’s most polluted cities. At the same time, the high import bill of the crude oil has become a challenge for India’s economic growth. “Keeping these challenges in mind, it is necessary for the auto industry to develop a sustainable strategy in India and reduce fuel consumption. At this juncture, component manufacturers like SEG Automotive have a major responsibility in shaping the sustainable future of the auto industry together with the OEMs,” says Anil Kumar M R, MD and Regional President for Indian operations of SEG Automotive – which provides fuel efficient solutions such as starter motors, generators, start/stop and mild-hybrids for 3-wheelers, passenger cars, light and heavy commercial vehicles.
Many OEMs, on their part, have been taking various steps to become environmentally compatible. For example, Volkswagen, in a bid to encourage and build a sustainable green eco-system, introduced innovations like a water-based paint technology, waterless car wash and launched a range of inventive, energy-saving technologies.
“Under its ‘Think Blue. Factory.’, a programme launched in 2015 that aims at achieving sustainability through environment-friendly manufacturing, the Volkswagen plant in Pune has achieved a 27.5 per cent reduction in specific ‘energy consumption’ and 26.1 per cent reduction in specific ‘CO2 emissions’ as well as a 17.6 per cent reduction in water consumption and a reduction in specific ‘VOC emissions’ by 11.7 per cent. With initiatives like these we aim to drive awareness, inspire social change and support our customers in their environmental friendly actions as well,” says a Volkswagen Passenger Cars official.
Over the years, the concept of sustainability has been gaining importance in automotive & auto component industry. Nitin Kalothia, Director, Sustainability Initiatives and Manufacturing & Process Consulting Practice, Frost & Sullivan, opines, “There are multiple factors driving adoption of sustainability in India. Increasing awareness about climate change risks and opportunities, India's commitment at international platforms to curb environmental impact, stricter government regulations, organisation's brand image, peer pressure and most importantly, business case for sustainability, are some of the key drivers of sustainability. Efficiency improvement in energy, water, waste, packing recycling, etc are providing clear cost benefits to organisations. Adoption of sustainability practices in auto ancillary organisations is limited to a very few companies and is driven by OEMs. Auto companies have realised the importance and opportunities available in supply chain by driving sustainable development and that is driving the concept to suppliers.”
Supply chain optimisation
Logistics optimisation, recycling and reusing packing material, vehicle weight optimisation, increasing percentage of recyclable materials in the product, etc are some of the initiatives adopted by automotive companies to reduce their carbon footprint. Kalothia elaborates, “Logistics optimisation by having supplier parks in the vicinity of the assembly plant, vehicle volume and weight optimisation, reverse logistics, IT enabled logistics performance monitoring etc. have been the biggest contributors to carbon footprint reduction. Change in regulation and adoption of newer emission norms for vehicles have also contributed significantly to carbon reduction.”
Automobile makers in India are taking many steps to reduce their carbon footprint not just within their facilities but also beyond the factory walls. Volkswagen introduced its first new-age digital experience set-up in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu which assists in the brands transition to a paperless set-up. “The state-of-the-art facility, Volkswagen Coimbatore is equipped with self-learning digital kiosks for customers to explore the entire range of Volkswagen carlines and enables information sharing through digital channels as well, displayed through informative screens. The network has also considerably contributed to energy conservation efforts through the extensive use of solar energy,” adds Volkswagen Passenger Cars official.
Increasingly auto makers are demanding more eco-friendly products from their component suppliers. Few of the OEMs have involved suppliers in their sustainability strategy. “They have taken efforts to train them and have worked closely with them to create a sustainability roadmap. Though, such examples are very few in the country, these are expected to increase significantly over next 5-7 years. As part of the sustainable sourcing policy, companies have started sourcing energy efficient products but it is mainly in the engineering products and spares segment. Demand for energy efficient products from component manufacturers is not a mainstream activity,” explains Kalothia.
For any company, it is important to identify its short and long term risks and opportunities before defining its sustainability strategy. “While most auto companies focus on risks on account of change in regulations, technology and customer's preferences, they also have to consider the risks and opportunities associated with climate change while defining their sustainability strategy,” opines Kalothia.
Making processes green
Auto component makers, on their part, are also looking to adopt eco-friendly processes to make products. For example, Sintercom India has been producing automotive components using sintering process, considered to be an eco-friendly process, since 2010, and today it is one of the leading automotive sintered components manufacturers.
According to Jignesh Raval, Managing Director, Sintercom India, powder metallurgy (PM) sintering is considered as a green-machining process, whereas conventional metal-forming processes such as forging and casting are considered polluting processes.
He explains, “The sintering process in itself is a green technology. The raw material for the sintered products is manufactured from metal scrap. The metal scrap is melted to produce the metal powder. With the use of sintering technology, various critical components are manufactured net shaped. Thus the yield on sintered parts is close to 98 per cent as against the traditional processes wherein the yield could be as low as 60 per cent. Thus, there is lesser scrap generation and the components are produced net shaped. Further, the process of manufacturing/sintering is environment friendly and does not generate carbon di oxide from the furnace. These furnaces are electric furnaces and use nitrogen gas for the desired composition.”
The sintering process of manufacturing does not call for high demand for water consumption. “Water is used only for the purpose of cooling section which is re-circulated. The sewage water generated in the system is processed through the ETP/STP plant and reused for other facility requirements,” adds Raval.
Changing emission norms and other regulations are also having an impact on the products that OEMs are demanding. Raval said, “The OEMs are demanding for more energy efficient products. Thanks to the proposed transformation of BS VI norms by 2020, require significant engine technology changes including improvement in engine combustion and calibration reduced NOx levels. This norm pushes OEMs to look for opportunities for increasing use of new technological processes like PM components etc in order to adapt to this changing technologies.”
To achieve stricter emission norms, new technologies are required to be adopted for making fuel efficient engines and lightweight powertrains. Significant weight reduction is required for all the systems of a vehicle. This can be achieved by reduction of weight of all components by design optimisation and use of superior material. “We offer end to end solutions to our customers to produce more complex parts in shapes and designs due to its higher yield, lower processing times regardless of the profiles. Along with reduction in pollutant emissions, sintered components have voids and porosity which also help in absorbing the noise generated by the vibrations better than the forged components. Further, the sintered component is manufactured with lower density as per the requirement of the application than the tradition forging process. This reduces the component weight and, thus, improves the overall vehicle efficiency,” explains Raval of Sintercom.
For the success of green initiative, it is important for companies to have right sustainability strategy. For Freudenberg, German auto parts supplier, sustainability has two dimensions – footprint and handprint. While footprint describes what Freudenberg can do within the company to reduce environmental impact, handprint means helping its customers to achieve their green targets.
“The search for sustainable production processes is an important part of Freudenberg’s DNA and is firmly anchored in the values-based technology group. Topics such as energy and material efficiency, the sustainable use of resources and the reduction of waste are important in minimising the company’s footprint. Continuous improvements in these areas help Freudenberg take responsibility for society. Responsibility for society means that Freudenberg also helps customers become more sustainable. For example, innovative products and services can help make customers more efficient. Expanding Freudenberg’s handprint also has a positive impact on customers’ quality of life while making an improved contribution to sustainability in various areas outside of Freudenberg,” says Georg Graf, Regional Representative, Freudenberg India.
To understand the effectiveness of the steps taken by the company on environment front, it has to put systems into place to measure it. Freudenberg’s sustainability is based on six core themes – material, waste, energy, water, health and emission. Innovations make an important contribution to sustainability and have a positive impact on the company’s footprint and handprint.
“Bringing down hazardous processes and products in the manufacturing facilities are also important for sustainability. It helps environment and also the products coming out of the facilities. Innovation is one of the major tools to reduce the usage of natural resources. We also look at how we can help customers reduce their footprint by using our innovative products, which can help them to get better output,” says Georg Graf.
Auto part makers on a green drive
On their part, auto component players are taking steps to reduce consumption of water, energy and materials. “Energy conservation is at prime focus, the entire plant and office area is well ventilated and uses natural lighting, which avoids usage of electric lights during the day time. Through timers, sensors and LED lights, we optimise energy consumption in areas like manufacturing hangars and parking lots. Our campus is illuminated with electrical energy generated with solar panels,” says Anil Kumar of SEG Automotive.
The company monitors consumption of electricity, water and air continuously and wastages are arrested right at the source. Recycled water is used for gardening purpose and effluents are treated in-house. Anil Kumar adds, “The processes at SEG automotive are free of hazardous materials such as lead and tri-chloro ethylene. At logistics, majority of our shipments are with recyclable packaging units. In order to create more eco-friendly environment, our plant in Naganathapura is covered with 35-40 per cent greenery.”
Aligning with global standards,
Auto component companies are looking at sustainability at all stages of the value chain and throughout the entire life cycles of their products. Phanindra Karody, Plant Head - Bangalore Central Electronics Plant, Continental Automotive India, states, “The Industry 4.0 journey puts a lot more focus on sustainability. Globally, Continental is working in updating its environmental strategy for the time up to 2030, aligning ourselves with the United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals (SDG). By committing ourselves to extensive sustainability goals, we are not only acting responsibly toward the environment and society, but also acting in the interests of creating value for our company. We see challenges such as climate change, globalisation, and urbanisation as opportunities. These opportunities require our innovative prowess in order to develop innovative technologies and efficient products.”
With the growing need for being energy efficient and consciously cut down the carbon footprint, Continental has employed various measures to achieve sustainability goals. These methods ensure that there is accountability for every resource such as water, energy, and materials, that it uses, and also a means to measure the effectiveness.,
“Globally, our sustainability objectives include using resources sparingly, promoting climate protection, and addressing our responsibility to our employees and to society. These are linked to our core business - to bring about sustainable, individual mobility that is highly efficient, causes zero accidents, and is clean, intelligent, and affordable for all. Each region subscribes to this charter while having their own individual focus areas,” informs Karody.
Continental’s Central Electronics Plant, Bangalore, has been using 80 percent of power that has been generated by means of renewable resource (solar). This in turn helps in cost reduction without increase in per unit rate for a tenure of 10 years, saving several million rupees, while the generated energy has no association with emission of carbon dioxide. The plant has opted for LED lighting over the conventional ones. This also has resulted in significant energy saving. Added to it, is the saving due to installation of timers (for lights) in the common areas of the plant. Additionally, occupancy sensors are installed in the meeting rooms and corridors, which aide energy saving further.
Karody said, “On the production (shop floor) front, the Bangalore plant is using variable frequency drive motors in the air compressors to save energy. They have also adopted heat recovery wheel in the AHU to reduce the capacity at the chiller. They have turbo ventilators and sky lights fixed at warehouse area for better exhaust of the hot air and better illumination in the daytime respectively. Additionally, at the plant, the refrigerant compound of ozone depletion property R22 has been replaced to a more environment friendly refrigerant R134A and R404A.”
Saving on compressed air
As with many industries the ability to remain competitive, lies in the drive to constantly improve quality while driving down costs. One of the big costs in automotive manufacturing is the electricity costs. By focusing on using technologies that are energy efficient is one way that automotive companies are able to reduce costs as well as be sustainable.
With its compressor solutions, Atlas Copco helps auto OEMs and auto component producers to make their production processes more energy efficient, thus helping them reduce energy consumption. Conrad Latham, General Manager, Atlas Copco Compressor Technique, India, explains, “The auto industries on average spend around 15 percent of their energy costs on compressed air. Reducing this energy bill is critical to remaining sustainable in today’s competitive market. Atlas Copco has seen that many automotive companies are centralising their compressed air systems and capitalising on more energy efficient turbo compressors with heat of compression dryers.”
The most energy conscientious companies are seeing that the best solution for their production is to combine compression technologies so they use large variable speed drive oil-free screw compressors with their turbo compressors. “Coupling these compressors with heat of compression rotary drum dryers and having the whole system centrally controlled with an Optimizer 4.0 controller has seen a significant reduction in energy costs. Atlas Copco has seen worldwide that this solution has helped reduce energy bills of many automotive companies by around 10-12 per cent. One global automotive company that worked with Atlas Copco was able to see an energy cost reduction of more than $ 3 million,” observes Latham.
The biggest measurement that is used by the automotive companies concerned with compressed air is the amount of compressed air used per car produced. Atlas Copco is working closely with many auto companies to reduce the amount of compressed air required per car. “This starts with doing an air energy audit to check the compressed air pipework for air leaks, check the existing compressed air system and giving recommendations and an action plan on how to reduce the amount of compressed air needed. As the auto industries spend a lot of money on the electricity to produce compressed air, reducing the amount of air required per car is the biggest way Atlas Copco Compressors supports the auto industry in it’s drive to achieve their sustainability goals,” opines Latham.
Component makers helping OEMs
Auto component makers are looking to develop innovative products that can not only have economic benefits but also have a positive result on the society and the environment. “Reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) is one of the key expectations of the Indian consumers. We contribute to this through efficient solutions that reduce fuel consumption and thus operating costs. In addition to TCO expectation from the market, OEMs also need to meet CAFC (corporate average fuel consumption) targets mandated by Indian legislation which also mandate an adaption of products and solutions that improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions,” says Anil Kumar.
Looking at a global scale, the combustion engine currently dominates the automotive industry and will remain a pillar of individual mobility for years to come. He adds, “SEG Automotive is actively shaping the automobile industry's journey from the combustion engine to electrification by delivering efficient solutions for CO2 reduction – regardless of the drive technology.”
Auto component makers, with their innovative products, can be a true partner for their customers (that is auto OEMs), helping them achieve their sustainability goals. Kalothia elaborates, “Auto component makers are adopting energy efficient processes in their manufacturing plants that are reducing the overall carbon footprint. There is a clear commitment to adopting newer technologies for performance improvement, but developing greener products is not yet the main focus. Few companies have implemented eco-friendly technologies but only if it makes a business case. The focus is more towards compliance to norms as per the law of the land. With the scope of sustainability extending beyond factory boundary walls, it is expected that the adoption rate of greener technology among component manufacturers will increase in the near future.”
With the scope of sustainability extending beyond factory boundary walls, it is expected that the adoption rate of greener technology amongst component manufacturers will increase in the near future.
- Nitin Kalothia,
Director, Sustainability Initiatives and Manufacturing & Process Consulting Practice, Frost & Sullivan
At this juncture, component manufacturers like SEG Automotive have a major responsibility in shaping the sustainable future of the auto industry together with the OEMs.
- Anil Kumar M R,
MD and Regional President for Indian operations, SEG Automotive
We also look at how we can help customers reduce their footprint by using our innovative products, which can help them to get better output.
- Georg Graf,
Regional Representative, Freudenberg India
Globally, Continental is working in updating its environmental strategy for the time up to 2030, aligning ourselves with the United Nations' 17 sustainable development goals (SDG).
- Phanindra Karody,
Head - Bangalore Central Electronics Plant, Continental Automotive India
Thanks to the proposed transformation of BS VI norms by 2020, require significant engine technology changes including improvement in engine combustion and calibration reduced NOx levels.
- Jignesh Raval,
MD, Sintercom India
The auto industries on average spend around 15 percent of their energy costs on compressed air. Reducing this energy bill is critical to remaining sustainable in today’s competitive market.
- Conrad Latham,
GM, Atlas Copco Compressor Technique, India