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Renault Nissan Automotive India Private Limited (RNAIPL) has been taking the sustainability issue very seriously. The RNAIPL plant stands among the top 5 plants across Nissan global facilities. The plant has implemented projects to save energy in line with best global manufacturing practices. Biju Balendran, Managing Director & CEO, RNAIPL informs APF’s Neellohit Banerjee in this interview, about how the company’s effective energy initiatives have brought down the CO2 footprint per car by 42 per cent in the last eight years.
Keeping in mind Renault Nissan’s Sustainability 2022, what are the steps it is taking to guide the automotive industry towards a more sustainable future?
Renault Nissan Automotive India Private Limited (RNAIPL) has been constantly working towards minimising its ecological footprint and is focused on implementing green manufacturing initiatives. RNAIPL plant has taken multiple steps towards water conservation and energy management to reduce environmental impact.
Water Management: RNAIPL has three rainwater harvesting ponds to meet its requirements up to 130 days. Additionally, the plant has an in-house wastewater treatment and an evaporator facility to recycle waste water. These have helped the plant achieve Zero Liquid Discharge benchmarks. Regular water audits and awareness programmes are held at the shop floor to identify areas of improvements and implement new initiatives while inculcating self-sufficiency by reducing dependence on the water supply by the government. These practices have significantly impacted the way RNAIPL consumes water for its operational requirements.
Energy Management: RNAIPL is committed to reduce carbon footprint across its operations. For this, active measures have been taken to institutionalise an effective energy management plan. The RNAIPL plant stands among the top 5 plants across Nissan global facilities. The plant has implemented projects to save energy in line with best global manufacturing practices. RNAIPL’s effective energy initiatives has brought down the CO2 footprint per car by 42 per cent in the last eight years. In 2016, RNAIPL started using wind energy as an alternate source for power. This year, RNAIPL intends to tap into bio-thermal and solar sources to reduce dependency on grid power.
What is the role of automation in increasing the efficiency of products or vehicles?
Automotive is a labour and capital-intensive sector. While evaluating return on investment, automation is a key consideration in the business strategy. Making high-quality cars at right price points is a key priority area for RNAIPL. The Chennai plant has the right combination manual processes and automation to extract maximum efficiency. We recognise the role of automation in increasing product efficiency. We believe that robots and automation should complement human efforts. In specific functions that require high degree precision and have a high-risk working conditions, automation is required. In processes such as seat manipulators, wheel and tyre manipulators, where ergonomic requirements are high, machine intervention is needed.
What are you doing to make your products more sustainable and efficient?
RNAIPL follows the philosophy of ‘Symbiosis of People, Vehicles, and Nature’. RNAIPL has taken a sustainable approach in its vehicle production strategy. We have implemented effective energy management plan at the 610-acre Chennai plant, one of the largest vehicles making facilities in India. RNAIPL is using greener energy sources to meet a part of its energy requirements. The most significant step was our transition to wind energy. Now 33 per cent of our energy needs are met by wind.
We are also looking at tapping into solar and bio fuels to further reduce our carbon footprint. The Chennai plant is compliant with the global best practices as Nissan Energy Saving Collaboration (NESCO) and Engineering Standard Expense Ratio (ESER). Implementation of these safe practices has brought down energy use-per-car by 26.4 per cent in the last eight years. This means our cars have less energy footprint from the manufacturing stage itself.
What is the need of sustainability in today’s time?
As our lifestyle changes, technology is leading the change and is also disrupting the ecological balance. High carbon footprint, hazardous waste dumping and poor landfill/waste management has been a reason for concern. As responsible corporate citizens, it is our duty to ensure the growth development agenda does not adversely impact the environment. We need to make our operations sustainable and environment friendly.
A small step towards this is to come out with sustainable mobility solutions. With the vision of providing zero emission mobility, we aim to move people to a better world through safe, smart and sustainable vehicles. This does not just mean launching electric vehicles. The goal is to make the entire manufacturing process greener and sustainable.
What are some of the emerging technologies/trends in the automotive industry that can shape the face of efficiency?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools are changing the workplace. AI mechanics and robots are now being used in factories to manufacture cars end-to-end and not just complete one task or one job on the line. While we continue to integrate the latest technology on our lines and products, we are also investing in training and upskilling our employees to make them ready for the next phase of growth. This means we are gearing up for more software driven cars, connected vehicles and electric cars with higher levels of sophistication.
Finally, what are the challenges while attaining efficiency standards?
At RNAIPL, we are following some smart practices to use energy efficiently and economically. We are also tapping into alternate energy sources. However, the biggest challenge is to change the mindset. As humans, we resist change. At RNAIPL, we make conscious efforts to create awareness among the employees about the smart practices and ensure compliance to the new way of work. Regular training is provided and kaizen initiatives are encouraged.
In 2012, we formed a team to monitor energy consumption and implement best practices such as monthly audits to identify areas of improvement. In the same year, 10 zero energy days were identified. On these days, for 12 hours, between 600 to 1800 hours, power was switched off at the plant and only emergency services were running.
Apart from this, in the last six years, projects such as installation of heat pump to alternate electric heaters, variable frequency drives to optimise equipment speed, LED lighting, intelligent flow controller for compressed air have helped us in being compliant with the efficiency standards.
Renault Nissan Automotive India
Nissan Energy Saving Collaboration
Engineering Standard Expense Ratio
Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning Tools
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