DENSO IS SERIOUSLY GREEN

While there is something to be said for “green” manufacturing, especially as cars and trucks like the Prius and the Escape Hybrid draw attention to environmental issues, at Denso (in the U.S.: Denso International America; Southfield, MI; http://www.densocorp-na.com), environmental initiatives have been part and parcel of what the company has been doing since shortly after it was established in December, 1949, in Kariya City, Japan.

While there is something to be said for “green” manufacturing, especially as cars and trucks like the Prius and the Escape Hybrid draw attention to environmental issues, at Denso (in the U.S.: Denso International America; Southfield, MI; http://www.densocorp-na.com), environmental initiatives have been part and parcel of what the company has been doing since shortly after it was established in December, 1949, in Kariya City, Japan. Matt Matsushita, president and CEO of Denso International America, explains, “As our young company struggled to get on its feet, we made a mistake—our factory’s wastewater contaminated the neighboring rice farms. That abruptly reminded us that we could not exist without consideration for the environment and our community. That event forevermore changed Denso’s thinking.” Certainly, that event made it exceedingly clear why waste is bad. Given the kaizen-based thinking that’s pervasive in the organization, not only have Denso people been addressing muda in their operations, but also working toward doing things with a minimal environmental impact on the world at large.

In November, 2005, the Denso Group released what it calls “EcoVision 2015,” a ten-year plan for the organization that includes directives for environmental management; product lifecycle (from development to disposal), including the manufacturing operations; and external relationships. There are actions and targets for each of these elements. Within the context of that, Denso North America has launched a five-year action plan, because, in part, as Robert Townsend, senior manager, Environmental Affairs, Denso International America, candidly admits, “We recognize there may be less immediacy to a 10-year strategy.” So they’ve set out to address specific metrics in categories that follow the parent firm. So, for example, in the area of product development (“Eco Products”) they’re working to eliminate mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and lead. Another element is to create an “environmental efficiency index” that will rank products as regards their total environmental impact; this index will also be used as a basis for product improvement from one generation to another. They’re following the guidelines established by the U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org), LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, in putting an addition on a tech center on their Southfield campus. In terms of what they’re doing in their factories (“Eco Factory”), Townsend says objectives include reducing water use (to 50% of what was used in 1999), reduce CO2 emissions by 18%, reduce landfill waste by 75% of ’99 levels, and to decrease regulated emissions volume by 30% of year 2000 levels.

Speaking of the thinking of what they’re calling “Green Ways,” Townsend states, “This is not simply lip service. We feel it is our responsibility as a manufacturer to make products while consuming fewer resources, less energy, and reducing emissions of environmentally hazardous substances.”

While other suppliers are thinking red—as in ink—Denso is working at becoming more green, and they’ll probably stay in the black (ink).—GSV