Panasonic Home Appliances Washing Machine (Hangzhou) Co., Ltd., based in Hangzhou, the capital of China´s Zhejiang Province, annually manufactures 2.4 million washing machines for the Chinese and European markets. Many of the products that are shipped from here have obtained public environmental product labels in China and, in addition to this, the manufacturing site has also passed Clean Production audits conducted by the Chinese government. In order to become a more environmentally friendly company within China, employees have come together to create a number of ‘eco ideas’ and to promote reduction of CO2 emissions.
“As of June 2008, we were still facing a ton of issues regarding CO2 reduction,” said Mr. Li Chang Gen, manager of the Manufacturing Department. At the time, the Energy-Saving Office of the Home Appliance Company, which provides factories with on-site support, told that the company needed to raise employees´ awareness and implement CO2 reduction measures more thoroughly. In response to this, an environmental protection and energy-saving promotion committee was immediately established, and lecturers were invited from Japan to provide training to employees.
As the first step, all employees were encouraged to turn off unnecessary lights, which gave them an opportunity to think about “a waste of energy.” As a result of these efforts, everyone in the factory became more energy-conscious, turning off unnecessary lights in hallways and rooms, and turning them on only in places where people were actually working.
Employees turn lights on in their offices when it´s necessary
After gradually raising employees´ environmental awareness, the next step was to improve the energy-saving performance of the production equipment. After analyzing the manufacturing processes, it was found that a molding process accounted for about half of the factory's entire energy consumption. In response, the company installed power meters on all of the molding machines to visualize the energy use and optimize the power control and equipment operation.
“Through the introduction of power meters, manufacturing staff can now identify CO2 emissions from their equipment and have come together to achieve reductions through their own efforts.”
Measurement and management of energy consumption in a molding process
- Replaced hydraulic molding machines with inverter controlled types, to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 400 tons annually.
- Improved productivity by shortening a length of time to change mold for each product by approx. 22%.
- In a power distribution room, where the power consumed by each machine is centrally controlled, all 270 power meters are checked and their data is recorded six times a day. The data is widely shared to reduce wasted energy.
Visualizing total power consumption at the factory using 270 power meters managed in the power distribution room
Measuring the energy consumed by equipment using a WH monitor made by Panasonic Electric Works
- Natural gas with a high CO2 reducing effect is used in coating processes, and the air inlet to the drying furnace was narrowed to 1/3 the conventional size to minimize wasted energy.
- Bolt-tightening tools in the assembly process were changed from pneumatic to electrical types.
- An inverter was installed in the cooling system to match the energy-saving operation to the production amount, season and ambient temperature.
“Along with energy-saving innovations for manufacturing products, we´ve even reduced a length of time for cooking rice in our cafeteria. By combining these small efforts, we worked toward producing meaningful results within a year.”
One year from the start of these measures, the plant had reduced its CO2 emissions by 250 tons compared to the previous year, despite a 15% increase in production. The plant thus achieved a reduction that was more than 17% above its predefined target.
There is one type of energy-savings that is obtained by capital investment, and another type that is produced by conducting small activities such as turning off the lights when they´re not needed. By sharing ideas with everyone and putting our efforts into everything that we could possibly do, we were able to achieve our goals. We hope to continue accelerating our environmental operations by collecting wisdom.
Checking the progress at the monthly CO2 meeting and discussing the next reduction measures
The Wakayama Plant of the Energy Company is a major production base of lithium-ion batteries, which are expected to find widespread application in powering mobile devices and next-generation eco-friendly cars. The plant is implementing measures to reduce CO2 emissions even as it increases its annual production. The production frontline is devoting its full efforts to the task in which two themes conflict each other.
The production staff at the Wakayama Plant are strongly committed to achieving business growth while reducing CO2 emissions. To fulfill this commitment, Mr. Kunio Tsuruta, the plant manager, asked the Production Engineering Laboratory of the Corporate Manufacturing Innovation Division, which helps factories to strengthen their manufacturing capabilities, for its support, and launched a project to promote energy-saving at the plant.
After receiving Mr. Tsuruta´s request, Mr. Hiroyuki Naka of the Environmental Production Technology Development Group of the Laboratory visited the Wakayama Plant. “Although they´re from a different department, we´re all members of the Panasonic Group. That´s why we were able to share such detailed information regarding our production processes,” explained Mr. Tsuruta.
A thorough analysis of the manufacturing processes was conducted, and the project team calculated how much CO2 was being emitted from each manufacturing process in order to produce a single battery. Since it was revealed that an amount of energy consumed by a drying process was quite large, they were instantly sent in to solve the problem.
“In the past, the drying process was an analog operation, where skilled workers relied on their experience and know-how to control the temperature of the furnace. This process requires extremely fine control because a failure to properly eliminate all moisture would lead to reduced product strength and possible cracking.” To solve the problem, Mr. Naka and the rest of the group introduced a simulation technology to estimate a change in temperature and airflow inside the furnace, which were invisible from the outside, thereby accurately predicting an impact on the drying quality. “We were unable to suspend the production lines for very long, so we aimed to improve the drying speed by making the necessary checks through trial runs and inspections and seeing if there were any problems with the final quality.”
As a result, this led to not only a reduction in CO2 emissions, but also achieved an improvement in product quality -- all in the exceptionally short time of six months.
Making the drying process more energy-efficient by introducing simulation technology
Along with the drying process, another factor that was subject to an upgrade was the air within the plant. The performance of lithium-ion batteries greatly varies depending upon atmospheric moisture content in the plant. Therefore, a dew-point temperature is strictly controlled and ultra-low-moisture air, called “dry air,” is supplied. However, approximately one-fourth of the total amount of energy the plant consumes was being used to produce this dry air. To deal with this, the plant drastically reviewed its use of dry air and installed an on-demand local exhaust system, which allows staff to discharge dry air only when necessary to prevent unnecessary exhaust. As a result, the frequency of replacing the dry air was reduced and the air supply volume was lowered to about half. This greatly helped to reduce the plant´s CO2 emissions.
Opening/closing the upper valve using a chain, thereby reducing the use of dry air
In fiscal 2009, the Wakayama Plant of the Energy Company was able to reduce CO2 emissions per unit of production by nearly half in a single year, even while the production at the plant doubled compared with the fiscal 2008 level. Even after this successful result, the plant still holds Eco Meetings every two weeks, where participants actively discuss and share their opinions. “Lithium-ion batteries help to reduce society´s overall environmental impact, so we would like to further improve productivity at the plant to accelerate energy-saving.” Just like the activities taking place in Hangzhou, China, we hope to unite all of our employees and save even more energy in our production processes.
To promote participation by all employees, placing a board with eco-declaration card on which each employee filled in an action goal.
As exemplified by the efforts of these two factories, Panasonic continues to reduce CO2 emissions on a global scale. Thanks to thorough emission reduction measures and also to the lower production amounts in fiscal 2009 caused by the economic slowdown, we reduced CO2 emissions by approximately 510,000 tons compared to fiscal 2007, enabling us to accomplish our goal a year ahead of schedule. In fiscal 2010, we are accelerating our efforts to reduce another 480,000 tons of CO2 emissions even though production will increase. You can look forward to seeing more success from these and other Panasonic efforts.