F-Tech Inc., founded in 1947, is an automobile parts manufacturer based in Kuki City, Saitama Prefecture, Japan. The company’s main products include chassis parts, such as frames that support engines, brake pedals, and accelerator pedals. The company is Honda’s go-to supplier for automobile parts like these.
Staff Engineer Takeshi Kawashima, who oversees environmental strategies at the ISO14001 EMS Secretariat, talks about F-Tech’s global environmental initiatives.
“Our company has business sites in the U.S., Canada, Thailand, China, the Philippines, and other countries, and more than 60% of our sales come from these overseas business sites. Uniform global rules were needed for the entire F-Tech Group to raise environmental awareness, de- crease unnecessary energy consumption, and reduce CO₂ emissions. We also had to revise our global environmental anagement system, including overseas business sites, to comply with the Honda Green Purchasing Guidelines.”
The Honda Green Purchasing Guidelines are guidelines to evaluate suppliers when Honda purchases materials and parts, using four metrics: Q (Quality), C (Cost), D (Delivery) and D (Development). In 2011, Honda set new Green Purchasing Guidelines adding E (the Environment) to the former QCDD criteria. Honda is working together with suppliers to achieve additional reductions in environmental impacts.
According to Kawashima, F-Tech’s environmental efforts turned full scale in 2008.
“When drafting uniform rules for environmental response worldwide, we began by collecting data to confirm how much environmental impacts there were at each overseas business site.” But F-Tech found that this first step of collecting data was actually very hard to manage. “We announced our global environmental initiative at a Global Business Site Leaders Conference and began collecting data for the entire F-Tech Group in 2008. I then visited overseas business sites to confirm that the data were correct. I was following Honda’s ‘three realities principle’ (sangen shugi ), which emphasizes going to the actual place (genba ) and source of the problem (genbutsu ) and basing your decision on reality (genjitsu ). but I was shocked by what I found.”
Kawashima discovered that some countries are much more enthusiastic about addressing environmental issues than others. Staff Engineer Takamitsu Kawado, who is the promoter for environmental management at F-Tech’s Kameyama Plant, comments on the different conditions in each country.
“There were a lot of problems because the data we collected were based on different standards from those in Japan,” he said. “For example, different countries use different units, such as gallons instead of liters, and some measure gas in terms of the amount of heat generated instead of the consumption volume. I became keenly aware of the need to set unified global rules based on the environmental efforts we are making in Japan, and then commit to explaining them worldwide.”
Kawashima found the handling of waste data especially difficult.
“In foreign countries, especially in Asia, cardboard, waste paper, wood shavings, plastics, and other recyclables are all sold for cash. So in many cases only the amount of money these waste products generate is accounted for, with no management of the volume. On the other hand, mass consumption and mass waste are the norm at some business sites in North America. The leftover food at lunch is discarded together with the plates, without the meticulous sorting for recycling that takes place in Japan.”
As a result, efforts to reduce environmental impacts first started with the gathering of data and information specific to each country.
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