Face CASE27 Face

Building new mechanisms for global management of chemical substances used in all Honda products

Osamu Kuroiwa, General Manager, Office Manager of HAZMAT Management Office

Osamu Kuroiwa, General Manager, Office Manager of HAZMAT Management Office

The HAZMAT Management Office was launched as an entirely new form of organization.

 In 2011, Honda Motor Co. created a new department to manage production activities worldwide and across all three of its product divisions—automobiles, motorcycles, and power products—including not only finished products but also service parts, accessories, and packaging materials.
 The creation of an organizational structure that manages all of these areas from the top down is actually quite rare at Honda. Historically, Honda has respected the distinctiveness of each product division and capitalized on regional strengths by operating its business from the bottom up, an approach that recognizes the creative potential of each division and region.
 As a result, excluding business decision-making structures, there has never been a department at Honda that operates on a scale encompassing all divisions and all regions.
 Until the HAZMAT Management Office that is. This department represents an entirely new form of organization at Honda.
 Osamu Kuroiwa, General Manager and the first Office Manager of HAZMAT Management Office, commented on its inception.
 "It was around ten years ago when I first made the case for this department. It finally launched as an official department last year following a cross-divisional project spanning automobiles, motorcycles, and power equipment."
Regulations that provided impetus for a new management scheme

Hideto Iwatani, Senior Staff Engineer HAZMAT Management Office

Hideto Iwatani, Senior Staff Engineer
HAZMAT Management Office

It all started in 2000 with a new EU regulation on chemical substances.

 In Europe and the U.S., the term hazmat, or hazardous material, is generally used to mean harmful chemical substances. So as its name suggests, the HAZMAT Management Office was established with the mission to centrally manage information on all hazardous chemical substances present in materials that make up Honda products, set policies and procedures for complying with regulations related to such substances, and promote their reduction and monitoring across Honda's global operations.
 This does not mean, of course, that Honda had never managed chemicals before. In fact, Honda has long worked to manage and reduce hazardous chemical substances by following the law and by setting its own voluntary targets. It's just that this work was carried out separately by division and by region.
 In 2000, however, a law was passed that would dramatically change this approach: the EU End-of-Life Vehicles Directive.
 The ELV Directive is aimed at mitigating the environmental impact of automobiles at disposal by requiring automakers to reduce and eliminate waste and by preventing the disposal—and therefore use—of hazardous materials.
 Senior Staff Engineer Hideto Iwatani, who worked in the Certification & Regulation Compliance Division when the ELV Directive was introduced, reviewed the effects it had on automakers.
 "The ELV Directive required new actions at various steps along the value chain from manufacturing to disposal, but there were two that had a particularly large impact. The first was the almost complete prohibition of four heavy metals—lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, and cadmium—which are toxic. And the second was that automakers must increase the recyclability of their vehicles to at least 85%."
 Before, whenever a new law on chemical substances was passed, the Certification & Regulation Compliance Division instructed the R&D centers to change design plans to reflect the new regulatory requirements. This process, however, was inadequate for achieving compliance with the ELV Directive.
 Iwatani explained: "We were being asked not simply to trace a specific substance but to identify the composition of all materials that went into making our products and integrate that information, because without that information there was no way to calculate the amount of recyclable content. But cars are made up of tens of thousands of parts, and many times more materials. No automaker anywhere—not even Honda—had a system for collecting that kind of information. Failure to meet this requirement meant that we could no longer sell new vehicles in the EU starting from 2008. I think all automakers were pretty shocked."
 Honda would need to build a new system to collect and integrate data on the chemical composition of parts and materials, including those from its supply chain (see note). This would require partnering with Honda factories and the purchasing divisions of supplier companies to establish a new workflow.
 Iwatani: "We were all taken aback by the enormity of the task. But the date of the directive’s enforcement was approaching, and if we didn't get moving we would lose the right to sell our vehicles. So all the relevant departments came together and spent many hours discussing what to do."
Note: The series of corporate processes that produce a product, starting with the raw materials from which it is made and ending with its delivery to the consumer.

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