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HAZMAT Management Office, New mechanisms for chemicals management in Honda's global operations

Atsushi Iiyama, Senior Staff Engineer HAZMAT Management Office

Atsushi Iiyama, Senior Staff Engineer
HAZMAT Management Office

Kuroiwa pledged in front of everyone to lead the building of a new management system.

 The discussion over chemicals management prompted by the ELV Directive for automobiles had a ripple effect on motorcycles, power equipment, service parts, accessories, and packaging materials.
 "It makes no sense to use different policies and methods to manage the same chemical substances and reduce the same hazardous materials in each of these categories," said Kuroiwa. "Honda should have the same policies and methods for dealing with hazardous materials, even if different product categories are subject to different laws. It would also make things too complex for suppliers to have to manage the same material differently for, say, automobiles and motorcycles. So it was natural to think that we should have one system for everything."
 The biggest problem was deciding which organization and who should assume the role of directing this effort. In the past, each division or department simply did its own part, but this project required strong leadership, persuasiveness, and authority to push forward the creation of a new mechanism that would govern all of Honda and its suppliers. However, no department with such capacity existed, and no one knew what to do.
 Kuroiwa: "The matter was also placed on the agenda of a global Honda meeting held in the U.K. that year, which was 2004. Seeing that we were hardly making headway in the discussion, I raised my hand and said, 'Okay, I'll do it.' "
 The 45 or so international attendees applauded the apparent ease and resolve with which Kuroiwa took on such a major responsibility.
 "The fame died out quickly, though. Two months later I was transferred to an affiliated company to work on a different project, so I ended up breaking my promise (laughing)."
 Kuroiwa's resolve did not go to waste, however. Iwatani, who had witnessed Kuroiwa's announcement, drew up a plan for the launch of a cross-divisional project and submitted it to a director. The director, who was familiar with the proposal’s background, approved the plan. And so it was that the Hazmat Project—a project to launch a system for managing chemical substances in automobiles, motorcycles, power equipment, service parts, accessories, and packaging materials—officially got underway.
 "Enforcement of the directive for automobiles was looming, of course, but I also felt driven to continue where Kuroiwa left off," said Iwatani.

Yasushi Oyaizu, Manager HAZMAT Management Office

Yasushi Oyaizu, Manager
HAZMAT Management Office

Kotaro Ono, Staff Engineer HAZMAT Management Office

Kotaro Ono, Staff Engineer
HAZMAT Management Office

Associates got to work creating a global chemicals management standard and developing a system for its application.

 Two objectives were set for the project: The first was to create a chemical substance management standard for Honda's global operations and supply chain that would apply to automobiles, motorcycles, power equipment, service parts, accessories, and packaging materials and that would ensure compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements. The second was to develop an information management system that would be used by Honda and its suppliers for managing chemical substances in compliance with the standard.
 "Just because we wanted all categories—automobiles, motorcycles, etc.—to follow the standard doesn't mean we could simply match it to the strictest law," said Iwatani. "If we made motorcycles conform to automobile laws, for instance, the cost of doing so could be disastrous for the business. The process we took instead was to reread the laws and regulations pertaining to each of the thousands of chemicals that are used, and then write standards for how Honda should handle and manage each chemical in light of actual production activities. It was dizzying work."
 Amidst this toil, in 2008, Kuroiwa returned from his job at the affiliated company and officially joined the project.
 "While I was away I regretted not keeping my promise. The feeling was that finally the time had come to make good on my word," said Kuroiwa, smiling.
 With Kuroiwa's help, the project picked up speed. As they put the finishing touches on the chemical substance management standard and looked to begin full-fledged development of the management system, the second objective, the project team expanded further.
 Senior Staff Engineer Atsushi Iiyama: "I was transferred here to help convert content developed by this project over several years into an official document called the 'Honda Chemical Substance Management Standard."
 Manager Yasushi Oyaizu: "I volunteered, because there was no precedent at Honda for the development of a large-scale system that covered all product divisions and was used globally."
 Staff Engineer Kotaro Ono: "I had absolutely no connection to the project, but my supervisor told me to join because it would be a good experience."
 In 2009, when the Honda Chemical Substance Management Standard, a veritable bible of chemical substance management information, reached its final form, development of the management system's specifications was in its last—and hardest—stage of the project.

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