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

Kiminari Hamano, Staff Engineer HAZMAT Management Office

Kiminari Hamano, Staff Engineer
HAZMAT Management Office

'Creating new workflows and deciding the system requirements was surprisingly exhausting.'

 Given that several tens of thousands of parts make up a car, and several times more materials make up those parts, centrally managing such an extraordinary amount of information requires, of course, some kind of IT system. The system should be used not only by Honda but also by companies that supply parts to Honda (tier 1 suppliers), as well as companies that supply materials to those suppliers (tier 2 suppliers); without all of these associated companies entering data into the system, Honda could never hope to collect comprehensive data on the content of its products.
 "There's an environmental information and communication system for the automotive supply chain called the International Material Data System (IMDS)," said Oyaizu. "It was developed by a group of German automotive manufacturers to help suppliers comply with the ELV Directive. Since there were numerous manufacturers from Europe, the U.S., Japan, and Korea already using the system, Honda decided to use it as well."
 However, IMDS does nothing more than help a company collect information. In order to manage chemical substances based on the information collected through IMDS, Honda would need to build its own system, designed according to its own policies and methods.
 Since Honda's goal was to manage chemical substances for automobiles, motorcycles, power equipment, service parts, accessories, and packaging materials using the same system and the same workflow, however, coordinating the system's development between divisions proved exceedingly difficult.
 Ono explained: "When deciding the system requirements, we invited production, purchasing, and other divisions to submit requests, but everything they asked for was convenient only for them. Including everything would have made the system horribly complex and difficult to use. We even received complaints from overseas sites saying that Japanese associates wouldn't listen to any of their requests."
 Staff Engineer Kiminari Hamano, who took part in completing the system requirements, shared the following experience.
 "The hardest thing was deciding who would use the system in each division and at each production site, because the workflow was new—so there was nothing to base it on—and because organizational structure varied between sites and divisions. And so we surveyed each division and site, developed a new workflow for each, and then developed the system requirements to match them all. It was surprisingly exhausting work."
 Analyzing the sites one by one, Hamano and the other team members spent roughly a year fine-tuning the specifications to arrive at an altogether well balanced system. At last, in 2011, Honda's global management system, MoCS (Management System of Chemical Substance), was complete.

Junko Kobayashi, Engineering Staff HAZMAT Management Office

Junko Kobayashi, Engineering Staff
HAZMAT Management Office

'We created a model for an entirely new organizational structure and work process.'

 Once the system was brought online, the next task was to hold meetings at operating sites to explain the system to users.
 "Eventually we wanted all operating sites and suppliers using the system, but first we went to sites that were subject to the ELV Directive, RoHS Directive, and REACH Regulation—in other words, sites that produce parts and products for sale in Europe," said Kuroiwa. "These sites are spread out all across the world, so we split up, each team member flying to different locations to hold talks. Together, we covered about 40 sites in a year."
 Ono elaborated: "For example, a Chinese parts manufacturer says, 'We only ship parts to Thailand. Why do we have to follow European laws?' So we explain, 'Your parts are used in Thailand to build cars, which are then sold in Europe, so you are connected too.' Of course they always cooperated once they understood, but we still had to give this explanation and teach them how to use the system at every site, so it took a lot of work."
 The effort paid off: from 2011 to 2012 the number of system users grew exponentially.
 Oyaizu: "It's important to introduce a system like this all at once, in as short a time as possible. Currently we have 1,500 internal users and 6,000 external suppliers using the system, and we've collected over 230,000 pieces of data so far."
 With operation of the system now in full swing, the team also set up a help desk to answer users' questions.
  Said Junko Kobayashi, an instructor: "It was a rough start. Obviously, since the entire world is using the system we want to be available 24 hours a day, but we don't have the human resources for that yet. So we ask users to send questions by email. Since Honda's supply chain is global, our user base is still growing. The number of questions about system operation always goes up when the number of new users increases, and goes back down again when they've gotten used to the system. Then we get questions about work-related issues. And then the cycle starts over. We get anywhere from maybe 30 to 100 inquiries a month. I'm thankful because it's given me a lot of opportunities to learn about what's going on at other operating sites."
 In 2011, the HAZMAT Management Office was launched as an official department. Core members of the Hazmat Project team stayed on in the new department. The Hazmat Project, having accomplished its mission to build a new organization and system for managing materials, was dissolved in March 2013.
 Kuroiwa commented on the significance of the HAZMAT Management Office creation and its role at Honda.
 "The department is very significant in that it represents the creation of a model for an entirely new organizational structure and an entirely new work process—that is, negotiating directly with users and making decisions across organizational and geographical barriers. Having worked with people in all divisions—automobiles, motorcycles, power equipment, service parts, accessories, and packaging materials—in all parts of the world for the last several years, I feel like this is what people really mean by the phrase 'global operations.' My desire is to take this organization to the next level and find even better ways to manage our global operations."
 "Also, from a chemicals management standpoint, the prevailing opinion has been that there's no need to conduct legal compliance work out in the open. However, the role of accountability with regard to legal compliance is growing and will continue to grow. This means we need to actively show the public that we are putting in place the right mechanisms to ensure compliance. To that end, I would like to find ways in which members of the HAZMAT Management Office can conduct their work more openly."

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