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F-Tech's New Global Energy Management System Takes its First Steps / F-TECH INC.

F-TECH INC.

F-Tech looks to ISO 50001 in shift to more proactive environmental management

Building on global environmental efforts begun in 2008

F-TECH INC. is a functional automotive systems supplier. It makes key safety components that support the mechanical functioning of automobiles, such as suspension arms, subframes, and pedals. Starting out in 1947 as a manufacturer of tin toys, the company later formed a business relationship with Honda, utilizing its experience in metals processing to fabricate motorcycle parts starting in 1959. From there it followed Honda's entry in the automobile business by manufacturing automotive parts, building what is now an established position as a global chassis systems manufacturer, with seven business sites and group companies in Japan and 17 overseas.

Key automobile parts manufactured by F-Tech

Key automobile parts manufactured by F-Tech
Takeshi Kawashima, Staff Engineer, Sales Section 1, Sales Department, Sales & Marketing Division, F-TECH INC.

Takeshi Kawashima, Staff Engineer, Sales Section 1, Sales Department, Sales & Marketing Division, F-TECH INC.

Scene from the annual Global Environment Conference

Scene from the annual Global Environment Conference

In the Environmental Visit program, Japanese specialists visit and inspect overseas operating sites

In the Environmental Visit program, Japanese specialists visit and inspect overseas operating sites

Relationship between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001

Relationship between ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 Energy-focused ISO 50001

ISO 14001 sets out basic environmental management practices (environmental management system) for companies looking to reduce their footprint. In contrast, ISO 50001 specifies mechanisms and methods focused on energy performance (reducing energy use, increasing efficiency) for the purpose of making steady, continual reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and energy costs.

Continual—not temporary—improvement the real goal

Takeshi Kawashima, who oversaw F-Tech’s environmental management systems in the Quality Assurance Department until March 2016 (he now works in the Sales & Marketing Division), was involved in this global expansion effort since its inception in 2008. As a lead organizer for the Global Environment Convention and Environmental Visits, he observed a steady transformation in environmental practices across the group, including at overseas sites. Around the three-year mark, however, he also became increasingly concerned that this initiative would sooner or later hit a ceiling.
"To be sure, environmental impacts at various sites were declining noticeably and the knowledge and skills of environmental managers who attended the Global Environment Convention were improving," says Kawashima. "But it stopped short of spreading that awareness to other associates. Activities at each site depended on the skills and knowledge of the individual managers; their leadership is what kept things moving. In other words, improvements could stop at any time were any of the managers to leave their position."
The real aim of the global environmental strategy begun in 2008 was not a one-time raising of standards. Rather, it was to build a system for improving environmental performance on a perpetual, ongoing basis. Kawashima began to realize that perhaps the annual Global Environment Conference and Environmental Visits were not enough to reach that point.

And there was another issue, one that was becoming apparent across the F-Tech Group, not just at overseas sites but in Japan as well.

"When control and handling methods for things like energy, water, and waste have been adopted and environmental impacts reduced to a certain extent, there comes a point where it gets harder to find opportunities for further reductions," explains Kawashima. "In a sense, it's because you've done everything you can. When that happens, activities tend to shift from reduction to maintenance. At the time, Japan was slipping into that condition, and I could tell overseas sites would also get there eventually."

Just then, Kawashima came across news on the publication of a new international standard, ISO 50001. This standard lays out a systematic approach to target setting, planning, and operating that companies can follow to increase their energy performance, including energy efficiency and energy savings, and by which they could expect certain results. Feeling a tug of curiosity, Kawashima looked into the specifics of ISO 50001—and came to the conclusion that this was exactly what the future of environmental management at F-Tech needed.
"Until then our environmental management primarily followed ISO 14001. That standard sets out the mechanisms and methods of environmental conservation in general. If anything, it's more about maintaining certain standards on a broad level, primarily aimed at preventing degradation. ISO 50001, on the other hand, is focused on efficient energy use. It prescribes the mechanisms and methods for making steady, continuous improvements in energy performance. It’s designed to encourage reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and energy costs by imposing continual improvements in energy performance on the organizations that follow it. If ISO 14001 can be likened to defense, then ISO 50001 is offense. I said to myself, this is what I've been looking for."

Kawashima immediately went straight to senior management to request that the company certify to ISO 50001. He explained that doing so would help F-Tech step up its leadership on the environment while also making it more competitive through reduced energy costs. As a result, the project to obtain ISO 50001 certification received the green light.

 

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