Maintaining sustainability at BMW Manufacturing

12/13/2006


Sustainability is one of the most prevalent buzzwords being used in the manufacturing community today. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines sustainability as, “of, relating to or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” At BMW’s U.S. factory in Spartanburg County in upstate South Carolina, sustainability is at the forefront of the manufacturing process.

“We have eight indicators that we track every month,” said Briggs Hamilton, section manager, environmental services at BMW. “We are measuring water consumption, waste water discharge, air emissions, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, solid wastes and chemical waste and then toxic releases.” Not coincidentally, those eight indicators are defined by the environmental agencies and used to identify high-level polluters, information that becomes part of the public record, Hamilton said. And because of that, BMW makes sure its employees understand how conscientious it is of its impact on the environment.

Aside from learning regulations on safety, the manufacturing process and other rules the company adheres to, new employees find out about BMW’s commitment to sustainability. “The first thing we do when somebody is hired is that they go through orientation,” Hamilton said.

“One of the things they learn is how we value our environmental performance,” Hamilton commented. “We tell them we are in the community, and we want you to treat your job just like you do your home. Do your job just like you live next door to the plant. I’ve always thought that’s a good thing to tell people.

“They understand that the things they do here can have an impact on somebody else. And that’s a big part of how we are able to minimize things,” he added.

In addition to the tracking of wastes and the training of employees, BMW empowers its workforce to lend its hand in improving sustainability. Employees are encouraged to conceive new ideas for reducing waste and chemical usage, as well as to find alternatives to chemicals currently in use, according to Hamilton.

In a unique case, BMW has implemented an alternative use for a chemical. And interestingly enough, it has turned the plant into a supplier of sorts.

While the various paints that BMW uses on its cars are water-borne, the final coat %%MDASSML%% the clearcoat %%MDASSML%% is a solvent-borne coating. Hamilton explained that to keep the clearcoat nozzles from clogging, BMW uses a 100% VOC purge solvent. Because of the flashpoint of the purge solvent, the EPA considers it a hazardous waste. Once handled at the plant as a hazardous waste %%MDASSML%% because it had to be %%MDASSML%% BMW has discovered a way to reuse the solvent.

“What we were able to do about a year and a half ago was find a customer for the purge solvent that we use, as is,” Hamilton said. “You are not allowed to do anything to the material or else you are treating hazardous waste. The EPA doesn’t let you make it friendly again. They want you to collect it and dispose of it appropriately, in accordance with the law.

“However, if the material you use can be taken in its form by someone else and used as a raw material %%MDASSML%% as a product %%MDASSML%% then it’s never discarded, so it never becomes a waste. We were able to find somebody who is actually using our purge solvent. As such, we eliminated our largest hazardous waste stream.” According to BMW, the repurposed solvents are shipped to a buyer in Ohio for use in removing chemicals from the insides of tanker trucks and rail cars.

“Solvents mainly come from a petroleum base,” Hamilton added. “If you can eliminate the purchase of a new solvent by another company by providing our material, that’s some petroleum that won’t have to go to making that new solvent. That’s really sustainability when you think about it.”





The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
A new approach to the Skills Gap; Community colleges may hold the key for manufacturing; 2017 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me