Environmental protection is everyone’s topic
Interview with Markus Niehaus and Josef Voss
Acting with responsibility is natural for MANN+HUMMEL. This also includes the sustainable management of resources. Vice President Quality & HSE Markus Niehaus and Director Global HSE Josef Voss explain how environmental protection, and specifically in this context energy efficiency, can be continually improved at all company locations.
MANN+HUMMEL manufactures products which, among other things, make our air cleaner. But how is the level of environmental protection in the company itself?
Niehaus: Our products are designed to separate the useful from the harmful. But the way the products are manufactured is also highly relevant when it comes to making a contribution towards a clean environment. As a result, the subject of environmental protection is also embedded in the management policy of MANN+HUMMEL. For the company it is a matter of course and also an obligation to protect and conserve the environment, a commitment which starts with the product development and continues until the end of the life cycle of the product throughout the whole supply chain. Our task as being responsible for Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) is to establish the corresponding infrastructure and ensure implementation. We develop programs together with the plants to improve processes in the area of production and the supply chain with regard to efficiency, energy consumption and conservation of resources.
Markus Niehaus studied materials technology in Nuremberg and initially took up a position in the area of materials development. He then worked for an automotive supplier for roughly ten years in different positions at German and international locations in the area of quality. In 2012 he moved to MANN+HUMMEL. For the first four years he was responsible for Quality & HSE in the region Asia and in 2016 he was appointed Vice President Quality & HSE for the MANN+HUMMEL Group.
In 2016 you introduced a global environmental protection improvement program. What does this involve?
Voss: There have always been environmental protection improvement programs in the company, but in the past they were only planned and implemented at a local level. Now we have elevated them to a global level. When we identify a potential at an individual location which could be beneficial to other locations we check to see if implementation elsewhere makes sense.
Niehaus: We collect local ideas and actions in a database to get a clear picture of areas with potential we have already exploited in specific plants and examine what we could improve in other plants through global implementation. In this respect, supporting documents are important and therefore data is stored for all projects. This includes the expected and actual saving of energy or resources but also the investment required.
Could you be more specific about the actual ideas and projects?
Niehaus:There are naturally very many ideas in the area of production technology. In addition, there are projects in the area of building technology, such as the replacement of gas-discharge lamps with LED lamps. But many ideas also come directly from the production where we are concerned with the consumption of compressed air, the improvement of compressors or the improved switching on/off behavior of machines or equipment.
Voss: First of all, we always assess the environmental aspects and have a look to examine where we have a potential to make an improvement. The next step is then to identify the main consumer. For example, at one location there was a compressed air network which was run at the relatively high pressure of eight bar. The reason for this was a single measurement device in use in the production which required this high pressure. We decoupled this device and established a separate supply of compressed air which allowed us to run the compressed network at a lower pressure of six bar, which had a significant effect on energy consumption and costs.
Josef Voss completed his studies in electrical engineering at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences and then took up service with a number of companies in the areas of product development and quality. In 2011 he moved to MANN+HUMMEL. He firstly worked as Director Quality & HSE Operations Germany and in 2015 he was appointed Director Global HSE.
Is it possible to put the commitment into numbers?
Niehaus: All of the implemented projects have a positive effect on our key performance indicators which are relevant for environmental protection. In the course of the last four years, we were able to increase the energy efficiency of MANN+HUMMEL measured over all the company locations worldwide by more than 5 percent. Just the introduction of LED lamps and intelligent lighting systems has enabled the company worldwide to save approximately 400,000 kWh of power per year from 2015 to 2017. That corresponds to the energy consumption of roughly 100 German households per year. We were also able to save further 300,000 kWh per year through the use of more efficient compressor and compressed air systems. Since 2014 the recycling rate on average at all the locations has constantly been above 93 percent.
Voss: Energy efficiency and conservation of resources have a significant role to play in the specification and procurement of production lines. For example, in future the production of particle fleeces for cabin air filters at Marklkofen, Germany only requires one compact interlinked line instead of several separate systems. This project will enable us to make annual savings of 16 percent for materials and 70 percent for process energy. The result will be a decrease in CO2 emissions of over 4,000 metric tons per year. We also receive financial support from the German Federal Environment Ministry for this line.
Where do the ideas for the projects come from?
Niehaus: There are a number of sources. Using the company's internal suggestions scheme, all employees have the opportunity to present their ideas. In principle, each of the 20,000 employees is welcome to make suggestions and make something happen. In addition to the HSE employees in the regional and central departments we also have at least one environmental protection expert at each location worldwide. They are specialists for local and statutory environmental regulations, function as a contact person in the global HSE network and also provide ideas for improvement projects.
How do you manage to maintain environmental standards at a high level globally?
Niehaus: MANN+HUMMEL is certified according to ISO 14001. That means the plants and the central departments work on the basis of an internationally recognized environmental management system. This system ensures standardization of the aspects relevant for the environment worldwide and is supported by the joint definition of indicators as well as the setting and control of group targets. The second important point is our HSE network which consists of the local and regional representatives for the areas of environmental protection, health protection and safety. It is essential that this network interacts and that information is exchanged, throughout the group and also bilaterally between the different locations. This enables us to ensure that we can communicate problem areas and use this knowledge to successfully make improvements in the plants.
Do car manufacturers also have high requirements for suppliers with regard to environmental protection?
Niehaus: The certification according to ISO 14001 is a basic condition for automotive suppliers. Apart from that, there are a number of customers with further, more specific environmental protection requirements. These may be of a local, regional or also global character. In northern China, for example, there is a customer who actively supports us with local expertise in the Chinese MANN+HUMMEL plants to search for improvement measures in the area of environmental protection. Specialists of the customer visit suppliers and examine the production lines for improvement potential which has not yet been exploited.
Voss: We disclose our power and water data to one of our German customers and also pass these on to the non-governmental organization ‘Carbon Disclosure Project‘ every year. Besides an estimation of the development of the energy consumption and CO2 emissions, the report also includes an assessment of the possible influence of MANN+HUMMEL over the next five years.
MANN+HUMMEL was one of the first companies in Germany to issue a green bond. What is that all about?
Niehaus: We use the so-called green bond as a financing instrument. We use the funds gained to refinance products for air and water filtration and also for projects in the area of renewable energy, sustainability and environmental protection. The green bond fits in with our long-term corporate strategy. With this new form of financing we underline once again our voluntary obligation in the field of environmental protection.
How will environmental protection develop at MANN+HUMMEL? What are your targets?
Niehaus: Our target is to further increase awareness regarding environmental protection, enhance motivation at the locations, and also to work on measures to save energy and increase efficiency. Therefore, in future we plan to establish greater incentives when erecting new buildings or purchasing machines to systematically consider the use of power and resources in addition to lower cost and maintenance considerations.
Voss: We see great potential in the increased use of intelligent machine and building technology. An example here is the ’Industry 4.0’ project initiated by the German government which primarily concerns the intelligent networking of production lines and therefore improves the value chain. We believe that an increase in the networking capability, however, will also have a positive effect on the use of energy and consumption. This will take place with a parallel improvement in data recording, more intelligent data analysis and also a quicker and more precise feedback on the effectiveness of the introduced measures.