Toyota’s Canadian manufacturing operations improve sustainability
by Dan Ilika, Assistant Editor
New initiatives at Toyota plants in Ontario, B.C. reducing water, natural gas use, dependency on local grid
TORONTO—New initiatives undertaken at Toyota Motor Corp.’s Canadian plants this year helped reduce water and natural gas use and lessen the strain on local power grids, according to a new sustainability report published by the automaker.
According to Toyota’s 2014 North American Environmental Report, one paint line alone at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc. (TMMC) has cut 165 litres of water per vehicle of fresh water out of the rinsing process, helping save 16.5 millon litres of water annually.
“Water is a precious resource,” Frank Voss, general manager of the South plant at TMMC’s Cambridge, Ont., operations, said in the report. “We do our part to conserve, and every little bit counts. What’s exciting about this project is the bigger picture. If it were adopted by more of Toyota’s North American manufacturing plants, think of the amount of water we could save.”
A vehicle is rinsed a number of times during the painting process.
According to the report, in one rinse cycle alone at TMMC’s South paint shop, home to production of a pair of Lexus SUVs, some 465 litres of water is sprayed onto a vehicle.
In the past, the used water was sent directly to the drain and discharged, according to Toyota.
But, following changes to the process, water is now captured, cleaned of metals and phosphate, and used for rinsing at a different stage, recycling 46.5 million litres of water annually.
And, according to the report, following the success of the new process at the Cambridge plant, Toyota plans to implement it at four other facilities in North America.
Also in Cambridge, at TMMC’s North plant, home to production of the Toyota Corolla, a new process has been developed to separate oil and water in the paint shop, saving 12,000 litres of surfactant and 400,000 litres of water each year.
Surfactant is used in a degreasing bath before the painting process, where it binds to oil particles to remove them from the vehicle.
A recycling tower designed by paint team members at the plant separates oil from the surfactant, allowing the material to be recycled back into the process.
“TMMC’s North paint shop was the first shop in North America to recycle surfactant,” North plant assistant manager Jeff Small said in the report. “Every little bit we do to reduce, reuse and recycle is good for the environment. This just goes to show that green innovation can be seen not just in the amazing technology we develop for our vehicles, but throughout our entire company.”
More water-saving practices have been implemented at TMMC’s West plant in Woodstock, Ont., where a reverse-osmosis concentrate recovery system was installed.
The system, which went online in April 2014, is expected to save more than 45 million litres of water annually.
According to the report, the Woodstock plant was Toyota’s fifth in North America to have such a system installed, joining operations in Princeton, Ind., Georgetown, Ky., Tecate, Mexico, and Cambridge.
Also in Cambridge, TMMC is launching a $27-million co-generation facility to help reduce demand and strain on the local grid.
Co-generation is the process in which a fuel source—think natural gas—is used to produce both electrical and thermal energy by capturing the heat from the generation of electricity and using it to supply hot water, steam and space heating.
“This project offers significant benefits to many stakeholders,” said TMMC president Brian Krinock. “For the community and the environment, it will save enough energy each year to power more than 7,400 homes. For Toyota, the increased efficiency is substantial and will result in a major cost savings for our company, helping us stay competitive in the global manufacturing landscape.”
The project, which will include a greenhouse that will use the heat produced to grow vegetables for local non-profit organizations, is expected to be completed in 2015.
Toyota said TMMC worked closely with local utility Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro Inc. during the planning phase of the co-generation project.
“This is one of the largest energy-saving initiatives in Ontario, and we are very pleased to work with Toyota,” utility president and CEO Ian Miles said in the report. “Through this collaboration, our community will benefit from improved system reliability and avoided power generation costs. Toyota’s leadership has been pivotal to the success of working towards meeting our mandated energy and demand reduction targets.”
At Canadian Auto Parts Toyota, Inc. (CAPTIN), Toyota’s aluminum wheel manufacturing facility in Delta, B.C., annual natural gas use had been cut by about 6,230 cubic metres thanks to improvements made during the aluminum chip melting process.
Last fiscal year, approximately 19,000 tonnes of aluminum was melted at CAPTIN to produce 1.4 million wheels, according to Toyota, or enough to outfit 350,000 vehicles.
When the chip melting process was first installed, aluminum chips entered a melt furnace before being poured into a holding furnace, where the metal was cleaned.
The molten metal was then moved to casting lines.
Now, molten metal is transferred directly from the melt furnace to the casting process through a trough, which doesn’t require any energy to operate, allowing two holding furnaces at the plant to be drained and shut down.
Removing the furnaces from production has reduced natural gas usage and cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 336 tonnes per year, according to the sustainability report.
The amount of dross—solid impurities within the molten metal—has also been reduced by 4,500 kilograms per month.
Toyota said the project took team members less than one year to conceive and implement, and has reduced the plant’s operating costs by more than $55,000 annually.
Throughout Toyota’s North American operations, the automaker said it has saved more than 352 million litres of water this year.