Lean, green, clean machines
I recently got the chance to visit the Bosch home appliance facility in New Bern, North Carolina, (check out the clever mural of one of the buildings at left) and learn about some of the green initiatives it has taken in both the design and manufacture of its products. Why should we care? Because, according to Bosch, the typical Canadian family creates more than 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually through its use of electricity, much of which comes from inefficient home appliances.
The tour was fascinating, and not just because New Bern is nestled in lovely countryside (and yes, there was a visit to a Target store). Bosch has been touting its green credentials. So I eager to see if the company also walks the walk. Here’s what I learned.
Bosch was the first manufacturer in the world to discontinue the use of CFCs in the production of refrigerators. It identifies itself as the only Canadian home appliance manufacturer with Energy Star qualifications on its full line of the washers, refrigerators and dishwashers. Typically, the company manufactures in the area in which products are sold — that reduces emissions from transportation. The majority of product manufactured in New Bern goes to Mexico, the U.S. and Canada (although a small number get shipped overseas to the tiny market across the pond that wants North American-sized – read ginormo — appliances).
The New Bern plant has International Organization for Standardization certification, meaning it meets a global standard for minimizing pollution. It uses reusable and recyclable materials, recycles all wood, glass, and paper and insists suppliers adhere to similar environmental policies. Product is shipped to and from retailers in reusable crates. There are clever touches in the manufacturing process; waste energy from furnaces is recycled to provide about 99 per cent of the heat required to dry products.
To me, one of the most striking examples was the replacement of an 18,000 pound metal die-cast —used to stamp out range tops, with a laser-cut process that resulted in a 36 per cent reduction in waste.
This led to an interesting discussion with a couple of Bosch engineers. Currently, the process works because the company is producing a premium product in smaller runs. If Bosch’s volume grows significantly, the company will have to decide whether to stick with the more environmentally correct process or switch to one that’s more cost-efficient but less eco-friendly. Given that the scenario is hypothetical, I did not ask for an official response, but I got the sense that there’s no turning back on sustainability for Bosch.
In terms of design, Bosch’s new Vision washers and dryers (both Energy Star) are good examples of energy efficiency. The washers have sensors that analyze the wash cycle and automatically adjust water, temperature and suds level. According to Bosch, the washers use 70 per cent less water per load than the industry average. Vision dryers also sense moisture throughout the cycle to lower the energy usage. Plus, they’re pretty (see pic below).