Robert Bosch Australia was established in 1954 in Clayton, Victoria. The main manufacturing plant remains there to this day. The company has some 1,150 employees in Australia.
Robert Bosch manufactures and distributes a wide variety of products from electronic consumer goods, to industrial hydraulics, to hot water systems. The focus of activity in Australia is manufacturing components for the automotive industry. Products include starter motors, alternators, fuel pumps, fuel injectors and a complete range of motor vehicle electrical equipment.
Why Robert Bosch Australia needed cleaner production
In recent years, the Australian automotive industry has become very aware of the need for environmentally sensitive products. This is particularly the case with Robert Bosch as a large proportion of their output involved fuel pump and fuel transmission devices. Ways and means of reducing emissions are integral to the design of these products. The Bosch Group also manufactures specific motor vehicle emission control and electronic engine management systems which help reduce engine pollution.
Robert Bosch management felt that environmental considerations were an important part of the company's overall commitment to total quality assurance.
How Robert Bosch Australia approached cleaner production
Robert Bosch Australia's German parent company has been working on environmental strategies and redesign of its products since 1980. Bosch engineers consider all aspects of production during the design process: materials used, manufacturing techniques, energy consumption, noise levels and ergonomics.
An environmental committee was established at Robert Bosch Australia in 1993. It was charged with identifying better production methods to reduce waste, and to examine environmentally friendly ways to improve working conditions.
The company also, by its own initiative, undertook an environmental audit by the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1994, and became the first ever manufacturing company to pass the ACF corporate sponsor criteria.
A large quantity of electronic components are manufactured at Clayton. The production process is highly automated, with special industrial robots producing electronic printed circuit boards in large quantities.
A wide variety of engineering measures have been implemented to ensure cleaner production and optimum efficiency on the factory floor. Many of these measures involve modifications to the production process:
- The amount of soldering flux required was greatly reduced by incorporating an automatic rotating drum within the robotic housing to disperse the flux at optimised rates. Flux replenishment is now carried out daily.
- Automation of the flux usage process has meant less maintenance, less residues, and increased options for flux use, enabling a wider variety of raw materials and less toxic chemicals to be considered for production input.
- The possibility of producing liquid wastes is reduced through more precise flux control.
- An audit of ozone depleting substances was carried out with a view to eliminating their use. Use of freon and trichloroethane cleaning solvents has been phased out.
- Chemical use in other areas was reviewed and many chemicals were able to be eliminated, or changed to less hazardous substances.
- TOC (Total Organic Compound) discharges have been rigorously policed and have now fallen below the EPA's minimum regulated limits.
- New light controllers were installed to manage energy more effectively. Each controller works with photosensors, which detect the background light intensity and brightness and adjust light volumes accordingly.
- Climate controlled chillers and boilers have been installed in other areas of the workplace.
- A large proportion of recycled cardboard is used in the product packaging process.
The benefits to Robert Bosch Australia and the environment
- Robert Bosch's assessment factor for its hazardous chemicals licence at the Clayton plant has been substantially reduced, due to the large reduction in chemical use.
- The amount of packaging used has been reduced by many tonnes through the use of recycled materials.
- Precise quantities of flux are now able to be used, without overstocking or wastage from the production process.
- A decrease in waste residues and raw materials costs through careful attention to optimum production methods.
- Better energy management has reduced energy usage and associated costs.
- Better quality finished printed circuit boards and associated product due to the decrease in waste residues and the overall cleaner production environment.
- Greatly reduced customer warranty claims.
The cleaner production cost equation
Costs of cleaner production
Installation of the new flux rotating drum robotic application process cost approximately $25,000.
Annual savings as a result of cleaner production
Projected savings in excess of $35,000 per annum are expected.
Turnbull Fox Phillips - Consultants - Sydney