The Chattanooga facility employs some of the most hi-tech environmental technologies to ensure both high quality product and minimal environmental impact
In the final part of the discussion regarding Volkswagen's environmental management, Ron Drumeller talks about some of the details regarding the facility's hi-tech approach to cutting emissions and saving water & energy.
ERA: Estimates for the construction of your high-tech plant put it at around $1 billion. Is there a huge dramatic change in design at your plant compared to a “traditional” facility?
RD: There’s always an evolution when building a new Volkswagen facility. Each new facility implements new highlights, but not a drastic change.
ERA: You’ve spoken about the areas around the plant, is there anything Volkswagen is doing inside the plant to save water?
RD: Yes, rainwater is also collected on several areas on the "Media Center's" roof, which is the utility building. This is then piped down and collected in a concrete basin. This water is then used as make up water for cooling the welding process in the body shop.
ERA: I understand you’re using a new painting technology in your paint shop, can you tell us a little bit about this?
RD: The “EcoDry Scrubber”, which is a dry paint separation, replaces the regular ‘wet’ paint separation & saves us about 20,000 gallons of water per day. It uses a dry crushed limestone to pre-coat filters and to catch the wet paint overspray, allowing the ‘used’ limestone to be recycled and used in a local cement kiln. Because of this new dry paint separation technology, there is no paint sludge generated, which would normally require a great deal of money for disposal, chemicals, water, maintenance of the pumps and cleaning the paint underbooth.
The facility's hi-tech approach saves 20% on CO₂ emissions and over 40% on their energy profile.
ERA: You also don’t use a primer coat, correct? How does this impact your quality of coat, and your emissions?
RD: This technology is called “Process 2010”. By not using a primer coat, we save 20% CO₂ emissions by not having an additional oven. We also save money on the energy and materials that would [be] generated. When eliminating this coating, the ‘basecoat’ is actually a thicker layer on the vehicle. Even though there is one less paint coating, Volkswagen has ensured that the world-renowned quality is still maintained.
ERA: Does Volkswagen practice a green lifestyle in the office area in the plant?
RD: We do actually and one of the things we’ve implemented is recycling stations throughout the office and throughout the plant. We recycle trash, plastic, paper and aluminum cans. Part of our new hiring orientation is to give an environmental presentation talking about energy savings, waste reduction and being green. It’s all part of letting people know where we want to go with Volkswagen Chattanooga. We wanted to think green throughout the whole process and end up with a green plant, which is what we’ve done.
ERA: And are there any other advantages at your facility?
RD: Well, our plant is known internally as “The Plant of Short Distances” - as the layout allows all of our office checkpoints to be much closer than previous plants. This allows our team members to walk over and directly address a colleague if a challenge arises. All of our team members know that we pay attention, to not only making high quality vehicles, but all the details that make our facility more environmentally friendly.
ERA: Do you see signs of other car manufacturers taking your lead, with the technological advances seen at your facility, to move towards a more sustainable factory model?
RD: Yes I do. By being the first factory in the world to achieve LEED Platinum status, Volkswagen Chattanooga has set the bar for the world to follow and you can already see other manufacturers looking in our direction.
ERA: If you had the opportunity to tell Volkswagen customers one thing about your facility in Chattanooga, what would it be?
RD: I’d let everyone know that our car is built in probably the most technologically advanced and green plant in the world. We always try to meet or exceed our customer’s expectations for passion and detail that everyone has here at our operations.
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About the Author: Ross O'Lochlainn is the Environmental Researcher & Online Content Manager for ERA Environmental Management Solutions. You can find Ross on Google+, LinkedIn & ERA's Environmental Compliance Blog