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Carbon Neutrality and Branding: Why Companies Are Eager to Get Involved

Corporate efforts to reduce carbon emissions are increasingly targeting the production process, not only at major corporations, but even at craft breweries.

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Solar power is often one component of corporate decarbonization plans. Komekurayama Solar Power Plant in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture (© Sankei by Takashi Hirao).

Companies are accelerating efforts to achieve carbon neutrality at plants and manufacturing bases. Solar power and other renewable energies tend to get the most attention when discussing carbon neutrality. But corporate initiatives run the gamut from optimizing manufacturing processes to simulating decarbonization methods in virtual spaces and utilization of hydrogen.

Even sake breweries are promoting their wares as having been brewed with zero carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon neutrality has indeed become an indispensable aspect of business strategy.

Using Robots to Paint Cars

In October, automobile manufacturer Daihatsu issued a press release on a large-scale improvement at its main plant. Located in Oyamazaki, Kyoto Prefecture, the plant hadn't undergone a major refurbishment in fifty years.

The plant manufactures subcompact cars such as the Thor and Boon models, as well as parent company Toyota’s Probox. Daihatsu estimates that the revamped plant will produce 230,000 cars per year – 10,000 more than its previous capacity.

Redesigned with carbon neutrality in mind, the plant's upgrades cost approximately ¥35 billion JPY. It now stands four stories tall and brings assembly and painting, previously performed separately, under one roof.

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The most significant change is the introduction of robots to automate the painting process. With the robots’ precision, mistakes are greatly reduced. Splashing of paint is also significantly curbed using static electricity technology that attracts paint particles to the car body.

Based on these upgrades, 50% of the air in the painting booths, where maintaining low level humidity is essential, has become reusable. This directly leads to reduced carbon emissions.

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The Toll of Past Methods

In the past, the painting process took a great toll on human workers, who had to wear protective equipment and wash thoroughly. An employee managing the plant floor explains, "There have been three advantages to automating – saving time, a lesser burden on workers, and emissions reduction."

Production was optimized by improving tasks that were physically burdensome or cumbersome. The company installed a conveyor belt for workers, thus reducing the amount of walking, which can take a toll on employees. Huge paper manuals were converted to digital copies readable on tablets.

Daihatsu estimates that this optimization will result in a 30% reduction in manufacturing time. Combined with adoption of renewable energies, the refurbishment is predicted to reduce CO2 emissions by 58% in 2025, compared to 2013 figures.

Read the rest of this article here to learn about more low-carbon and zero-carbon developments in manufacturing. And find more great articles on the environment and the challenges of achieving the SDGs, on our new website J2E (Japan 2 Earth), sparking a transition to the future.

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Author: Hiroto Kuwajima

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