Oct 10, 2023VISION & IDEA
Why is DENSO Kyushu so seriousabout improving local companies' plants?
Focus on its joint decarbonization initiative with the Kitakyushu City government.
In Kitakyushu City which has received attention as a leading city for decarbonization, an initiative of DENSO Kyushu is gaining momentum.
As I heard the story, I interviewed the personnel in charge of the decarbonization initiative in collaboration with the Kitakyushu City government to hear their efforts and their thoughts. The interview gave me good signs of changes that could be brought to the local community as a result of cooperation between local government and businesses.
Contents of this article
This time. I first visited DENSO Kyushu to hear the background of the agreement on the initiative with the Kitakyushu City government and details of the initiative. I was welcomed by Ryotaro Hayashi from Production Planning Dept., Yasuhiro Isaka from Production Eng. Div., and Hirofumi Tanaka from Corporate Management Div., of DENSO Kyushu.
The collaboration was triggered by a question, “What can I do for Kitakyushu City?"
The Kitakyushu City government and DENSO Kyushu entered the Comprehensive Partnership Agreement to Build a Decarbonized Society (https://www.denso-kyushu.co.jp/topics/archives/63).
The Agreement announces that DENSO Kyushu will carry out an activity to advise local businesses on energy saving and promote the use of renewable energy.
What made them collaborate? According to Hayashi, that was triggered by a request from DENSO Kyushu to the Kitakyushu City government to deliver a lecture on environmental issues to raise the environmental awareness of DENSO Kyushu's employees.
Hayashi:"In the course of the lecture, some of us said, ‘Can DENSO Kyushu do something useful for Kitakyushu City?’
To figure out what DENSO Kyushu can do, it was naturally decided to, first of all, invite the government’s representatives to have a plant tour in DENSO Kyushu. During the tour, we introduced our energy-saving activities within the plant.
Then, the government representatives asked us to introduce these efforts to local small- and mid-sized businesses. Although we hadn't yet determined the specific methods of introducing them or how the government should implement them, we attempted to do so through trial and error.
With the energy-saving advisory activity just taken as the first step, we aim to contribute to local decarbonization through the initiative.
Tanaka:"Kitakyushu City, through decarbonization and carbon neutrality, will gain the spotlight at the forefront of the Japanese industry just as before. DENSO Kyushu can help the city achieve it, which will hopefully make our company, the local community, and society grow better".
To this end, he is working hard on the ongoing activity and also places importance on deepening the collaboration with the local government and businesses in Kitakyushu City.
Isaka:"We can never build a decarbonized society only ourselves. We will create a movement for decarbonization by involving other businesses as well. I think it is important to establish such a lateral relationship".
Kitakyushu City to overcome the past and lead the future of decarbonization
In the first place, why is the decarbonization movement active in Kitakyushu?
Hayashi told me about the history on which the initiative of Kitakyushu City for the environment is based.
Kitakyushu City is where the Imperial Steel Works Yawata was established and is often called the place where modern industries were started in Japan. While supporting the postwar High Economic Growth as one of the largest domestic industrial areas, Kitakyushu City faced pollution problems in the 1960s.
According to Hayashi who was born and grew up in Kitakyushu City, soot and smoke, and dust and smoke* "fell" in his childhood and he had many friends with asthma. Cars were very likely to rust quickly as they were always covered with the iron of the soot and smoke and the iron of dust and smoke.
I was surprised by the gap between the scenery of Kitakyushu City on the way to DENSO Kyushu and the past of the city.
Kitakyushu City achieved that recovery because citizens, businesses, and the local government worked hard together to improve the environment and prevent pollution. The attitude has been carefully taken over by people to this day.
In 2016, the Kitakyushu City government announced that it would promote a co-creation initiative for global warming countermeasures together with citizens, nonprofit organizations (NPOs), and businesses according to the Kitakyushu City Action Plan for Global Warming Countermeasures.
Based on the Plan, the government announced in 2020 that it would achieve a Zero-Carbon City (Creating a Decarbonized Society) by 2050. Various efforts have been undertaken across the public and private sectors.
Behind the decarbonization initiative of Kitakyushu City lies the profound remorse for the past and the intention of building a better future together with citizens.
Leverage DENSO Group's knowledge to support local plants with its best effort
After the interview in DENSO Kyushu, I was allowed to directly see how they advise on energy saving. I visited ECOWOOD Co. Ltd., which is one of the businesses to be advised by DENSO Kyushu.
In the energy-saving advisory activity, DENSO Kyushu shares with local businesses its accumulated techniques to improve energy saving and how to reduce and control the operation process time in seconds according to the Five Ss (Sorting, Setting-in-Order, Shining, Standardizing, and Sustaining the Discipline).
The energy-saving advisory mainly consists of the following steps:
DENSO Kyushu visits a plant of the business to be advised and summarizes findings and possible improvements.
DENSO Kyushu has the business visit its plant to introduce its energy-saving activity.
DENSO Kyushu gives feedback on the findings obtained in the plant visit to the business.
Businesses to be advised vary by industry type and business category and use different facilities under different environments. DENSO Kyushu continues trying to find the best way of supporting each of such businesses.
Hayashi:"We are always checking if there is anything we can support about electricity or other energy. For example, manufacturing plants usually use air compressors. When you observe how efficiently a plant operates its air compressor facility, you may often find room for improvement.
Another important viewpoint is how efficiently the plant can manufacture products. Just preventing defective products from occurring will lead to lower consumption of electricity and other energies. We want to further focus on the improvement of production itself, such as in the first place what and how much to produce."
The plant tour in DENSO Kyushu as well as the energy-saving advice have been well received by businesses to be advised. I hear that they have started to gradually introduce the techniques and know-how.
Also, on the day of the interview, Hayashi brought a document with numerous improvements written on it to the company to be advised and discussed with its employees. Of course, I generally knew what the energy-saving advisory activity was like, but I was surprised by the discussion I saw there because I did not think he would come face to face with them to this extent. Hayashi said, "I am conscious of trying to tell them honestly even what I hate to bring up if it is necessary for improvement".
According to him, it is very rare for the local government to support local businesses for their decarbonization so actively like this. I also found Hayashi talking friendly with a staff of the Kitakyushu City government who cooperated with us for the coverage that day. Their atmosphere made me easily imagine that the staff was committed to the support through repeated discussions with Hayashi on a routine basis.
Build momentum toward carbon neutrality together with the local community
Taking a cue from the energy-saving advisory to local businesses, the activity has been expanded to, for example, the support for the use of renewable energy through a spread of electrified vehicles.
DENSO Kyushu is promoting the construction of an electric vehicle (EV) charging station and a solar power system on its premises. The EV charging station is due to be completed in March 2024. The solar power system is targeted to be put into operation by the end of fiscal 2024.
An electrified vehicle charging station is planned to be installed on the premises in the future. The station will be also used as a power source for the local community and in the case of disaster.
DENSO Kyushu will establish a system to generate renewable energy and facilitate its use in Kitakyushu. The system will also accelerate the carbon neutrality initiatives not only for DENSO but also for the entire local community. DENSO Kyushu is looking ahead to such a future.
Rooted in the local community, DENSO Kyushu will deepen its ties with the local government, businesses, and citizens, and build momentum toward carbon neutrality. DENSO Kyusyu is tackling the complex challenges in Kitakyushu City, and it may create a sense of community to build a new future.
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