• Madani Sahari

Cradle-to-cradle mindset key to preserving environment

The first part of this series discussed global trends pertaining to environmental agendas, and its challenges in relation to economic prioritization. As a significant portion of carbon emissions are products of transportation and related industries, it therefore becomes a moral responsibility of the automotive industry to lead eco-preservation efforts, utilizing the same technological and engineering approaches it is well known for.

The vehicle life process is conventionally viewed from its factory approval stamp, its purchase, life-in-use and finally its disposal.

While this overview may be accurate from the consumer point of view, the actual vehicle life cycle goes through a longer course of events.

At its basic form, a vehicle's actual life cycle starts at the design & development stage, followed by its manufacturing, after sales and its end of life.

Perhaps the most crucial point of the vehicle's life is the product design & development stage, where design considerations and decisions taking place upstream affect the entire value chain.

It is at this point that materials and functionality of products receive meaning and specification - defining the intended level of eco-friendly features to roll out at the final assembly line.

Numerous OEMs have initiated the use of recycled and non-virgin (i.e. not extracted from the earth) materials into their design programs, such as the use of bio-plastics or water based paints. At the same time, energy efficiencies policies, such as the NAP2014, expedites the penetration of carbon reducing powertrain technology, further impacting the environment positively.

It is also important that energy efficiency is built into the manufacturing processes of vehicles and components. While green manufacturing technologies are becoming ever so common in today's competitive world, the application of Design for Manufacturing also plays an important role in product and process development of automotive products and components.

However, environmental management becomes more complicated beyond the point of purchase. While complexities can be managed before this point through efficient standards and best practices, consumer awareness towards environmental efforts pose a large problem - behaviour and attitudes become difficult to manage and are multi-factorial in its root cause.

As mentioned in the first part, economic balance is usually the reason for a digression in eco-friendly attitudes. Perhaps the best way to enhance public participation in the environmental agenda should be derived through the economic route.

Through the NAP2014, two roadmaps were formulated specifically to tackle issues within the aftermarket sector. The first, named the Authorised Treatment Facility Roadmap (ATF), aims to enhance standards and practices among workshops and service centres. Simply put, ATFs are not only responsible to keep vehicles running, but ensuring the consumer is given the safest, most economical and participative experience throughout the service life of the vehicles they own.

The second roadmap, the Malaysia Remanufacturing Roadmap (MRR), serves to guide Malaysia's automotive industry towards an advanced stage of reintroduction of used parts into the vehicle and component replacement market (REM). Imagine the potential when owners are able to trade-in their used parts, and these parts are then "remanufactured" into parts that are as good as new, with the same warranties and safety assurances.

This cash trade process becomes an incentive for the consumers to participate in the eco-friendly automotive value chain. Most importantly, the system allows the reuse of materials - ensuring that the use of virgin materials are further reduced.

In conclusion, the processes that make up the vehicle life cycle, from product conceptualisation all the way to remanufacturing, have significant impacts to environmental preservation. The mentality change from "Cradle-to-grave" to "Cradle-to-cradle" would help tremendously in ensuring sustainable development of the automotive industry.

Most noteworthy, is that environmental consciousness must be an in-built factor into all activities and decision making process within the entire value chain.

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