Ford has pledged to reduce the amount of water used to make each of its vehicles by 30pc globally by 2015, compared with the amount used in 2009.

The company is also developing year-over-year efficiency targets as part of its annual environmental business planning process and has established a cross-functional team spanning several divisions to review water usage more holistically.

“Water remains one of our top environmental priorities and our aggressive reduction target helps ensure continued focus on this critical resource,” said Sue Cischke, group vice president, sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

The company said its latest water reduction initiatives are designed to build on the success the company has had with the global water management initiative it launched in 2000. Between 2000 and 2010, Ford reduced its global water use by 62pc, or 10.5 billion gallons.

It said that if it meets its goal for 2015, the amount of water consumed in the manufacture of each vehicle will have dropped from 9.5 cubic meters in 2000 to around 3.5 cubic meters in three years’ time.

Water reduction initiatives

The company reduced water usage at its Hermsillo stamping and assembly plant in Mexico’s Sonoran Desert by 40pc between 2000 and 2010, although production doubled during the same period.

“We applied innovative technology to our Hermosillo plant to reduce water consumption, minimise impact on the community and build vehicles in a more sustainable manner,” said Larry Merritt, manager, environmental quality office.

To reduce water use, a membrane biological reactor – a biological water treatment system – was installed. The complex system is able to make up to 65pc of the plant’s wastewater suitable for high-quality reuse elsewhere in the facility or for irrigation. The water treatment system also is being used at Ford plants in Chennai, India and Chongqing, China.

Another approach has been to cut the amount of water necessary to complete tasks. “As we invest in new and existing facilities globally, our water strategy prioritizes sustainable manufacturing technologies,” said John Fleming, executive vice president, global manufacturing and labor affairs. “This disciplined approach allows us to make significant progress in water reduction and other environmental efforts over time.”

For example, several of Ford’s engine plants around the world are using minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) machining, also known as dry-machining. This technology lubricates the cutting tool with a very small amount of oil sprayed directly on the tip in a finely atomised mist, instead of with a large quantity of coolant/water mixture. According to Ford, for a typical 450,000-unit line, more than 280,000 gallons of water can be saved annually through dry-machining.

Tracking water reduction

Ford said that when it launched the global water management initiative in 2000, many of its facilities had little ability to track water usage. At the start of the initiative, Ford engineers developed software to predict water usage. Further software was developed to track water use at each facility and generate a monthly report.

In addition, water reduction actions are built into Ford’s environmental operating system (EOS), which provides a standardised, streamlined approach to meeting all environmental requirements, including sustainability objectives and targets within each of Ford’s plants around the world.

The EOS allows Ford to track its plants’ performance of fundamental water reduction actions like leak identification and repair, and cooling tower optimisation at every manufacturing site worldwide.

The company’s progress against its water reduction target will be communicated in the its annual sustainability report and through participation in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Water Disclosure, which Ford joined in 2010.

“We recognize that these environmental issues are increasingly important to our stakeholders, including our customers, investors and business partners,” said Merritt. “Water conservation is integral to Ford’s global sustainability strategy. By reporting our progress, we support positive social change and reduce the environmental impact of our facilities.”