Environmental Sustainability Integrated Into Nee Pirelly Plant

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 14:25

Pirelli & C. SpA, a global tire manufacturer specialized in high-end, premium tires, made a decision in July 2010 to build a greenfield factory in Mexico. The decision was based on an evaluation of the demand for premium tires in the NAFTA region, the opportunity for skilled and cost-effective labor in Mexico, and upon visiting sites in September 2010, on Guanajuato’s solid plans to build an industrial automotive district with excellent infrastructure and services. Giuliano Menassi, the Pirelli engineer who had just finished overseeing the construction of an environmentally friendly factory in Romania, was selected to lead the project. Menassi’s design for the plant began with environmental aspects, starting with its energy consumption, efficiency from isolation, and materials. “The idea was to plan, from the beginning, a sustainable factory,” he says.

Given the amount of sunlight in Silao, the building would rely on a high percentage of natural lighting. Artificial lighting would only be used at night, turned on when needed, in the quantity needed, through the use of sensors designed to maintain a continuous level of light. Skylights would make up 8% of the roof’s surface, but Menassi was so thrilled with the natural lighting beaming in through the skylights that he created an internal garden to grace the entrance of the factory. Building isolation was studied in detail in order to maximize efficiency of air temperature conditioning. As a result, there is never a need to pay for heating, and there is no excess energy consumption by air conditioning systems. Air is cooled by circulating it through water from a well in the yard outside the factory. The well water has a constant temperature of about 13-15°C, an adiabatic system draws air through the water and nebulizes it before the humidified air is sprayed into the factory, cooling the atmosphere for free. Plumbing was also designed for sustainability. The water used for cooling is reutilized, as all of it is recovered and recirculated. The water used in the manufacturing process is also treated internally and recycled. Even the bathrooms used by employees were designed with sensors to turn off water and lights when not needed.

The layout of the manufacturing process was another important aspect in the design of the factory. It allows for an efficient flow of materials and people, including the use of the force of gravity as materials are loaded into a mixer and funneled down into the next stages of the process. Forklifts and carts also travel minimal distances so the manufacturing process remains lean. 90% of waste generated during the manufacturing process is recycled and reutilized onsite, and workers separate metals from plastics and textiles, regenerating materials like polythene while the latest recycling technologies are applied. The factory at Silao is still completing its start-up phase and is currently manufacturing at about 40% of capacity. Menassi estimates that it consumes 30% less energy than the environmentally designed Romanian factory at the same stage of its start- up. Pirelli views continuous improvement as a must so when its newest factory in Silao becomes fully operational in 2017, it will be one of the company’s most energy efficient plants. Pirelli also signed an agreement for reforestation with the Institute of Ecology on November 1, 2013, adopting 20 hectares for conservation of the protected natural area Cuenca de la Esperanza in Guanajuato. This three year project aims to plant 12,875 trees and maintain them during this period. These combined aspects make Pirelli’s plant at Silao a role model for how the industry can interact with the natural environment, creating a sustainable future for generations to come.

At a global level, Pirelli measures energy consumption per ton of finished product; water consumption is measured and improved upon, while waste is measured in terms of kilos per ton of finished product as well as in terms of the percentage recycled. CO2 emissions are also measured at the factory, and the company conducts lifecycle analyses of each product family, calculating its carbon footprint, as well as the carbon footprint of Pirelli as a whole. Global goals for the company include reducing energy consumption by 18% in 2020 over 2009, which would reduce CO2 emissions by 400,000 tonnes in the 2014-2017 period, and reducing water withdrawal by 58% in 2020 over 2009. Since efficiency and waste depend not only on building design, but also on the behavior and culture of people, Pirelli invests time and resources in training its people on all aspects of sustainability.

The Silao plant, managed today by Fernando Madeira de Toledo, produces premium tires for the North American market, including so-called green performance tires. These are tires with improved environmental impact which also feature high performance and safety traits. Worldwide, Pirelli plans for 48% of its total tire revenue to come from green performance tires by 2017. Innovations to help achieve this goal include the use of rice husks as a raw material, and high-tech sensors for truck tires that allow for greater safety and improved fleet management.