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Turning wastes into bottomline

THE QUALITY CONUNDRUM

Surinder Kapur  |  New Delhi 

How Indian Industry is managing quality?
In the past two articles, I highlighted examples of innovations in two organisations "" one, a large business house, and the other, a small company innovating for the bottom of the pyramid.
In this article, the focus is on innovation for sustainable development by a manufacturing company "" Brakes India Ltd -- Foundry Division (BI Foundry). With the world becoming evermore environmentally conscious and technologies having to conform to increasingly stringent environment norms, BI Foundry's breakthrough assumes an increased importance.
The American foundry population has declined by about a third in the past 20 years, largely due to the increased cost of legislative compliance. Which is why an increasing number of foundries have shifted to low-cost countries.
In contrast, BI Foundry decided to innovate in order to become a zero-waste company, given that foundries are known for discharging high levels of waste. In the process, it has converted this polluting waste into its topline and created sustainable uses for it.
The seven elements for driving sustainable change were drawn from the seven infrastructure tools defined by breakthrough expert Shoji Shiba "" goal setting, promotion organisation, training and education, promotion, success story, incentives and rewards and monitoring.
Brakes India's foundry division became a zero-discharge unit of process water and pollutants in 2000 and zero-discharge of solid wastes in March 2001. The converted waste was used for creating kitchen gardens, irrigating flowering trees and the development of a green belt. Today, BI Foundry is a zero-discharge company and has converted 4 per cent of its topline waste into its bottomline.
The foundry division has developed a "stabilised mud block" technology from solid wastes to construct buildings. This division has established and maintains a school for the local village, besides setting up a technical training centre, called Matrix, for developing tool room and mechatronics skills.
BI Foundry has polluting by-products that could be processed to make them reusable. Dust, slag, leaves, packing and so on were waste products and there was an added requirement from regulatory bodies to minimise the impact of such pollutants. The problem was to maximise revenue from wastes and create a new value proposition.
The idea for using waste, sand and slag productively came from a French architect. For implementation of any such project, there is a need for a dedicated team with complete support from the top A team was thus formed with the vice president of projects as its head. This executive was accepted and respected by all in the organisation.
The first experiments used sand and slag in different proportions to make bricks for compressive strength. Using these bricks, a kitchen was constructed to help create awareness about using solid wastes.
The process was then extended to other buildings and tested for different usages such as roads, floor molding, non-load bearing structures and light-load walls. At the next stage, this material was also adapted for use in building roads and improving the fertility of the soil in the district.
Further, a green belt was developed in accordance with Shiba's hypothesis. The company aspired to become a global benchmark in environmental standards. These developments for usage of waste have been patented and in the future, the company proposes to provide this technology to the local community to develop the local economy.
Thus, the company redefined its purpose as the upliftment and harmony of Sholinghur, Tamil Nadu, where the company is located. In that journey, the company also makes profits and improves its business constantly.
All social initiatives in Sholinghur are operated by the villagers themselves. As a future strategy the company proposes to commercialise the villagers' activities by providing them with training and helping them obtain means of livelihood.
Established in 1981, Brakes India supplies ductile iron castings to automotive, refrigeration and air-conditioning industries. Set up as a result of non-availability of good quality castings, the foundry division initially concentrated on the domestic market.
Later, the company started exporting with machining and painting. The company now earns 49 per cent of the turnover from exports.
The foundry, set in Sholinghur village, considers its responsibility to the society as paramount. Following Shiba's philosophy of noble goals, far beyond the immediate financial results, BI Foundry also identified itself completely with Sholinghur and is operated by the local people. The company works for the upliftment of Sholinghur.
BI Foundry is a prime example of the steps that Indian industry is taking to find sustainable solutions to global problems with a focus on social issues.
Dr Surinder Kapur is chairman, CII Mission for Manufacturing Innovation, and chairman and managing director, Sona Koyo Steering Systems

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First Published: Tue, August 28 2007. 00:00 IST
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