Eco-Friendly Car Production? Think Blue Factory!

The Volkswagen Way to Resource Efficiency
Jul 11, 2014 1:05 PM ET

One of Volkswagen’s priorities as an automotive manufacturer is to develop eco-friendly products and technical solutions, focusing amongst other things on fuel-efficient technologies, on electric mobility that caters to everyday needs, and on innovative mobility concepts like the carsharing project “Quicar” or the “Think Blue. Factory.” program of the Volkswagen brand.

The Volkswagen brand’s production sites are already pooling their activities under the “Think Blue. Factory.” program, which includes a raft of ambitious measures and ensures that managers and employees at the production plants never lose sight of the objectives.

Other Group brands are following their lead and have developed their own concepts to enhance energy and resource efficiency while building employee awareness of these issues.

Under the “Think Blue. Factory.” program, new production sites are built in accordance with strict environmental criteria. In existing plants, depending on the age of the production equipment, ecological objectives are met either by replacing or upgrading machinery or by redesigning production processes. The experts in Wolfsburg collaborate closely with each individual factory and devise customized development plans for each site. The “Think Blue. Factory.” toolkit contains various instruments for systematically reducing the ratios and optimizing consumption. A dedicated catalog of 140 guide measures for eco-friendly automobile factories is a key element of this toolkit and the appropriate actions are selected for each plant. This catalog is constantly evolving, because “Think Blue. Factory.” is a dialogue-driven process in which best-practices are rolled out from individual plants to all sites. At the same time, production technology at the factories is also upgraded in line with the latest advances in manufacturing systems and processes. Through this sharing of local best practices, new options and opportunities are continuously being created.

The Volkswagen brand’s concept “Think Blue.” was launched in 2005 as a scheme to highlight the Group’s most fuel-efficient car models (BlueMotion), since 2010 it has evolved into a holistic philosophy on environmental responsibility. This philosophy expresses the Volkswagen brand’s thinking on environmental sustainability, looking in particular at the question of how to balance personal mobility with good environmental practice. Attention focuses on five key environmental factors: energy, water, waste, CO2 and solvent emissions, so that progress can be transparently measured.

A total of 27 of the 43 Volkswagen brand plants on four continents are currently taking part in the environmental program. By the end of September 2013, they had together identified resource-saving potential worth €114.3 million. More than one quarter of these measures are already up and running. The new ventilation system in the Emden assembly hall has attracted a great deal of interest from colleagues in other plants. Sensors and state-of-the-art control technology have reduced the system’s electricity consumption by 80%, and it is also significantly quieter.  “We have invested around €1.4 million, but this has translated into savings of approximately €850,000 per annum”, says Thomas Laaken, Head of Environmental and Energy Management at the Emden plant and local “Think Blue. Factory.” officer.

The recently renovated administration building in Emden is likely to be a further talking point, as it has succeeded in reducing heat consumption by 80% and electricity consumption by 50%, thanks to high-performance insulation, LED lighting and heating/climate-control ceilings throughout, plus four high-efficiency mini combined heat and power plants in the cellar.


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