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At the forefront of green manufacturing

Article - August 17, 2017

International agreements to reduce CO2 emissions due to climate change, stringent environmental regulation, and growing demand from consumers for energy efficient goods are amongst the main factors that have forced the world’s manufacturers to go green, be it in the products they create or in the manufacturing processes behind them


Japan has put itself at the forefront of the green manufacturing revolution. Innovative Japanese companies have made Japan a global leader in environmental-friendly products, from top selling green vehicles like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf, to energy-saving paint developed by companies like NCK.

Other green products made by Japanese household names leading the charge include Toshiba’s aero-cyclone vacuum cleaner, Mitsubishi’s FHT fluorescent lamp, Yamaha’s Cygnus X scooter, Sharp’s Plasma-cluster Ion refrigerator, and Canon’s range of Inkjet printers made from recycled plastic.

“Many companies, especially within the manufacturing sector, have been promoting energy saving technology in Japan,” says Yasunori Tsujita, President and CEO of Fuyo General Lease, a company mainly engaged in the leasing and installment sales trading of equipment and fixtures, as well as financial transactions. “As we have come to this era of environmental focus, a lot of these companies have been putting in efforts to facilitate this movement. I believe we can really make a difference, and there has been an increasing demand for those technologies internationally.”

Aside from zero-energy vehicles, Japan is also leading the way in the construction of zero-energy houses (ZEH), thanks to manufacturers like Sekisui House, which has built over 25,000 ZEHs to date. The Japanese government has set a target that half of newly built houses will meet zero-energy standards by 2020.

But it’s not just Japanese products themselves that adhere to high environmental standards. The majority of Japanese companies also ensure their factories and manufacturing processes comply with the highest environmental, waste management and energy efficiency standards. Fujitsu, for example, uses ICT to improve the environmental performance of products and minimize the energy used to manufacture them.

Another example is Takasago Thermal Engineering, a company whose main activity is the manufacturing of eco-friendly heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The company leverages the most advanced technologies in every stage from planning and design, installation and construction, and maintenance for all types of buildings, plants, and other facilities, to achieve the highest environmental standards.

“As we advance into the future, nations and companies alike are increasingly committed to environmental issues,” says the company’s chairman and CEO, Atsushi Ouchi. “For example, the former COP22 objective advocated for a lowering of the carbon footprint, but today, they are advocating full de-carbonization. It is proof that the world’s mindset has been changing a lot. Our core business is air conditioning, and that directly deals with energy consumption.

“Through our products, we try to attain environmental friendliness by lessening energy consumption. Because we deal with our clients following a business-to-business model, as long as we are able to manufacture and sell environmentally friendly products, we are directly contributing to society. Furthermore, we educate our employees through green activities. We made up our own word: “Green-Air-Activities”, and we have established the Takasago forest initiative.”

Takasago is also adopting fourth-industrial-revolution technologies such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve green performance of its products and at its production plants, which is a growing trend amongst innovative Japanese manufacturers.

Takashi Matsuoka, President of Doshisha University believes that AI will play a “tremendous role” in addressing societal challenges such as climate change, and that universities like his will be responsible for churning out graduates with the relevant technical skills to address these challenges.

“We need to emphasize the importance for the students to have a globalized perspective. This is an important step in terms of how we respond to the fourth industrial revolution.

“To this end, it is important to have a strong collaboration between academia and industry. A more global approach is needed to address future challenges.”

Like Takasago’s Mr. Ouchi, Hirokazu Nakajima, chairman of optical semiconductor device manufacturer Kondenshi Corp., is also confident that his company can contribute to greener future through its innovative products: “There are many world-wide problems related to energy consumption and consumption of resources. At Kodenshi, we hope to digitalize many of these problems, and by doing so, we will become a company that contributes to society by producing a clean future.”