Ceramic Industry

The Greening of Ceramic Components

August 1, 2010
Imbuing an environmentally conscious philosophy throughout a company ensures that products and people are part of a successful sustainable manufacturing program.

Sustainable manufacturing is no longer considered an oxymoron. With improvements in technology, advancements in materials and manufacturing processes, new regulations, and an increased corporate and public will to protect the environment, sustainable manufacturing has turned into a lasting and important part of many manufacturers' business plans. At Murata, we practice sustainable manufacturing every day.

Murata has developed a comprehensive environmental management program that covers every product from concept to shipping to ensure that we limit our impact on the environment. By complying with international law, focusing on green procurement and purchasing, reducing CO2 emissions, and increasing recycling and other eco-friendly practices, Murata participates in sustainable manufacturing at all levels. Imbuing an environmentally conscious philosophy throughout the company ensures that products and people are a part of a successful sustainable manufacturing program.

Figure 1. An updated positive-coefficient thermistor cuts energy consumption.

Green Procurement and Purchasing

A truly dedicated sustainable manufacturing plan does not just focus on "end-of-pipe" issues. At Murata, we strive to reduce our environmental footprint at the earliest stage. This is especially important in procurement and purchasing, as the materials that make up Murata's products (aside from the ceramics) contain several varied chemical substances.

When dealing with a new supplier, Murata investigates the company's environmental management system and certifies that delivered parts and materials do not contain certain hazardous chemical substances. In addition, we inspect the appropriateness of the supplier's chemical substance management system before making a decision regarding supplier selection.

Murata also conducts evaluations for existing suppliers, giving first priority to suppliers of parts and materials with high environmental risk. For low-scoring suppliers, we provide guidance in the form of extensive improvement requirements and audits. However, we take a tough stance toward those that fail to demonstrate improvement, which may even include terminating the relationship.

Before adopting new materials, Murata conducts a greenness survey. The standards for those surveys are Murata's own technical standards that prohibit or limit the use of materials according to legal regulations and customer requirements. Specialized personnel investigate chemical materials that require particular care, recording accepted materials in a database to ensure that the company procures only those materials that have been approved.

ISO 14001

Murata's sustainable manufacturing commitment is also apparent in our production facilities. At the end of 2006, Murata achieved the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001 certification for every production plant in Japan and overseas, as well as all non-manufacturing sites in Japan.

ISO 14001 was first published in 1996 and specifies the actual requirements for an environmental management system. It is also the only ISO 14000 standard against which it is currently possible to be certified by an external certification authority.

Life Cycle Assessment and CO2 Reduction

Murata conducts product assessments to reduce the environmental impact of its products throughout their life cycle. Murata's representative products, such as monolithic ceramic capacitors and chip ferrite beads, are assessed using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. In addition to products, production machines are also subjected to LCA at the design stage.

One of Murata's main eco-friendly goals is to reduce CO2 emissions to help prevent global warming. In 2008, Murata developed five new types of equipment, installing 160 new energy-saving machines in various plants. This resulted in a reduction of approximately 2800 tons of CO2 emissions. We also conducted energy- saving production equipment design training in several plants.

In 2009, Murata moved ahead with the development of energy-saving equipment, focusing on five targets: increased baking furnace efficiency; major restructuring of key product production equipment (75% laminator energy savings over current equipment); the use of waste heat for drying equipment (50% energy savings over current equipment); an enhanced system of energy-saving checks during equipment design audits; and energy-saving design training at our facilities in Japan.

Murata's commitment to CO2 reduction is exemplified in its positive-coefficient thermistor. This particular component is used for assisting the startup of a motor in a refrigerator. Although the conventional product (PTH7M) consumed little power after start-up, the newer version (PTHTM) has cut wasteful energy consumption (see Figure 1).

Figure 2. A system is in place to ensure that products meet RoHS compliance at every stage of development.

Recycling

Another element of Murata's sustainable manufacturing program is recycling. In the component production process, Murata places priority on the reduction of the waste plastic and liquids that make up 70% of all waste matter. We are able to recycle those resources by separating the ceramics from the waste plastic. We also use a liquid concentrator that reduces waste liquids to approximately 1/20th of their original volume. As a result, Murata reduced waste emissions per unit of net production by 48% in 2008, compared to fiscal year 2000.

Packaging Reduction and Eco-Friendly Shipping and Distribution

Packaging and shipping plays an extremely important role in the overall manufacturing process. Murata's approach to reducing packaging materials is to use technological innovations to make our products smaller. In addition, in recent years, we have promoted the use of returnable boxes for exterior packaging to reduce the use of cardboard boxes.

As a result of these activities, in 2008 we attained our goal of reducing the use of packaging materials per unit of tape used for major product packaging at Japanese sites by at least 45% over the 2000 level. Murata will continue to promote the additional reduction of packaging material consumption through the increased use of returnable boxes and simplified packaging. In 2010, Murata's goal is to reduce the amount of packaging materials used for chip monolithic ceramic capacitors or chip ferrite beads per unit of production quantity by half when compared to 2000 levels without compromising product quality.

As with production, Murata sets a yearly target for reducing CO2 emissions during distribution. In Japan, for example, this is achieved by reducing travel distances in certain distribution networks, installing eco-drive management systems (EMS) to support fuel-efficient driving and the introduction of hybrid vehicles.

RoHS

Of course, sustainable manufacturing practices are a result of several factors, including the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in electrical and electronic equipment directive. RoHS prohibits the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) in electronic equipment, with only a few exceptions.

Long before the 2006 deadline, Murata began to voluntarily reduce the use of RoHS-restricted chemicals by preparing alternative materials for RoHS-designated substances. As a result, Murata terminated the sale of products that were not RoHS-compliant well ahead of schedule. We also created a system to ensure that our products meet RoHS compliance at every stage of development (see Figure 2).

Figure 3. A design change had a positive impact on packaging and shipping.

REACH and JAMP

In addition to RoHS, the European Union's 2007 Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals Regulation (REACH) requires the registration of several tens of thousands of types of chemical substances. Along with efforts by individual companies to properly manage chemical substances, the creation of an industry-wide standardized management system is also an effective way to maintain strict compliance with this mandate.

The Joint Article Management Promotion-Consortium (JAMP) was therefore created, and Murata is an active participant. JAMP is a standardized mechanism to facilitate the smooth transmission of information regarding chemical substances that are contained in parts and materials, from upstream industries that produce chemical materials to downstream industries that make end products.

Green Future

The surface-mount pyroelectric infrared (PIR) sensor (IRS-A200ST01) can be used to exemplify the entire sustainable manufacturing process. The newer sensor was designed to use less material, which also resulted in the reduction of energy consumption during production. Figure 3 illustrates how the change in design had a considerable positive impact on packaging and shipping. In addition, the product's end use is eco-friendly because it contributes to the reduction of wasteful power consumption by detecting the presence of people and automatically turning lighting equipment or liquid crystal displays on and/or off, or switching air conditioners into energy-saving mode.

When conducted with careful planning, sustainable manufacturing is not only a benefit to manufacturers and the environment, but a tangible and strategic business model. The constant evolution of environmental laws and regulations can be a burden. A comprehensive plan enables companies to more easily maintain compliance while simultaneously spurring new designs and economic growth. As Murata has learned, implementing a company-wide eco-friendly atmosphere and fostering innovation in combination with environmental responsibility is a winning combination.

For more information, visit www.murata.com.

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