Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

leonkaye headshot

How Tiny Window Trim Streamlines Ford’s Supply Chain

Words by Leon Kaye

Like most large companies, Ford Motor takes a microscopic approach towards reducing inefficiencies within its supply chain to cut costs, reduce fuel consumption and tackle those pesky carbon emissions. In a partnership with BASF, the latest tinkering in Ford’s supply chain involves the trim around the window switch in the company’s 2013 Fusion. This step is similar to moves Ford has taken in recent years to reduce its reliance on conventional plastics and find more sustainable materials for its automobiles’ interiors.

So how does a little piece of polymer make a difference?

Ford’s engineers worked with BASF to change the way these little parts are designed. Generally those plastic pieces in your car’s interior and on the dashboard are molded and then finished with a high-glass paint. But BASF created a resin that skips the painting step.

The result is a 50 percent cost reduction in that part’s price. But the new window switch trim also eliminates another step in Ford’s complex supply chain. Previously the part’s manufacturer in Kalamazoo, Michigan would ship these parts to a plant in Grand Rapids, where the switches were then painted and finished. Eliminating the painting process first reduces the amount of VOCs emitted into the atmosphere. But slashing those 128-mile round trip deliveries and pick-ups reduces the amount of diesel trucks required for those hauls. The amount may be small: 2700 gallons of diesel a year. But the end game for the environment is the reduction in a minimum of 59,000 pounds of CO2 from the Ford Fusion’s manufacturing annually.

“We need to leave no stone unturned in our continuous quest to make auto manufacturing as environmentally friendly as possible,” said Robert Bedard, a Ford Motor engineer. “This improved resin saves Ford significant dollars, but it also helps eliminate VOC from being released into the atmosphere, since the application of clear-coat paint is no longer required.”

What initially appears to be a tiny and insignificant process, however, can actually lead to large savings when replicated across a company’s supply chain. As companies turn over rocks to find savings everywhere they can while their customers demand more environmentally products--even in cars--even the tiniest park can score a brand new makeover.

Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable BusinessInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

Image credit: Ford Motor.

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye

More stories from Leadership & Transparency