‘VW India’s plant in Chakan is part of the Think Blue. Factory. Initiative since 2012.’

Andreas Lauenroth, VW India’s executive director (technical) speaks to Amit Panday on how his team is turning the operations at the Chakan plant more environment friendly through its ‘Think Blue. Factory.’ initiative.

By Amit Panday calendar 11 Jul 2014 Views icon6278 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
‘VW India’s plant in Chakan is part of the Think Blue. Factory. Initiative since 2012.’

Andreas Lauenroth, VW India’s executive director (technical) speaks to Amit Panday on how his team is turning the operations at the Chakan plant more environment friendly through its ‘Think Blue. Factory.’ initiative.

How is the ‘Think Blue. Factory.’ philosophy being implemented at Volkswagen India’s Chakan plant across multiple areas?
‘Think Blue. Factory.’ is a global initiative undertaken by all Volkswagen manufacturing facilities around the world to reduce the impact of manufacturing processes on the environment.
This initiative forms a respectable part in the sustainable development of Volkswagen. The key environment indicators are energy, water, waste, CO2 and VOC (volatile organic compounds). The target of this initiative is to reduce the impact on environment with a reduction of 25 percent in the defined key indicators by 2018.
The VW plant in Chakan has been a part of this initiative since 2012. The management had formed a cross-functional team and appointed representatives – who are called Think Blue. Factory. Ambassadors – from various functions. They are the single point of contact for all the co-ordination for their respective functions and they co-ordinate with each other in the implementation of the same across departments.

How much of resources (water, energy, emissions and others) have been saved so far by implementing these initiatives?
After implementation of Think Blue. Factory. concept at the Chakan plant, various measures identified by the respective ambassadors were implemented in the last two years. These include measures for reduction of energy, water, waste and CO2 emissions which are now realised with the percentage reduction. By end-2013, specific energy consumption, CO2 and specific waste was reduced by 15 percent, 16.4 percent and 21.7 percent respectively on the plant’s baseline consumption in 2011.
In 2013, the focus was to reduce the water consumption, which resulted in 17.4 percent reduction of water consumption compared to the same in 2012.

Can you detail the water-saving programme?
Water is an important environmental indicator and had a special focus during 2013. The chosen heads from production, utility, environment and planning did in-depth monitoring of water consumption. After detailed analysis, the team came up with ideas for water conservation in areas of water treatment plant, cooling tower, fire hydrant system, and others.

The measures identified by the water team were implemented in 2013 after feasibility evaluation. Some of them were as follows:

-Replacement of wash basin water taps with the special aerator faucets and  pressmatic taps.

-Optimisation of TDS level in cooling tower by automatic blow down control system.

-Optimising backwash frequency in water treatment plant.

-Reduction in cleaning / drain frequency of water tanks in shower test area.

-Identification and rectification of water leakages in underground fire hydrant  system.


A number of vehicle OEMs including Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai Motor India have full-fledged water treatment plants within their factory premises. They even harvest rainwater. What is the status at VW India’s Chakan plant?                                                                                               It is a zero discharge plant and has an in-house water treatment facility. The waste water from domestic and industrial applications are treated in a membrane bioreactor (MBR)-based effluent treatment plant.

Membrane bioreactor is state-of-the-art technology to treat industrial and domestic waste water to reuse the same for floor cleaning, washing, irrigation and in other areas. In fact, there is no fresh water consumed for green areas within the plant premises. The potential for capturing of rain water is evaluated and is a part of our migration path.

Of the total waste generated at the Chakan plant, how much would be oil-based and hazardous waste? How has VW India managed to cut down on the same?
In the Chakan plant, hazardous waste is generated from paint shop process and effluent treatment plants. The main hazardous waste in paint shop is waste paints, sealants and paint sludge. The moisture of paint sludge is reduced by using centrifuge. The paint sludge after moisture removal is further treated and recycled as primer by an authorised agency. The waste from the sealant application in the body shop is reduced by optimising the limit switch position of the sealant tank. The hazardous waste is also generated in the effluent treatment plant.
The balance hazardous waste of 35-40 tonnes per month generated from the effluent treatment plant and paint shop is given to the authorised common hazardous waste disposal facility for further treatment and disposal.

What do you do with the primer obtained after recycling the paint sludge? How much of paint sludge is generated every year at the VW India plant?
VW does not directly recycle the paint sludge; it is done by an authorised external agency. Every year about 50 tonnes of paint sludge get recycled by the primer manufacturer as a primer.

Does the company use eco-friendly waterborne paints at the factory?
When Volkswagen plant operations had started, the infrastructure didn’t support water-based paints. Hence, we are using solvent-based paints and are evaluating the availability of waterborne paints in India in the future.

Maruti invested in solar energy infrastructure at its Manesar plant nearly two years ago. Mercedes-Benz India recently installed solar panels at its Chakan plant. Is the VW facility at Chakan generating and using solar energy yet? Are there plans to set up such an infrastructure soon?
Volkswagen has a plan for utilisation of renewable resources in its migration path. This includes implementation of a solar power plant using the roof-top of the production shops. At present, we have initiated this activity with implementation of solar bollards for the illumination of pathways.

In addition to solar, we have initiated to generate renewable energy through a biogas plant. A fully automated biogas plant has been installed in the Volkswagen plant which generates about 24kg of biogas from the 500kg of food waste fed into it. The biogas generated is used for cooking application in kitchen while manure generated from the biogas plant is being used in gardens.

How was the energy consumption at the VW plant reduced and what steps were taken to achieve the same?
Energy is an important KPI in the Think Blue. Factory. programme. As a newly installed facility, the equipment installed is energy efficient. Apart from this, the significant energy using areas were identified for which energy conservation opportunities were evaluated and implemented via the following ways:

-Optimising switching the ON and OFF time of the ovens in the paint shop.

-Reducing TAR and burner temperature of the ovens in paint shop.

-Optimising set points of chiller and compressors during production and non-  production hours.

-Judicious operation of shop ventilation system during production, non-production  hours and seasons.

-Rectification of compressed air leakages in production shops.

-Installation of VFD for aeration blowers in membrane bioreactor.

-Replacing high-wattage lamps with low-wattage lamps.

-Use of LED lights for measurement lab and new projects.

-Automation of lights in body and assembly shops.

-Replacement of cooling tower metal blades with FRP blades.


What measures are being taken to cut down on the emission of VOCs?  The thinner used for flushing of robots in the paint shop is collected and sent to the authorised recycler for further process and recycling. We are further evaluating the feasibility of reducing volatile organic compounds in the paint shop process.

Does the plant conduct regular energy audits?
We have BEE-certified energy auditors and managers who regularly conduct energy audits for all the production units and utility services. The observations and findings are discussed with the Think Blue. Factory. ambassadors of the respective areas. After the feasibility study, these measures are taken to the management for implementation. All the measures identified and implemented are the output of the audits conducted by the auditor and the ambassadors.


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