AB SKF's CEO Sune Carlsson was the driving force behind the company's achievement of worldwide certification to the environmental standard ISO 14001 and is working to extend good environmental and engineering practices throughout the organization. President and CEO of AB SKF since 1998, Carlsson previously served in a variety of executive level-positions at ASEA AB and ABB Asea Brown. He holds a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.
How does a huge international company like AB SKF institutionalize good environmental and engineering practices throughout the organization? CEO Sune Carlsson explains.
Design News: SKF's recent environmental record is impressive, particularly in the areas of reducing the consumption of energy and emissions. How have you been able to achieve these goals?
Carlsson: The ISO 14001 standard for environmental management, which we elected to pursue certification for in 1997, provides a good framework. One reason it is so effective is that we have extended it across the entire SKF group. For example, in 1998 when we were approved, the certification covered 63 manufacturing sites in 17 countries. Today it covers 76 manufacturing, logistics and technical units in 23 countries. All units in SKF work to environmental directives issued via a Group Manual; Environment, Health and Safety. By applying the same standards throughout the organization, we can identify and adopt the best practices. In this way, we continuously improve.
Q: What specific areas are you currently focusing on in your environmental efforts?
A: The Life Cycle Analysis completed by Chalmers University in 2001 showed energy consumption to be a major environmental indicator for SKF so this is one key area for us. Some other key performance indicators include metal and oil recycling, and carbon dioxide emissions. The environmental indicators are reviewed regularly by SKF Environmental Country Coordinators. And we take recommendations from the 'Guidelines for Sustainability Reporting', published by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). We also recently introduced a new safety and health initiative, which is focused on eliminating all work-related injuries.
Q: It's interesting that you have extended your efforts to address the total life cycle of some of your products and their environmental impact. How does this work?
A: First of all, keep in mind that our bearing products are helping our customers reduce their energy consumption by minimizing friction, and in the automotive industry by reducing vehicle weight (through smaller, lighter bearings), and reducing vehicle size (through higher load ratings). These reductions are made possible through our own product development efforts, where we continue to not only launch new initiatives but also continue to develop our standard product lines. An example of that would be our Explorer class of bearings, the first of which we introduced approximately three years ago. These bearings have an increase in life by a factor of three, achieved by improving the ball/roller surfaces, ring surfaces to reduce waviness and vibrations, and changing the bearing geometry to minimize internal forces and stress levels. We are also exploring the fatigue mechanisms in our bearings, to better extend their life even more.
Q: Where do you go from here?
A: We strive to continuously improve. We have always done so with our bearing business. This will be mirrored in our newer businesses where we are focusing on systems that might not involve bearings. Such as our condition monitoring and reliability systems and the many mechatronic projects that are under way; eg, in our automotive drive-by-wire and all-electric fork lift truck concepts. Although we are clearly stretching the limits in some areas when it comes to life cycle, performance, and reliability, we face continuous pressure to do better, particularly in those industries that cannot tolerate a single minute of downtime. We will meet that challenge !