Canon has implemented a progressive program of energy-saving activities based on 5Gs* methodology.
We carried out more than 6,700 energy-saving measures between 2014 and 2018. These activities saved the energy that is equivalent to 250,000 t-CO2 emission. This figure represented the energy consumption of about 100,000 households for a year.
*The 5Gs is an operational improvement methodology for problem-solving.
It adds theory “genri” and principle “gensoku,” which are the foundation of decision making, to the well-known 3Gs — visit the actual site “genba” in person and recognize the actual facts “genjitsu” through the actual parts or things “genbutsu.” The 5Gs takes its name from the five Japanese terms, all of which start with the letter g.
What more can we do to punch through the energy-saving ceiling?
“These activities seek to minimize our environmental impact and generate profits simultaneously.”
Michihiro Homma and Tadayoshi Nohara from the Facilities Management Headquarters, who led this program, stated the story about launching the activities, building a framework and the program's future prospects.
Homma: The Facilities Management Headquarters was proactively engaged in energy-saving activities even before the launch of this program, with such as replacement to energy-saving equipment. Furthermore, the activities had showed some good results. After some time, however, the general feeling in the Division was that we have already done to save energy more.
Right around that time, after the Great East Japan Earthquake, we faced a serious of electricity price increases due to the shortage in power supply. For a moment, we thought that we needed to accept that the price increases are beyond our control. But Mr. Matsumoto, Executive Vice-President at the time, wasn't having any of it: “You might think the dust cloth is dry, but there's some water in it and you can squeeze out more water. Let's all try together!” With his encouragement, we pulled ourselves together. That's when we rolled out the ‘our energy-saving activities never end' slogan, which aligned everyone's direction and motivation. From there, we launched the Energy Cost-saving Working Group (WG), bringing together upper management and development divisions and production divisions from each product operations.
Nohara: The energy-saving activities we had run in the past involved only facility equipment, such as HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems, compressors, and the like. But to obtain greater energy savings and efficiencies, we had to expand the energy-saving activities to all areas in Canon Group of companies. This included making production equipment more energy efficient and working to change employees' mindsets. Looking back now, I remember it was far from smooth sailing.
Homma: People from the Product Operations prioritize maintaining products' quality levels and boosting production efficiencies. They want to avoid at all costs modifying production conditions because of heightened quality risks. Without approach from our side, they would have regarded energy-saving initiatives as a secondary, or even lower, consideration. Luckily, Mr. Matsumoto, who was the flag-bearer for the WG, came from the Device Technology Development Headquarters. Because of his influence, one of the first energy-saving activities launched under the program targeted cleanrooms, which are necessary to produce devices and were considered the most sacred places on the manufacturing site.
Even members of the WG, who belong to the Device Technology Development Headquarters, were initially very skeptical when the WG was started. After the WG achieved good results without sacrificing product quality or production efficiency, members of the WG started to have confidence for this activity. It was truly gratifying to see these early results kick-start the activities into overdrive.
Nohara: Once we saw signs of success at the Device Technology Development Headquarters, we launched cross-company activities, especially at the eight product operations headquarters. The Facilities Management Headquarters has several representatives at each operational site. We reached out to our members at each operational site, both domestic and overseas, and we could build a framework of the organization to promote energy-saving activities.
The program got off to a good start because of upper management's support and understanding. Thanks to the hard work of our members at each operational site, the program is expanded to 72 sites and continues up to now.
Nohara: Originally we have had the 3Gs methodology in Canon because our president often mentions this methodology during his speech. Operational sites were trying to save the energy by the 3Gs' approach, but it was not easy. Because there were so many obstacles which cannot be resolved by the 3Gs.
People struggled to implement some energy-saving solutions because it was hard to know the total impact to production. Consequently, we added two more Gs. They were “genri” and “gensoku”. Ultimately we decided to promote energy-saving activities with the 5Gs.
Homma: We created an energy-savings diagnostic team in 2015 composed of members from production sites and special members from the Facilities Management Headquarters. The team diagnosed equipment in the field and, moreover, gave some knowledge to improve energy-saving at the sites. The team shared information concerning theories and principles such as what will occur by altering the equipment's parameters and how do they relate to the production conditions. This clarified “what is changeable” and “what is not changeable." After clarifying this, this WG was accelerated.
Nohara and other diagnostic team leaders and members worked extremely hard on this project. Their approach expanded knowledge of energy-saving and brought new passion to the sites.
Nohara: Our business circumstances are getting hard. The importance of energy- saving activities, based on the 5Gs, will increase. As they say, when people face serious issues, new idea of resolution will emerge. We carried out more than 6,700 energy-saving measures in five years without any interruption. We will continue to push ahead with conscientious improvement activities under our slogan: “Our Energy-Saving Activities never end.”
We want to put more effort into developing capable persons with passion.
Homma: In the future, I believe that if we can use Canon's technology for general energy-saving activities, it would be the best solution.
The current WG chairman has same the opinion, and the WG is seeking a new approach to energy-saving. I would like to introduce “the Smart Facility*” to all our business operations such as the design stage, manufacturing stage, logistics stage and sales stage. Moreover, we need to find new approaches to achieve greater energy-saving, for example, considering what the company can contribute to the society by energy-saving.
“What kind of technologies can we apply to realize new approach?” It is not easy task and sometimes I feel some pressure on my shoulders. But at the same time, it fuels our motivation to take on new challenges.
*the Smart Facility: all facilities equipment is connected and managed under an integrated system
The two leaders, with beaming smiles, concluded our interview with this: “All we can do is infect others with our enthusiasm.” From there, the employees actually performing the improvement activities do the heavy lifting.
For supporting our WG's members who have introduced continuous improvement.
The Facilities Management Headquarters started up an energy-savings diagnostic team in 2015. Starting with diagnoses of Japan-based operational sites, the team has expanded its scope today overseas to suppliers. The team focuses on energy-savings diagnoses as well as developing capable persons. Two active leaders, Kazuyuki Tawaratsumida and Yoshitaka Sato from the Facilities Management Headquarters, shared a story about the team and its initiatives.
Tawaratsumida: Our operational sites, led by the Facilities Management Headquarters, were earnestly engaged in continuous improvement to save energy. However, when the WG was first launched, the prevailing mood among our members was that they had run out of ideas and any further improvements would be exceedingly difficult at each operational site.
We asked ourselves again if there is anything we should do as a head office of the Facilities Management. Through this process, we realized that we have own staff members, who work at multiple operational sites. That gave birth to the new idea that maybe we could propose improvements to save energy by utilizing our own past experiences and knowledge. We decided to organize a group specifically to make action items for energy-saving improvements and to visit of the sites to make a diagnosis based on the 5Gs.
Sato: A few years shortly after joining Canon, I started visiting the sites twice a month with my master (Tawaratsumida). Now, I have visited all operational sites in Japan. Even I don't remember how many facilities and systems have been diagnosed.
Tawaratsumida: Facilities teams at operational sites have as their prime mission the assurance of a stable supply of electricity, air, and other utilities needed for production and development activities. Consequently, we discovered that site members did not implement the improvements we proposed to lower energy usage when we visited their sites. They were concerned that the improvements would have a negative impact on production conditions and thereby compromise their main objective of maintaining product quality and yield. This meant we had to persuade site members to understand and accept that our proposed improvements would not impact products. It was much harder than I expected.
We recommend to use two principals, “genri” and “gensoku” for their new approach. We thoroughly explained if a certain equipment parameter were modified. We discussed how we can avoid any negative impact by fine-tuning the parameter. These explanations eventually convinced site members that the proposed improvements would not greatly impact them. This helped us to start taking the first steps forward. Through this process, I learned these two principals “genri” and “gensoku” are essential to energy-saving improvements.
Sato: In the beginning, I didn't know left from right, so I stuck to my mentor like glue as we traveled around the operational sites. As I gained experience at the operational sites and gradually became an equipment specialist, I started to lead activities on my own. Thinking back, I wasted a lot of time to make some decisions, because I didn't have enough knowledge about “genri” and “gensoku”. To work more efficiently at the sites, I recognized the need for me to learn the 5Gs methodology deeply.
Tawaratsumida: When it comes to energy-saving activities, you can't do anything unless you go to the operational site. Whether the site is in Japan or overseas, you can't spot waste without knowing the real operations of the site and nobody can make any recommendations. Besides, walking around workplace and seeing the actual equipment and experiencing the success of lowering energy consumption is important to developing and maintaining the interest and desire to save energy.
In the same way as I did with Sato, when I visited workplace I asked site members to touch and adjust their equipment by themselves. This direct approach built self-confidence and encouraged them to spot improvement areas on their own. I am confident that workplace capacities are rising.
Sato: You can't progress with energy-saving activities without knowing the specific knowledge, the technology, and the work methods. Both Tawaratsumida and I want to instill this knowledge in site members and continue to assist with developing capable persons.
Tawaratsumida: Our activities have generally focused on diagnosing facilities equipment, which supply air, water, and other supplies to production equipment. Since we have started our diagnosis at a site that manufactures semiconductor devices, we have been putting more resources into diagnosing production equipment for potential energy savings. It may be a stretch to proceed with energy-saving efforts that take a truly comprehensive view of both facilities equipment managed by a facilities team and production equipment managed by a product operations team. But we are ready to take on this challenge in cooperation with product operations.
Tawaratsumida and Sato: Moving forward, we want to continue to train on-site energy-savings diagnostic professionals. Our goal is to have members at each site run their own energy-saving activities, instead of having the head office team conducting on-site diagnoses each time. It is also important to develop more mechanisms that augment the effectiveness of diagnoses. In addition, creating networks among operational sites is especially important so that sites can diagnose each other's facilities as well as share best practices throughout the WG Group. Saving energy and cutting CO2 emissions are challenges not just for Canon but for society at large. Once we firmly establish the structure for developing capable personnel and increase the number of high-level energy-savings diagnostic professionals, we can extend energy-saving activities to suppliers as well. This is a development we are really excited about.
Sato concluded by saying, “Activities of the facility team are a broad and deep subject. That's why I need to study under my mentor here.” Beside him, Tawaratsumida smiled and followed. “Sato has come a long way and has pushed forward improvements with his colleagues at operational sites.” I look forward to the day when he trains many diagnostic professionals.
Exploring opportunities to take another step forward.
Canon produces a variety of semiconductor chips, including CMOS sensors used in our cameras, at four plants in Japan. Kousuke Ori and Yoshimi Nakagawa, two engineers in charge of semiconductor equipment and technology, have accomplished impressive energy savings through their powerful solidarity. They discuss their approach.
Ori: Canon produces semiconductor chips at four sites in Ayase, Hiratsuka, Kawasaki, and Oita. I'm in charge of producing CMOS sensors for digital cameras at the Ayase Plant. At the same time, I run energy-saving activities at Ayase as well as promote energy-saving activities at the other three sites.
Nakagawa: I work at the Kawasaki Office, where only full-frame CMOS sensors are produced. Producing semiconductor chips is a super-fine process. The slightest expansion in equipment dimensions due to temperature fluctuations or even a microscopic speck of dust will ruin the etching of precise circuits on the chip. For these reasons, semiconductor chips are produced inside a special room called a cleanroom, where there is absolutely no dust or contaminants and the temperature and humidity are controlled strictly.
Many different schemes are used to maintain the environment inside cleanrooms. These include special filters that clean the air before it enters the room, airflow controls that are more exacting than in other rooms, and positive-pressure dampers that always ensure a higher air pressure inside the cleanroom than outside.
Ori: Cleanrooms require huge amounts of energy to maintain their required environments because they need to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Moreover, regardless of production quantity fluctuations, we maintain same condition of required environment.
Nakagawa: At the Kawasaki Office, semiconductor-device development division alone accounts for nearly 70 percent of the electricity used by the entire site.
Ori: Everyone involved with production in cleanrooms knows about their massive power consumption. But since our staff members are responsible for chip quality and yields, they had operated cleanroom equipment with safety thresholds to ensure no equipment problems occur. On the other hand, we realized that we should do some energy-saving activities at our workplace. At the same time, the head of our division issued an energy-savings order. This order got staff members to start changing their mindsets and to come to grips with energy-saving activities.
Ori: We in the production equipment engineering department are obviously well acquainted with production equipment. However, we were not exceptionally knowledgeable in the beginning about facilities equipment. Nevertheless, because production equipment and facilities equipment are highly integrated, we had to first understand facilities equipment in order to develop a holistic view of cleanrooms and implement effective improvements. We decided to have facilities equipment experts from the head office Facility team come in and hold practical on-site courses.
Nakagawa: We were able to find room for improvements in the cleanroom control thresholds, which had been set on the side of safety. This was the direct result of visiting cleanrooms in person and approaching energy-saving based on “genri” and “gensoku”. From there, through a continuous process of trial and error, we verified and validated a massive amount of data. Finally we could obtain the trust from production members, who had been very concerned about the ramifications of any energy-saving initiatives.
Ori: The practical on-site courses rotated in sequence to all four sites, with workers from all sites joining the courses. This approach developed understanding among the members, and it facilitated the sharing of knowledge. Sharing even a single idea with everyone was important. With four sites, four times the ideas were generated, with each idea creating four times the benefit.
Ori: Despite all the ideas generated and shared, it was a struggle to translate them into action.
Take the Ayase Plant for example. Semiconductor production equipment are cooled by cooling water because of the significant heat generated when the equipment are in operation. Cooling water is produced in one of two basic ways: one uses refrigeration systems; the other uses free-cooling systems that cool the water with outside air. Free-cooling system is the more energy-efficient option, but it is used only during seasons when the outside temperature is sufficiently low.
Our idea was to extend slightly the duration when free-cooling system is used. The challenge for us was to find out how high the cooling water temperature settings could be raised without any trouble of production. If the cooling water temperature settings were raised too much, the higher temperatures could affect the quality assurance of produced semiconductor chips, and in the worst case, even damage equipment. To prevent these problems, engineers had standard temperatures which had high safety margins.
We reviewed these standard temperatures from scratch. We ran individual tests to see how far we could increase cooling water temperature settings for each piece of equipment. The process was extremely hard works, as production equipment and devices number in the hundreds. We found that raising cooling water temperatures did indeed cause malfunctions in some cases, but we addressed each situation with individual cooling system. Ultimately, we were able to raise the overall cooling water temperature by about 5℃. This saved a significant amount of energy, and we later extended this approach to the other three sites.
Nakagawa: Next, we turned our attention to HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system in a cleanroom.
From best practices at other sites, we knew that reducing the volume of air circulated in the cleanroom and lowering the air pressure was an effective means of saving energy. We couldn't directly apply the practices at other sites to our site because the building structure and equipment were different. However, we addressed each situation with individual cooling systems.
The Kawasaki Office's cleanroom is divided into multiple zones. We tried first to lower the air pressure consistently throughout the cleanroom, but no matter what we did, this threw off pneumatic balances between zones and created zones that could not maintain their cleanliness levels. Our next idea was to change the air pressure zone by zone, but lowering the pressure in one zone changed circulation patterns and adversely affected other zones. This forced us to recalculate the pneumatic balance between zones. We would experiment by gradually lowering the pressure in one zone while walking around the cleanroom with measuring equipment. Based on the collected data, we adjusted the overall balance. Through this trial-and-error process, we finally found the optimal balance. From that point, we managed to lower the overall cleanroom air pressure by about 30 percent.
Ori: The Great East Japan Earthquake precipitated the push to save energy. We are still conscious now of a sense that we should always be reducing energy consumption, even by a small fraction.
Nakagawa: I share Mr. Ori's sentiments. Prior to the energy-saving program, quality assurance was our number one task. Operating production equipment with safe nominal values presented no risks. But the perspective of equipment departments has undergone a fundamental shift. And that change still drives us to save energy today.
Ori: Our energy-saving efforts so far have been analog. Several thousand data points are generated every second, but the human brain has only a limited ability to process all these data. That's why we are looking at building systems and structures that harness AI for data control. We will continue to rack our brains for new ideas and work together with our colleagues to hit even more ambitious energy-saving targets.
Nakagawa: My personal never-ending project is to find the perfectly balanced environment for the production of semiconductor devices. Equipment Engineering departments are responsible for ensuring the stable and efficient operation of precision production equipment, which even the weather affects. To fulfill this responsibility, we have to constantly strive for the best. Equipment departments make it a point of pride to find further energy savings.
Throughout the interview, Nakagawa always had a friendly smile on his face. But he had a more serious expression on his face as he commented: “We cannot make new discoveries alone. They come about through cooperation with many other departments.” Ori added in a soft tone: “It's about connections between people, connections between workplaces.”
Listening to the pair's seamless conversation underscored how the cooperation and relationships among the many departments that engaged in earnestly lowering cleanroom energy consumption have created the impressive results that are spurring on further activities.
Something we can do as a manufacturing site.
Semiconductor lithography product uses large diameter, high-performance lenses to produce semiconductor chips. Sachio Inoue, a production manager and Shinya Kagomi, an engineering manager came together on a project that saved tremendous amounts of energy in the production of these high-performance lenses. They talked about the project's successful journey.
Kagomi: Semiconductor lithography product transfers highly complex, the reticle is exposed to light in order to transfer the circuit pattern onto the wafer. By focusing the light using a reduction lens, even finer patterns of circuitry can be transferred. The narrower the lines in the circuit pattern, the greater the number of semiconductor elements that can be transferred, and therefore the higher the performance and functionality of the chip. The lenses in this product must deliver very high performance. A thin coating found on the surface of the lenses to increase their transmittance and prevent reflections. Our responsibility is the lens coating portion of the lens production process.
Inoue: The impetus to improve this process was actually an order to double the production of semiconductor lithography products. While the production increase was definitely good news, the company had been hit by the 2008 global financial crisis and was not in a position to make immediate investments in our equipment. Moreover, new equipment could not be delivered and installed in time for the planned increase. For these reasons, we set ourselves the challenging goal of doubling production without adding any more production equipment.
Kagomi: We had only one year until production was due to ramp up. We were at our wits' end thinking about how to pull this off.
Kagomi: We had only half the equipment to produce the necessary lens so our only option was to make dramatic innovations. Naturally, we were anxious to fail, but necessity is the mother of invention. We felt “Just do it.”
Inoue: We had implemented various process innovations for our plant's production activities as far back as 2001. We had engaged in several projects that forced us to come up with unique solutions because we refused to accept the status quo. So we had a track record of viewing everything with a critical eye in order to resolve problems. We leaned on this expertise and know-how as we started to examine ways to reduce lead times and increase production capacities as the deadline steadily approached. We worked out a number of possibilities, following the 3Gs, from upgrading hardware to operational level improvements in the working place. One of the most promising ideas was lowering temperature settings during lens coating. If we could somehow lower temperatures during lens coating, time could be saved during both heating and cooling processes, which would substantially cut lead times.
Inoue: It was common knowledge that the lens coating process consumed lots of electric power. Because electricity consumption levels are well managed, we knew the actual energy bill for each process. That's why, even at our staff level, we were very concerned about the lens coating process's power consumption. If the improvements were successful, not only would lead times be cut, energy bills would be reduced and the environmental impact lowered. It would be like killing three birds with one stone.
Kagomi: We questioned whether the initial temperature setting of 200℃ was really necessary. Could the temperature be lowered somewhat and still meet all the quality criteria? We decided to find out exactly what the minimum necessary temperature setting was that could still maintain quality levels. From then on, we work hard for many days to analyze the data. We reviewed several tests in conjunction with related departments. Tests included were problematic production condition test, operating condition test, repeated durability test, and quality assessment. During this time, we were always conscious of each piece of equipment's fundamental “genri” and “gensoku.” Whenever our opinions diverged, we would always go back to the basic “genri” and “gensoku.” We were actually terrified whether or not we could overcome the many obstacles we faced with the given time. But one day, a moment arrived where we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I still remember that moment. From that point on, the once-troublesome data verifications became enjoyable.
Inoue: Finding the optimal temperature was a process of trial and error.
For example, lowering the temperature even a bit too far would cause the coating to crack or not be durable enough. We had many failures.
Further complicating matters, we had to perform the tests during short intervals when regular production was paused. Unlike cameras or other mass-produced products, there is no prototyping equipment for the semiconductor lithography product we manufacture. This meant we had to run tests using the actual production line. We coordinated our testing schedule each morning with Kagomi's department and many other departments, so that the testing did not conflict with regular production.
Kagomi: We finally found the best heating temperature is 120℃, while maintaining previous durability and quality levels. We successfully lowered the heating temperature during lens coating from 200℃ to 120℃. With almost no time left before the one-year deadline, we managed to use our collective wisdom to overcome this critical problem and greatly increase production without any new large investments. Lowering the heating temperature not only cut energy consumption, it also dramatically shortened the heating process's lead time.
Inoue: It was my great pleasure when our product was delivered on time to our customers. We shared this joy with the staff members at the departments that assisted us and the staff members from Group companies all over Japan. I felt great passion, which only factory engineer can enjoy, to finally achieve success.
The project had simultaneously cut energy costs and fixed costs. Seeing these results with our own eyes definitely elevated our awareness of energy savings. Every time we install a new piece of equipment, we are now more conscious than ever of the equipment's energy efficiency. Because we know that increased production efficiencies can go hand-in-hand with energy savings, we proactively want to continue more energy-saving projects in the future.
They continued to talk about further improvements even after the interview had ended. “About the proposal you gave me the other day. We checked the data and found no problems, so it looks like we can go ahead with it.” Inoue said. Kagomi replied, “Like you said, if we can lower the temperature setting of that component that will give us more flexibility in selecting equipment and save money.”
It made us feel proud once again that Canon is undoubtedly a manufacturer.
We introduce Canon's activities through a framework featuring elements of an integrated report.
The project highlights the cycle of life through various activities conducted at Canon sites around the world.