Suppliers latch on to benefits of green thinking

Environmentalism is nice. But environmentalism and a check are even nicer.

Suppliers have embraced the dollars-and-cents value of green thinking at their factories, Traverse City audiences are hearing this week. Factories are shaving thousands -- or millions -- of dollars out of their operating overhead by doing what environmentalists would urge them to do as the right thing.

A small, single-shift ZF plant in Gainesville, Ga., slashed $28,880 off its lighting bill this year, says Kelly Biers, ZF director of continuous improvement. An investment in the efficiency of its cooling tower there will save the cost of 1.6 million gallons of water.

Volkswagen recently opened a 33-acre solar farm at its Chattanooga plant. The homegrown green power supplies 13 percent of its total power needs, CEO Frank Fischer told his audience.

Bill Krueger, Nissan's manufacturing boss for the Americas, will be here Wednesday to corroborate that his big plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, has lopped its power bill in half using a wind farm in southern Mexico and a methane gas line pumping from a local landfill.

Automakers and suppliers have spent the past 20 years shaving pennies from production and material costs. For many, the next big savings will be green ones.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at

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