Boeing Fabrication Site Leader Eyes Net-Zero Energy Consumption
**This is the eighth article in a series focusing on The Boeing Company's environmental performance and progress in 2016. Visit www.boeing.com/environment for more information.**
Adi Singh leads Boeing’s Frederickson, Washington, site, one of the company’s 12 major facilities that fabricate parts and structural components for Boeing commercial and military aircraft.
Adi’s team pursues a robust strategy and vision for the site’s environmental footprint, including striving for “net-zero energy” consumption. Adi discusses some of the team’s successes and challenges.
The Frederickson facility plays a key role in the manufacture of Boeing aircraft. What are the site’s major activities?
Our manufacturing is organized around two main business units that focus on different materials: composites, through the Composite Manufacturing Center, and metal, through Skin and Spar. The site produces composite horizontal stabilizers and vertical fins—together known as the empennage at the aircraft’s tail—and metal wing components.
What are the challenges with each material as you look for ways to reduce waste, conserve resources and find alternatives to hazardous chemicals?
They’re very different. With metal parts and components, we use chemicals to help detect flaws and prepare surfaces for painting. Chemicals and paint add to the site’s hazardous waste. How can we reduce and even eliminate chemicals in our processes?
With composites, we use raw material, such as carbon fiber, to manufacture the parts and components. Can we use less raw material? Finding new ways to recycle and reuse excess composite material and keep it out of landfills is a big focus and opportunity for innovation.
Reducing the site’s energy use and overall carbon footprint also is a major part of our environmental strategy.
What are some of the successes and progress so far?
Thanks to a very creative team, sitewide improvements include:
Significantly reducing hazardous waste by reducing the amount of paint used on parts, cutting back the frequency of replacing large quantities of chemicals needed in some processes, and recycling oils in equipment
Mitigating the risk of groundwater pollution with a stormwater management system that has received the highest recognition available from the local county government for five consecutive years.
Switching to reusable containers for parts sent from local suppliers, reducing shipping waste and costs.
Reducing the amount of raw material required and the waste generated in the manufacture of composite parts.
Expanding recycling of waste streams at all levels to conserve resources and energy.
Reducing waste by switching to filtered water stations in some locations instead of bringing in large bottles of water.
As we look to the future, new technology will take us to the next level.
For example, lasers could help us inspect metal parts, eliminating the need for a chemical-based process. New industries will reuse excess composite material from our factories in new products, diverting more waste from landfills.
What does becoming a “net-zero energy” site mean?
Net-zero energy means the amount of energy we consume annually would roughly equal the amount of energy generated on site with renewable technology, such as solar and wind. I think we could do it. Our main building cover almost two millions square feet (186,000 square meters), lots of rooftop space for solar panels. And plenty of wind to power turbines on the site’s open land.
It would be a phased-in process, but we’ve started talking with our local utility about possible programs and financial support. It would be a big leap forward in reducing our carbon footprint and energy costs.
How do you think about the environment as Boeing enters its second century of leading the aerospace industry?
As a company, I think we have to lead the journey to a more sustainable future. We can apply all the amazing technology and innovation that created our aircraft to our global environmental challenges. We have so many bright and talented employees; engaging them on this journey will have a huge impact. That is how we can lead in the second century.