Ricoh Thermal Media Company (TMCo) aims to eliminate resource waste from its operations by using the “Production Loss Tree” chart. Previously, improvement activities were conducted individually in line with the areas of concern: quality, costs, delivery, and environment. The chart, which was introduced in 2006, visibly demonstrates how much of a resource is wasted at which point of the production process on a factor-by-factor basis. In the chart compilation system, the information about a single type of waste is registered with the information about its causal factors, financial value, and resulting discharge as a focal area of improvement activity so that TMCo can simultaneously assess the potential of different activities to reduce the amount of discharged matter, improve quality and cut costs.
The company can then determine the level of importance of difficult or process design-related issues otherwise unaddressed. Problematic yet uncared-for preconditions and bottlenecks are revisited to determine if they have been corrected and to ascertain possible benefits if corrected. Based on the reevaluation, such problems previously uncared for because the manufacturing function alone was unable to overcome them are now subject to joint improvement activities with other departments. In this way, the overall quality of the improvement activities has been enhanced.
Since fiscal 2008, the company has rolled out the activities in its four production regions (France, the U.S., China, and Japan) and been operating a “Cost Reduction and Environmental Information Database” and other information disclosure tools to share the progress of the activities and related challenges in each region, in order to help achieve business and environmental goals on a global scale. Such a sustainable environmental management approach that considers environmental impacts as part of business costs and aims for even higher quality has penetrated Ricoh’s thermal media facilities around the world.
Thermal paper products, the flagship products of Ricoh Thermal Media Company, are manufactured by applying layers of chemicals that generate color when exposed to heat. These manufacturing processes involving repetitive coating and drying of chemicals require long production lines—100 meters long (base paper travels 370 meters)—and are equipped with more than 200 paper conveying rollers. A single occurrence of paper out in the production lines entails a massive amount of waste chemicals and base paper, as well as time and labor for cleanup and recovery. To minimize the occurrence of paper out, Ricoh Industrie France S.A.S. (RIF) identified its major causes in fiscal 2009 based on analysis of the Production Loss Tree and took rectifying measures such as:
(1) optimizing the timing of paper refilling by assessing the causes of defective refilling identified by high-speed cameras installed at automatic refilling points, and
(2) introducing crease-prevention measures to winders. The corrective activities have led to the reduction of paper-out conditions by some two-thirds and an annual waste discharge reduction of 450 tons year-on-year. The key to such success was in-depth analysis and action. Higher yield rates, lower costs, and greater operational efficiency have also been achieved by these improvement efforts. In fiscal 2010, RIF started to monitor and analyze the determining factors of wastewater levels, in order to reduce wastewater discharge, which accounts for a large portion of the company’s total waste.
At Ricoh RS Division, recycling of the solvents used in manufacturing PxP toner, which was previously outsourced to external contract vendors, is now done on site. To achieve this level of onsite closed-loop recycling, the division worked to identify a toner material formula and manufacturing technologies that were more recycling-friendly. Conventional solvents, which are made from several different chemicals, are difficult to recycle. After intensive research, Ricoh’s RS Division successfully developed a new technology that can retain high-quality toner particle even when the solvent used during the manufacturing process is changed from the conventional mixed type to a single chemical solvent.
This new technology allows us to recycle solvent used in the entire manufacturing process (except for that used in washing the line equipment that is required before switching to production of a different toner model). The recycling that has been made possible from this technology has resulted in reduced matter discharge volume as well as an approximately 90% reduction in solvent consumption and associated cost reductions. To leverage this success, Tohoku Ricoh Co., Ltd. adopted this new technology at its new PxP toner mass production facility in 2010 when the line opened. This technology has helped the company establish a manufacturing system that has higher resource-productivity.