Environmental Problems No.2

Komy’s past, present and future

Komy started virtually from zero 30 years ago

Komy’s founding days when there were no
air-conditioners, toilets or private cars

We started our business at a borrowed garage where there were no air-conditioners, toilets or whatever.
The word “Eco” was virtually nonexistent at that time.
Such an office environment, however, was common back then.

What we expected to and learned from the certification of ISO 14001

We decided to obtain ISO 14001 certification after reading a newspaper article about Ricoh Co., Ltd. This company prospered by making good use of ISO 14001 as a tool to develop products and promote environmental activities.
Mr. Takenaka of Tohto Industries Ltd. once told us that the key to success in business is sorting out and organizing everything. Since then, we have made company-wide efforts to follow his advice.
We’ve also heard from one of our acquaintances Mr. Shirato that an environmental business has become a good source of income in recent years.
Based on his advice, we decided to use ISO 14001 as a tool to encourage all the employees to pay closer attention to environmental problems through eco-friendly activities.
We also hoped that, by using this tool appropriately, Komy could establish a system to bring in long-term (not short-term) profits and contribute to society.

Request to a person of ability

Our encounters with ISO and Dr. Ueda (Japan Productivity Center) trace back to around 1998, when we decided to apply for ISO 9001 certification for FF Mirror AIR.
At that time, we were requested by one of our customers to implement ISO 9001 certification as a condition to buy our aircraft mirror quality control system.
Although we knew nothing about ISO 9001 at that time, we managed to meet that demand thanks to Dr. Ueda’s instruction.
The plan to implement ISO 14001 certification was also made with the guidance of Dr. Ueda, who knew very well about that system and Komy’s current status.

How come laws are so troublesome?

To obtain ISO certification, we had to work on cumbersome paperwork and establish in-house rules.
We especially had a hard time in learning laws and regulations, and preparing application documents.
Although our primary work at our factories is the assembling on a small scale, using a limited number of small processing tools, we realized that our band saws and circular saw machines were designated as noisemaking equipment under the Saitama Livelihood Protection Ordinance.
Thus we had to quickly prepare and submit notifications.
There are other various laws and regulations, and we came to appreciate the Environment Department of Kawaguchi City for helping us understand these laws through several meetings held.
Although Komy has stubbornly observed laws, we were surprised to know the existence of these meticulous legal regulations.

Advice from neighboring companies with longer histories than Komy

Kohara Gear Industry Co., Ltd. and Kawaguchigiken Inc., both are our neighbors and had already been certified under ISO 14001, kindly advised us on how to implement and operate under ISO 14001; specifically, how to integrate ISO 14001 and 9001, computerize texts and promote environmental protection campaigns via a website.
They also told us that it would become difficult to achieve the reduction goals of paper, waste and electricity with a few years, and that the installation of solar generation systems may serve as the promotional purpose, but would take a long time to recover the costs.
We appreciate them for teaching us what we should do and incorporate these things into our businesses.

What is LCA?

While addressing environmental problems, we frequently heard the word “Life Cycle Assessment” (LCA) and became concerned about its meaning.
We’ve learned that LCA is a method to quantifiably and objectively evaluate the environmental impact of a product over its entire life from material procurement to production, distribution, use, recycling and disposal.
To put this difficult concept into practice, we decided to reduce the impact on the environment when we produce, use and dispose products.
Specifically, we have to reduce environmental impact in each of the following phases: “in the process of manufacturing,” “during use” and “at the time of disposal.” We have set specific objectives to pursue in each phase, including “designing lighter and simpler products,” “reducing defective products” and “appealing that our products are environmentally friendly.”

Please click this image. You can find a PDF file.

Succeeding in the production of environmentally-friendly products based on the “less is more” principle

Our new product “Super Oval” has
no reverse side and rubber frame
as used in the previous versions.
Its weight was halved by reducing
the number of parts (see “Super
Oval Story”).

There once was a social trend to avoid using chloroethene by regarding it as a causative agent of dioxin.
At that time, our products used chloroethene in their rubber frames connecting the mirror and the reverse-side metal part.
Although in the case where some replacements could be used, some others had to use chlorethene to acquire sufficient strength.
Although we initially considered it difficult not to use chlorethene at all given its good durability and cost performance, we decided to develop new products without rubber frames.
That decision was based on the concept “less is more.” This phrase proposed by architecture Ludwig Mies van der Rohe means that, by using “less” through the removal of redundancy, we can produce “more.” Although we had to overcome challenges such as the retention of adhesive capacity between the mirror and the reverse-side metal part and the prevention of mirror deformation, we finally succeeded in developing new products with half the weight of conventional ones.

Why did we have to change our suppliers?

In recent years, our customers, especially large-scale companies, have requested that we should pay closer attention to environmental protection.
They demand new things one after another, such as green procurement and compliance with RoHS.
Indeed, Komy has to adopt parts and production processes necessary to meet their demands.
Some of Komy’s products once used wirework parts supplied by Company A with which we had a long business relationship.
That company, however, did not give us the results of harmful material testing, saying that they could not examine their plating process.
Then we asked Company B to make a prototype, and that company provided it along with the results of harmful material testing.
We had to discuss whether we should change the supplier from Company A to Company B.
Since the social trend at that time was to remove harmful materials, we though it necessary to obtain the test results and implement measures accordingly.
What came to our mind was a quote from Darwin’s work: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives … but rather the one most adaptable to change.” In the end, we decided to change the wirework supplier from Company A to B.