Implementing material efficiency in practice: A case study to improve the material utilisation of automotive sheet metal components

Philippa Maia Horton Julian M. Allwood Christopher Cleaver

There is an opportunity to reduce the amount of sheet metal currently used to manufacture automotive components, despite the available cost and CO2 savings, the automotive industry has not realised the full potential of these saving opportunities. To understand why, a practical case study was set up with an automotive manufacturer. A cross-functional team was established with the scope to make changes to five components using a structured design process to improve material efficiency. The trial identified realistic opportunities to improve material utilisation by 20%pts, and save £9million and 5 kilotonnes of CO2 annually. The greatest saving opportunities were found early in the product development cycle, before the production method is determined by component geometry. Of these, 3%pts were actually implemented on the production vehicle, saving £1.8million and 1.5 kilotonnes of CO2 annually. The case study identified significant barriers to implementing material efficiency strategies in an industrial setting. To overcome these barriers material utilisation should be considered early in the product design process and high in the vehicle platform hierarchy. As a result of this investigation, new business processes are being generated to support design for material utilisation at the automotive manufacturer. This case study approach should be considered to increase implementation for other aspects of material demand reduction.