Cummins has been setting goals to reduce its water and energy use and to increase recycling for several years, now. The company has seen tremendous success in reducing the water it uses. We just increased our 2020 water reduction goal to 50 percent, having cut water use 42 percent, adjusted by labor hours, since 2010 (see the infographic above). In 2015, our absolute water use fell from 972 million gallons the previous year to 953 million gallons.
Cummins is keenly aware of its potential to be a force for good in water-stressed areas. One of the company’s goals is to achieve water neutrality at 15 manufacturing sites where water is in short supply by 2020. Cummins defines water neutrality as off-setting its own water use at a particular location through conservation and with community improvements that either conserve or make new water sources available.
Cummins engineers use methods such as Topology Optimization to determine where material needs to stay in an engine to maintain robustness and where it can be removed without affecting durability. “Light-weighting” can make an engine more fuel efficient. It also means less raw material is needed to build it. About 88 percent of the water Cummins uses comes through the extraction of raw material.
All over Cummins there are building-specific features designed to conserve water. The bioswales at the new Distribution Business Unit headquarters in Indianapolis, for example, are part of a system designed to keep about 80 percent of rainwater on the site to use for landscaping. The bioswales collect and save water that would otherwise run into the city’s sewer system. There are plants in India and Brazil that recycle water for non-potable uses and several locations have features like low or no-water toilet facilities to help meet their water-use goals.
Cummins uses regenerative dynamometers throughout the company to capture the mechanical energy of engines in test cells. The dynos also reduce cooling load, which allows cooling systems to be smaller and use less water. High horsepower engines especially require a lot of testing and a lot of cooling. While the dynos have saved a significant amount of water, there have been decidedly low-tech savings, too. For example, running water to clean equipment only when needed saved significant amounts of water. And fixing leaks also has been important.
Cummins’ Corporate Responsibility efforts have three key target areas – Education, Social Justice/Equality of Opportunity and the Environment. Many of the company’s site-based Community Involvement Teams focus their environmental efforts on water, ranging from improving water quality in a lake in China, to improving rain water collection cisterns in Brazil to removing an invasive weed from the banks of a Minnesota stream.
From China, to India, to the United States and beyond, Cummins employees have educated young minds over the past five years about the importance of water. In China, company employees worked with a middle school on a project to purify the school’s water supply and teach students about water protection. In India, water protection was one of the key themes of an environmental education effort reaching thousands of students across the country. And in the U.S. in 2016, employees worked with elementary students in Columbus, Indiana to build soil water sensors to ensure they properly watered trees they had planted.
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