Scanning the metal manufacturing news this morning, I ran across a brief item that made me smile. Smiles from industry news don't occur often enough these days. They are almost as rare as receiving a love note from your credit card company that says your interest rate has been lowered because you've always paid your bills on time.
What made me smile was news from Federal-Mogul Corp. about an innovative, environmentally friendly product the company has developed—one that exemplifies the ingenuity that could keep manufacturers rolling along through this recession—a sound investment in this company's future.
Yes, Federal-Mogul—a supplier of powertrain and safety components to vehicle OEMs and aftermarket companies, is dealing with the same economic challenges as most automakers and suppliers. In fact, in December the company announced that "it has expanded its restructuring plan announced Sept. 17, 2008, in response to the continued challenging conditions in the global automotive market." Consolidating, downsizing, and closing locations are expected to reduce the company's global work force by approximately 4,600 additional positions (4,000 were announced in September) or about 10 percent.
The good news is that the company is not simply tightening its belt and retrenching to ride out the economic storm. It's being innovative, as all forward-thinking companies should be, and coming up with new products. The one I read about today sounds like a winner for the company, the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, and the environment. It also is very different in composition from many of the company's products.
To help reduce noise in a vehicle's cabin, Federal-Mogul has developed QuietShield® GRN (green, nonwoven) acoustical padding from cardboard packaging used by manufacturers. The padding, present in the 2010 Buick LaCrosse luxury sedan introduced at the North American International Auto Show on Jan. 11, was produced using packaging from General Motors' Marion Metal Stamping plant in Marion, Ind.
A release about the product said, "Automotive manufacturing plants today receive numerous parts for delivery to the assembly line in cardboard containers and other packaging. Some of these containers are made of recyclable materials, are not. In both cases, when empty, the automaker pays to transport cardboard packaging and other refuse to a recycling center or landfill. [The new padding] offers customers a new solution to these problems. The contents include domestic cardboard, carpet fibers, recycled yarns and fabrics, plus certain Asian cardboard not previously thought to be recyclable due to short fiber length construction. The recyclable by-products collected at the manufacturing plant are shredded, combined with other recycled materials, formed into a web and bonded in a unique manufacturing process & developed by Federal-Mogul's engineering experts, drawing on their expertise in the development and manufacture of high performance textile-based protection products. The padding can be used by automotive manufacturers and other industries to fabricate linings and sound deadening padding in headrests, headliners, door and kick panels, and trunk liners to abate noise entering the occupant compartment of the vehicle."
I'm thinking the product also could be put to good use in construction, when builders resume work on subdivisions with houses piled on top of each other and apartment/townhouse complexes. My daughter lives next door to a drummer whose drumming literally shakes her walls. She's not a happy homeowner. Dropping a blanket of QuietShield over her neighbor's house might help.