Highlights 3 The Challenge of Expertly Managing Chemical Substances
In recent years, fast-paced growth in the emerging nations has brought with it problems of harm to the environment and human health, due in part to chemical substances. With legal restrictions tightening, in Japan as in other countries, companies around the world are increasingly aware of the need to manage these substances rigorously.
As a company that handles some 30,000 chemicals, Fuji Xerox recognizes the importance of doing so safely and has been scrupulous in taking environmental and human safety fully into consideration. However, as our business overseas continues to develop and we are increasingly required to comply with different national laws and regulations, we have found that ensuring safe chemical management calls for more than separate arrangements at each business facility or relying on the knowledge and experience of individual safety officers as we have done in the past.
Accordingly, Fuji Xerox and its affiliates have undertaken a new initiative: to create and operate a centralized management system for chemical substances. This section introduces the work we are doing to restructure our chemical substance management throughout Fuji Xerox and its all affiliates-a reform that could be said to encapsulate our vision for the Fuji Xerox of the future.
|Number of chemical substances in the CAS Registry |
Source: Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) media release (2012).
|About 70 million|
|Number of chemicals industrially manufactured and generally available |
Source: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Trends Relating to Chemical Substances.
|Number of chemicals that Fuji Xerox has under centralized management||About 30,000|
Trends in the Management of Chemical Substances
Companies worldwide are now expected as a matter of course to prevent pollution and improve harsh working environments. As environmental NGOs publish data on suspected polluters, people around the globe are monitoring corporate behavior more closely than ever before and governments are regulating chemical substances more strictly. Fuji Xerox currently uses some 30,000 chemicals, and managing this inventory without mishaps demands a vast input of labor and appropriate oversight by the workers responsible. Any lapse would not only impact the environment and human health, but would put the company at risk of a product recall and, in the worst case, a suspension of operations.
Fuji Xerox has never had a major accident, thanks to always having handled chemicals with maximum safety awareness. Nevertheless, as one employee realized, there remained an important issue to be addressed.
- SourceBased on Document No. 3 distributed to the First Joint Committee for Review of the Act Concerning the Examination and Regulation of Manufacture, Etc., of Chemical Substances.
The Voice of Experience Urges on Our Management of Chemical Substances
After retiring from FUJIFILM, Ryosuke Ishida came to Fuji Xerox where he now works in chemical substance management. He remembers asking his colleagues when hearrived, "Do we have a sufficient sense of crisis as a company that handles chemicals?"
Companies are expected to put in place every possible measure to prevent accidents. As mutual benefi t wi th the communi t ies where we conduct operations is a fundamental principle of our business , Fuji Xerox has long been fully aware of the need for a proactive stance in managing chemicals ; for example , our handling rules were established in 2003. The system, which required an application for every purchase of chemicals-even just a few grams of a reagent-permitted strict monitoring of inventory. However, Ishida, who had been handling chemicals for many years, advocated still stronger measures.
As he recalls, "On coming to Fuji Xerox, I was surprised by how strict the inventory control system was. Such tight control doesn't come easily. But the legal restrictions on chemicals vary a great deal internationally, and any such system must be frequently revised. In the future, companies will need to grasp and respond to regulatory changes and hazard information in a timely and accurate way, and I felt that there were still issues in that area."
Working Together with FUJIFILM
Ishida then thought of linking Fuji Xerox's chemical inventory management system with the chemical environmental safety information database operated by FUJIFILM. Thanks largely to his thorough knowledge of the FUJIFILM database, the idea of integrating the two quickly took shape. A system providing centralized oversight of chemical use of Fuji Xerox and all its affiliates coupled with information on legal restrictions, would raise the company's chemical substance management to the next level, making it possible to see at a glance which sites possess restricted and potentially hazardous chemicals, and in what quantities they use them. It would also allow us to collect information on chemicals likely to be restricted in the future, and perhaps to proactively eliminate their use at the R&D stage. This was how the project team envisioned their task.
However, it was not quite as easy as it might have appeared.
Incorporating Suggestions from the Front Line
Those in charge of frontline operations at Fuji Xerox's business facilities each had their own ideas about what they wanted to see in the new system. Says Masato Honma of Fuji Xerox Manufacturing, "Nobody on the front lines opposed its introduction, but they wanted it to follow the existing system, which they were working with, as far as possible. Since that system had always been used in different ways at each business facility, when it came to deciding the specifications people wanted a lot of different things. At the same time, the loss of tacit knowledge that occurs when a highly experienced employee leaves was coming to be acknowledged as a frontline issue, and so we needed to adopt as many of these suggestions as we could if we were to build a system that the other employees could in fact go on using over the long term."
With separate arrangements in each business facility, there were as many variations of the know-how as there were workplaces. Know-how in the company had always been passed on from one generation to the next as tacit knowledge. But as a wave of retirements was approaching, that knowledge was about to be rapidly lost from the organization. In addition, as a company doing business across borders, we faced an increasingly urgent need to make our tacit knowledge explicit and pass it on accurately to diverse employees with different customs and values.
How did the project team cope with this wide range of requirements?
Hitomi Akiyama of the Environment Management Group in the General Affairs Department of Fuji Xerox was responsible for introducing the new system. She says: "It was difficult to accommodate all the workplace-specific requests and know-how. The important thing was to identify what we truly needed to do as a corporate citizen and steadfastly argue for those needs until all the employees came together around the same vector. Merely introducing the new system would not be enough to establish tacit knowledge as explicit knowledge that everyone could use. Unless frontline personnel understood the system's significance, appreciated the importance of managing chemicals, and were provided with easy-to-use manuals, sooner or later that new system would cease to function. We worked steadily in unison with the front line to ensure that it would really function."
These efforts bore fruit and in October 2014 Fuji Xerox launched the chemical substance management system at all of its sites in Japan. At the same time, we revised the company's internal rules on handling chemicals, introduced a new risk assessment method, and carried out audits of chemicals at our production sites.
Extending the System Overseas
With Fuji Xerox's business expanding globally, the next stage is to deploy the new system to our overseas business facilities. Passing on tacit knowledge is just as important overseas, where worker turnover tends to be more rapid, as it is in Japan.
Fuji Xerox Hai Phong, our Vietnamese production site, introduced the system in March 2015. In preparation, we invited their environmental safety managers to Japan to attend lectures in environmental management in general and the work involved in managing chemicals. Given the considerable effort that was required to introduce the new system even in Japan, can we be confident that it will take root overseas?
Reiko Akiyama of the Environment Management Group in the General Affairs Department of Fuji Xerox says , "Since the Vietnamese managers had a high level of environmental awareness, now that they've introduced the system I expect they will take the initiative. We have a new factory in Vietnam that has just started up, and we will maintain communications with the front line to ensure that chemical substance management remains a priority.
Making the System Work
According to Fuji Xerox Director and Executive Vice President Katsuhiko Yanagawa, "It's not enough for the system to exist; it must function if it is to help keep our employees and the communities where we conduct operations safe. As we continue to develop our business overseas, it is absolutely essential to Fuji Xerox that we create and operate a globally centralized chemical management system, and thi s will serve as a model for a future integrated management system of Fuji Xerox and its affiliates. Furthermore, this experience in taking tacit knowledge, making it explicit, and conveying it as a system holds the promise of our being able to offer new solutions to customers' issues and social problems through a similar approach."
Fuji Xerox is forging steadily ahead with this initiative while making continual improvements.
Phung Thi Nhat
Facility & Engineering environmental section leader
Facility & Engineering Section
Fuji Xerox Hai Phong
The new system introduced at Fuji Xerox Hai Phong enables central management of the inventory of chemi cal substances , together with the amounts purchased and used. Before a new chemical can be purchased, the person responsible must obtain a Fuji Xerox risk assessment through steps which include applying for registration in the new system. The appropriate amount to purchase can also be determined depending on the existing inventory. For this system to take root at Fuji Xerox Hai Phong, we believe we need to explain to all departments why it is necessary and what effects it will have.
We will steadi ly pursue chemical management in close communication with Fuji Xerox.