Is it expensive to build and run a green factory? I had been wondering this before meeting Chuang Tzu-Sou, director of the new fab planning and engineering division of the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. His opinion: "Not at all!"
The construction cost of TSMC's 14th semi-conductor manufacturing plant, compared to older facilities, only increased by 1 percent. And while the budget for "Fab 14" ("fab" is short for fabricating of semiconductor chips) was US$50 million, it is expected to easily recover this cost in electricity savings within the next five years.
One of the major cost savings resulted from rethinking the industrial boiler. A major part of Fab 14 would be a boiler facility costing almost US$2 million -- industrial boilers are an integral part of the semiconductor manufacturing process, but they emit a vast amount of wastewater and carbon. Yet after researching alternate production methods and taking a close look at available technologies, they managed to do away with the boiler facility. That resulted in cuts in both Fab 14's building costs and carbon emissions once operational.
Mr. Chuang, the program manager, thinks this cost-saving measure was possible only through a manager's ability to understand and motivate workers. He felt his technicians were individuals who tended to be most capable of solving problems on their own. However, being scientifically trained and aware of business constraints, they would go with what they knew would solve a problem. They are pragmatists who evolve their knowledge slowly and are not prone to experiment with new solutions. So Mr. Chuang realized he would need to inspire them, remind them of the bigger picture, encourage them to keep an open mind and give them sufficient time to search for new solutions.
These cost-savings affected just one building of a facility that's part of a bigger factory complex. So how did Mr. Chuang and his technicians expand savings across all Fab 14 buildings and activities? He again encouraged his team to think outside the box. His technicians devised a way for the hot air generated from semiconductor production to be circulated to other buildings and work areas for their own use, such as for air conditioning. This created an additional US$230,000 in electricity savings.
The technicians also developed a way to purify large amounts of wastewater, enough to supply half a million people with clean water for daily use. Apart from improving the efficiency of Fab 14's construction by recycling 90 percent of the wastewater (one of the highest rates in the world), this also cut supply and recycling fees. This meant a combined savings of up to US$88 million annually.
Based on this experience, Mr. Chuang and his team realized that improvements in individual areas didn't amount to huge savings. Instead, it was making sure improvements were sought across the whole factory complex and at all stages of production. It was the creation of a green supply chain that made a change toward sustainability both possible and profitable, and TSMC is now trying to put that change into place for all its Fabs. The ultimate plan is that this will help stimulate other industries to do likewise and cause improvements for generations to come.
While the vision for this program came from Morris Chang, the chairman of TSMC, it was realized by Mr. Chuang. Mr. Chuang succeeded by focusing on the bigger picture offered by the whole program, instead of getting mired in the problems of individual projects' technical difficulties or budget overruns. By relating Mr. Chang's vision to an organizational mission, Mr. Chuang ensured short-term problems and opportunities were dealt with in a way that fed strategic long-term goals.
Learn more about Fab 14 in this video, and about Roger Chou, PgMP, on his Facebook page. How have you made green projects profitable?
Read how a fellow project practitioner is making the most of advancements in sustainability in "Biofuel From Seed to Factory," in March's PM Network.