From Life Cycle Assessment to Life Cycle Engineering
Volkswagen uses the LCA methodology as an effective LCM tool to analyze the environmental profi of products and processes and to identify ecological hotspots therein. Based on this knowledge it is determined which improvements will have the greatest effect and thus can develop targeted innovations. This is what is called life cycle engineering (LCE). It is one of the components of LCM. While LCM as a product management system aims to improve the sustainability performance of a company through minimizing environmental and socioeconomic burdens associated with an organization's value chain (Remmen et al. 2007), it has a narrower focus on the management and controlling of measures to improve the environmental profi of a company's products. It is a helpful management tool to support design for environment.
Success Factors for Life Cycle Engineering Within the Company
The fundamental aim of life cycle engineering is the management and controlling of measures for the improvement of the environmental profiles of products. However, in order to implement and integrate LCE into corporate processes, there are some key success factors to be considered:
Organization: In order to help assure a consistent implementation of life cycle engineering into the companies' processes, the commitment of the top management is crucial. Thus, the life-cycle based improvement of the vehicle fleet in terms of environmental impact and resource conservation forms an integral part of Volkswagen's corporate policy and environmental strategy.
Analysis: The LCA methodology provides a comprehensive tool to both gain a detailed insight in the environmental profile of a product and analyze the potentials for improvements. However, to be applicable, the LCA must be based on a framework that ensures reliable and robust results derived within a reasonable time frame, despite of the degree of complexity of the product under study.
Optimization: In order to transfer conclusions from the LCA into realistic and convertible improvements, it is necessary to translate the results into technical goals. These have to be expressed in a form that is sufficiently specific to allow decisions and measures from an engineering point of view.
Communication: Environmental improvements in vehicles must be visible for customers and other stakeholders. It is therefore crucial to communicate about new features and to inform customers and other relevant stakeholders about the activities and successes in developing environmentally friendly technologies and products. For this purpose, the Volkswagen brand developed “Environmental Commendations” (Warsen and Krinke 2012).
Integration of Life Cycle Engineering into Company Processes
To successfully support the development of an ecologically advantageous new vehicle, it is crucial to obtain top management awareness and to implement life cycle engineering in the company's development processes.
Most decisions affecting the environmental performance usually have a financial impact on a vehicle project. Furthermore it is obvious that an environmental decision support should be implemented as early as possible in the development process. The earlier decisions can be supported, the more influence can be exercised.
Life cycle engineering is implemented in the environmental strategy of the Volkswagen Group and in the environmental objectives for technical development of the Volkswagen brand. These objectives are set and tracked by the environmental officer during the development of a vehicle. With the goal in mind to develop each model in such a way that, over its entire life-cycle, it presents better environmental properties than its predecessor, the environmental officer is present in decisive boards and supports decisions from the initiation of project on.