Bendix Acuña: Sustainability and Community Focus

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At the same time that Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC (Bendix) is celebrating its grand opening of a new production facility at its operation in Acuña, Mexico, the company is marking the latest milestones in its sustainability and community support efforts at the location.

The 185,000-square-foot plant is distinguished by the highly automated manufacturing processes it will deploy to produce two emerging, next-generation technologies: Global Scalable Brake Control (GSBC®) and Global Scalable Air Treatment (GSAT®). Beyond the advanced production taking place there, the facility is also the site of Bendix’s newest solar array and the focal point of the company’s newly launched apprenticeship program with a nearby university.

“While the Acuña location grows as a manufacturing operation, the rest of the operation is growing as well – including in how we do our part to care for the planet we all share and the communities we call home,” said Maria Gutierrez, Bendix senior director, environmental, social, and governance (ESG). “Bendix Acuña enjoys a history of robust efforts in both aspects, stretching back to its founding in 1988. The solar array going online outside the new production facility and the educational program underway with our university neighbor fit perfectly in that tradition, while also expanding it.”

Proud Planet Partner

Alongside the massive new manufacturing facility sits a large solar array converting sunlight into electricity, capable of producing nearly 1 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy annually for the operation. The newly constructed array consists of 1,040 photovoltaic panels – 480 panels in a ground-mounted array and, next to it, 560 panels mounted on three large carport canopies.

The panels will generate 10% of the plant’s forecasted energy needs and avoid generation of an estimated 433 tons of CO2 emissions per year, decreasing reliance on the local power grid and reducing Bendix’s carbon footprint in pursuit of sustainability. A $700,000 project, the system will reduce company energy costs by $144,000 per year.

While generating electricity, the panels – mounted on the three carport canopies that cover 116 parking spaces – will also provide shade for employees and their vehicles. In addition, the covered parking lot is equipped with five Level 2 charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs).

“When you enter the grounds around the new plant, you can’t miss seeing the solar array – it’s unmistakable and compelling, announcing immediately our focus on sustainability at Acuña, Bendix’s largest manufacturing campus,” said Reginaldo Olivo, plant manager of Acuña 4. “The array will make a difference right away, contributing to our decreased North American carbon footprint.”

The solar project is part of a larger, aggressive CO2 reduction effort the campus has implemented since 2020 to help achieve the organization’s long-term sustainability goals. The Acuña campus’ climate action plan (or decarbonization roadmap) spans investments at multiple buildings, supporting reduced energy use, green energy generation or procurement, improved energy efficiency, and better oversight and control of energy usage. Major efficiency enhancements have included upgraded HVAC and lighting systems, modernized building envelopes, submetering and building management systems, and the addition of an on-site renewable energy generation system.

All told, the efforts should result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions in line with the company’s 2030 climate targets. Key among them is the commitment by Bendix and its Munich, Germany-based parent company, Knorr-Bremse, to reduce scope 1 and market-based scope 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 75% by 2030 from the 2018 base year.

The decarbonization roadmap includes a $1 million investment in two previous solar arrays. The rooftop arrays, one each at plants 1 and 2, went online at the end of 2022 and represented the first such systems installed by a manufacturing organization in the Acuña region. They are capable of generating a combined 2 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable electricity annually, which is about the same amount of energy needed to power 100 homes for a full year. Each system supplies around 10% of the energy needs at each facility. Together, the installations help the campus avoid 850 tons of CO2 emissions and save the site around $170,000 in energy costs per year.

Community Partnerships at the Fore

Bendix Acuña continues to expand its community support efforts as well, with a focus on education and social cohesion. Last month, the company launched a dual-education apprenticeship program with Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Acuña (ITSA), the technical university located next to the Bendix plant 4 site.

Each year, Bendix will provide scholarships to five students entering the last year of their university program. Their final year will include training at Bendix, largely in the new advanced manufacturing facility, working through a five-rotation program: manufacturing, quality, supply chain, operations, and maintenance.

“The program, with extensive hands-on teaching of the complex skill sets involved in engineering, is a good career path for these bright and motivated young people, while also representing a pipeline of potential employees for Bendix,” said Belem Fierro, HR manager at Bendix Acuña. “Currently, Bendix is the only local company engaged in such a partnership with ITSA. We’re proud to work with our neighbor to help prepare the next generation for the workforce.”

The program with ITSA is the latest in a line of educational initiatives. Others have included the creation of a unique, 180-hour light manufacturing technical course for at-risk youth in Acuña and several projects targeting gender equality, such as the Xbus project of Opciones Dignas for reducing biases in young children and women empowerment entrepreneurial workshops. Another similar partnership with a local vocational high school, CECyTEC, included construction of an advanced industrial production laboratory and establishing a dual-education apprenticeship program for four students annually.

Education happens internally at Bendix Acuña, as well. The multi-plant operation has offered on-site elementary, middle, and high school educational opportunities, taught by certified teachers who tutor and administer state-mandated exams. Hundreds of employees have graduated through these classes in the past 25 years.

As with personal development, investing in the professional development of employees is a priority at the Acuña location. Production employees follow development plans – which include training and certification – to guide their career paths within the company. And since 2019, the Bendix site has also operated a robust leadership development program aimed at supervisors and managers, as well as employees who are seen to have potential for those roles. The program, which includes training in soft skills, consists of two levels that take six months each to complete. Skills taught include teamwork, conflict management, recognition, communicating instructions to teams, and effective execution.

Community involvement dates back to the plant’s founding. Over the years, Bendix Acuña employees have helped rebuild homes for tornado survivors and supported the local Relay For Life cancer fundraisers; local sports teams; and the competitive robotics team at Del Rio High School in Del Rio, Texas, Acuña’s sister city across the U.S. border.

Other recent examples of Bendix Acuña community support include funding to provide equipment and supplies to a local vocational high school in support of its technical nursing education program, with additional funding to build two new classrooms for the program; and a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) bootcamp for young women in Mexico to help close the gender gap in STEM careers. The efforts were led by project champions from the Acuña campus and made possible with grants through Knorr-Bremse Global Care North America (KBGCNA), a philanthropic arm of Knorr-Bremse.

About Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC

Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, a member of Knorr-Bremse, develops and supplies leading-edge active safety technologies, energy management solutions, and air brake charging and control systems and components under the Bendix® brand name for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, tractors, trailers, buses, and other commercial vehicles throughout North America. An industry pioneer, employing more than 4,400 people, Bendix – and its wholly owned subsidiary, R.H. Sheppard Co., Inc. – is driven to deliver the best solutions for improved vehicle safety, performance, and overall operating cost. Contact us at 1-800-AIR-BRAKE (1-800-247-2725) or visit bendix.com. Stay connected and informed through Bendix expert podcasts, blog posts, videos, and other resources at knowledge-dock.com. Follow Bendix on X, formerly known as Twitter, at twitter.com/Bendix_CVS. Log on and learn from the Bendix experts at brake-school.com. And to learn more about career opportunities at Bendix, visit bendix.com/careers.

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