MOUNT OLIVE, NJ - BASF Corp. Executive Vice President Frank E. McKulka, addressing a "Greening the Environmental Supply Chain" workshop panel discussion at a conference in Seattle, said suppliers to the automotive industry are responding to a mandate to provide environmentally friendly product solutions while keeping costs down and quality at high levels.

McKulka, reviewing BASF's "ECO2" product-development initiative during the EnvironDesign 6 Conference, said the BASF program's objectives are harmonization of economic and ecological objectives in the development of innovative products, technologies and systems.

"Improving environmental friendliness is basically an industry-wide standard, since the automotive manufacturers are driving this requirement down the supply chain," McKulka said. "So whether your customer is a 'Big Three' company or one of its tier suppliers, the ability to come to the table with environmental-related innovations is mandatory. In addition, environmental innovations must be accompanied by quality performance and continuously reducing costs," he said.

The results of BASF's ECO2 initiative include the development of the company's "Integrated Process" automotive coating system, where coatings consumption is cut by 20% and the energy required for cure is significantly reduced. The process eliminates a bake step following primer application and also allows a lower-temperature and shorter bake for the final finish. The company also has introduced the DynaSeal UV-thermal cure sealer for coating of sheet-molded composites, which is designed to prevent coating defects and reduce material and energy consumption.

McKulka also described BASF's "Eco-Efficiency Analysis" tool, which entails a scientific study of the entire lifecycle of a product or process. These analyses evaluate factors such as energy use; raw-materials use; environmental and safety issues related to manufacturing, storage and transportation; health impacts; and emissions.