How space management achieves the SDGs, promotes ESG

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The Skypod, a three-dimensional, robotic picking system created by IHI in collaboration with EXOTEC, travels freely in various directions and manoeuvres racks to pick and transport items to stations

As business models change with the climate and the world at large, developers and manufacturers in Thailand turn to the power of people-centric, sustainable technological solutions so no one gets left behind

With the race to keep climate change from crossing the point of no return, the United Nations (UN) has been holding countries to account worldwide through its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For the same reason, profit-making organisations are changing the very ways they conduct business in adherence to environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.

In Thailand, the SDGs are melded into the very economy. This year, the country signed the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, designed to help achieve milestones of the draft National Economic and Social Development Plan. Also, this year, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) announced that it would use ESG to counter many challenges to the Thai capital’s development.

Japanese engineering corporation IHI Group has found fertile ground in Thailand for executing its newly minted ESG management policies as well as promoting the SDGs. Many real estate and industrial companies in Thailand are still short-sighted with regards to their business ends, prioritising profit over people and the planet.

“Hopefully, through the conversation of ESGs and SDGs, that notion will start to slowly change,” says Kaj Miyake, general manager for sales and marketing at IHI Asia Pacific (Thailand) Co., Ltd.

Bundling IHI’s robust technology in hardware and software, the Super Square Parking System is a next-generation parking solution that minimises waiting times and waste of space

Last year, IHI announced its ESG management policies, laid in place by the corporation’s Project Change initiative in 2020. Guided by these ESG principles, IHI seeks to create a world where nature and technology work in unity, tackling social issues, creating social value, and raising the company’s corporate value.

In doing so, IHI joins many companies worldwide in the forward march to ESG transparency. More than 90% of S&P 500 companies now publish ESG reports in some form, according to a report by the management consultancy McKinsey.

The use of IHI’s products creates a people-driven, eco-conscious future for a country that is urbanising fast by the day. For instance, IHI’s automated parking systems reduce the average idle time seeking for a parking space in Bangkok from 15 minutes to 5 minutes a day. Over the span of a year, these cumulative actions lead to a reduction of approximately 50 tons of CO2.

From the outset, the carbon emissions of IHI products are significantly lower than comparable products on the market. “Through our manufacturing techniques, we are trying to reduce the amount of carbon emissions, not just in terms of the use, but throughout the life cycle of the product itself,” says Miyake. “From the manufacturing all the way to the after-sales portion of the product, we are trying to make sure that there is less emission of CO2.”

First popularised in Japan, the IHI Elevator Parking System is now optimising building sites around the world

Developers of high-density residential blocks in a land-scarce city like Bangkok have come to appreciate the merits of IHI’s automated parking systems, first popularised in Tokyo in the early 1960s. One developer in the city’s busy Asoke area, for example, utilises IHI’s environmentally friendly, tower-type elevator parking system, which features a traffic queue management system. Meanwhile, a development in the Asoke-Ratchada area successfully combines IHI’s automated parking system with a conventional parking area.

When utilised well, IHI’s automated parking systems free up a considerable amount of space for projects on relatively small plots. “By utilising these automated parking systems, residential developments have bigger common areas and rooms.”

Built to last, IHI’s parking solutions appeal to developers with a good set of ESG objectives and strong faith in the SDGs. In a way, an IHI product is a bargain. “For a certain amount of money, we guarantee the product’s quality for the upcoming 10 to 15 years,” says Miyake. “And it’s a proven quality, too. We are providing the exact same thing as it is in Japan.”

Unlike residential developers, manufacturers in Thailand tend to work with larger sites. Manned by cheap labour, old industrial estates are usually big enough to host their own storage yards, housing finished goods and keeping stock control within the manufacturers’ scope of responsibility. For perspective, their counterparts in Japan are more willing to delegate stock control to third parties.

But then came Covid-19. “Through this pandemic, people realise that labours are no longer as reliable as they thought,” says Miyake. “Sometimes they have to shut the factory because of labour shortages. Also, people realise that, compared to the rest of Southeast Asia, Thai labours are no longer that cheap, and land itself is becoming scarce in the industrial zone, too.”

IHI’s Automated Retrieval and Storage System is designed for a wide range of applications from cold storage to e-commerce distribution

IHI’s logistics automation systems offer savvy solutions to this dilemma. Unmanned and autonomous, these systems don’t rely on labour; they utilise the land they already sit on in the most efficient way possible. They also spare people from handling dangerous substances and backbreakingly heavy materials, as well as exposure to extreme conditions such as areas for frozen food.

Even in Thailand, IHI adheres to the most stringent Japanese regulations on the use of labour. The company makes sure not to utilise child labour or underpaid, illegal workers especially in factory environments where it does installation works. “We try to respect workers as individuals and human beings rather than just try to pay money and let them go,” says Miyake.

IHI’s solutions for manufacturers are produced in a country with great regard for the health, safety, and welfare of workers. “All our supply chains are in Japan, and we do closely monitor them so that they don’t breach human rights,” says Miyake.

In many ways, ESG is a time-honoured concept known by other names to IHI. Tomiji Hirano, founder of IHI’s predecessor Ishikawajima Hirano Shipyard, once told followers to “use the power of technology to promote industry” and advance Japan.

More: How automated parking solves land scarcity in Bangkok

Almost two centuries later, his words ring true. Big energy players around the world, including those in Thailand, are getting inspiration from the company’s recent initiatives like the Soma IHI Green Energy Centre in Fukushima Prefecture. The centre produces electricity, equivalent to that of 500 households, without any carbon emission or large-scale equipment use. In addition, IHI is developing lightweight, heat-resistant materials called CMC (ceramic matrix composites) that improve the fuel efficiency of jet engines as the aviation industry’s carbon emissions come into focus.

There will be more such initiatives to come. The company has existed for 170 years—its parking system technology alone for 70 years—allowing it room to make mistakes and learn from them, resulting in better products that better the world.

“In comparison to rest of the competitors, that’s definitely our strength,” says Miyake. “So, we know these small know-hows, and we know how to make the system survive to fit the needs of the client in the long run.”

For more information on IHI, gold sponsor of the PropertyGuru Thailand Property Awards, please visit the official IHI site

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