According to the The US Environmental Protection Agency, “sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products, through economically-sound processes that minimise negative environmental impacts, while conserving energy and natural resources.”
This is a succinct and accurate definition. But it doesn’t even begin to show the scope of impact sustainability has had and will continue to have on the manufacturing industry in the coming years.
No longer limited to niche ‘green’ businesses, manufacturers across a number of sectors are now actively exploring opportunities in sustainable energy management.
This is not surprising. Sustainability practices address many of the major sources of waste, overage, and cost inefficiencies associated with manufacturing, including overproduction, extra processing, logistics issues, defects, as well as better sourcing and use of sustainable energy resources.
How Manufacturing will become more sustainable
We made a list of the 7 Reasons why Manufacturing will have to become more sustainable:
1. As manufacturers recognise the advantages of sustainable production, more companies will embrace clean energy technologies like wind and solar like German manufacturer ABB. Not only does their on-site solar facility meet all of their factory needs, on a sunny day they feed surplus power back into the grid.
2. As an added benefit, the factory is now only tenuously dependent on the traditional power grid, allowing them independence from possible work stoppage if that power system goes down.
This kind of energy flexibility will allow manufacturers to move into a new role within the electrical value chain, one where they become independent and active participants with the ability to take an advantageous central role, using the energy they need, and trading away the energy remaining to further decrease operating costs.
The value of this kind of independence is easy to recognise in a time when so many manufacturers are struggling with kinks in other parts of their supply chain.
3. Emergencies – whether they be manmade or natural – can cause significant disruptions, as we’re all now discovering as the COVID-19 pandemic works its way around the globe.
4. New environmental regulations will continue to play a part in changes within manufacturing, too. Good examples of this are the recent International Electrochemical Commission (IEC) ruling IEC 61249-2-21 which sets the standards for halogen-free manufacturing processes, as well as carbon management standards.
5. E-waste can be another issue. Many products like circuit boards contain cadmium, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, or flame retardants that can leach into the soil. Making full use of a component’s life cycle or partnering with a reputable reseller that can buy your still viable products rather than discarding them, can significantly reduce the amount of E-waste your company produces.
6. Manufacturers that embrace sustainable practices may find there are other, less obvious benefits associated with the change. Organisations that include sustainability as part of their marketing efforts will often be rewarded with better sales. According to the NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business, between 2013 and 2018 sales for products that were marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than their conventional counterparts. Consumers are voting with their money – and they are voting for sustainability.
7. Additionally, sustainability can be used as a recruiting tool. As manufacturing industries struggle to replace aging baby boom generation, they must increasingly appeal to millennials to fill empty positions. In multiple surveys by Fast Company, millennials have been unequivocal: a company’s sustainability policy factors into how long, or even if, they’ll work for that organisation. More than 10% of millennial workers even said they would be willing to take up to a $10.000 pay cut to work for an environmentally responsible company.
Finally, sustainability practices offer a significant return on investment. Even something as low-tech as switching to LED lighting can reap an energy savings of 90% while providing a better quality product. Your company can explore and find even more savings by assembling an energy team and setting SMART energy management goals that can be implemented and reviewed annually.
Get to know one of the IT solutions that give added value to the service of the energy manager in Manufacturing: DEXMA Platform.
Editor’s Note: This original guest article was published here with kind permission from the author, Marla Keene.
Technology writer Marla Keene works for AX Control Inc, an industrial automation supplier located in North Carolina. Her articles have been featured on Medium, JaxEnter.com, and Allbusiness.com. Before working for AX Control, Marla spent twelve years running her own small business.
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