Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions. This increasing eco-consciousness has resulted in businesses making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and implement sustainable manufacturing practices. A growing number of companies are manufacturing products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources. Embracing more sustainable practices may help businesses gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. These practices also often enhance employee, community and product safety.
What is sustainable manufacturing?
Sustainable manufacturing involves the creation of products through economically sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts and conserve energy and natural resources while enhancing employee, community and product safety. It promotes minimizing and/or elimination of production and processing wastes through eco-efficient practices and the adoption of new environmental technologies. Sustainable manufacturing seeks to balance social, economic and environmental factors.
Why do companies pursue sustainable manufacturing?
There are a number of reasons that companies implement sustainable manufacturing practices.
- To increase operational efficiency by reducing costs and waste
- To respond to/reach new customers and increase competitive advantage
- To protect and strengthen brand reputation and build public trust
- To build long-term business viability and success
- To respond to regulatory constraints and opportunities
What are the best practices for reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing processes?
The following are effective steps that companies can undertake to reduce the environmental impact of their manufacturing processes.
- Analyze your current environmental impact: Check your energy usage. Consider water usage in your manufacturing processes. Look at the materials you’re using. What is recyclable? What is hazardous? Undertake an LCA (life-cycle assessment). This comprehensive analysis of your processes from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal helps identify areas of production that have the greatest environmental impact, providing the information needed to implement measures for reduction.
- Conduct an energy audit: An energy audit helps identify areas where energy is wasted, helping a company decide how to reduce overall consumption.
- Optimize/reduce your use of fossil fuels: As industry is a major contributor of C02 emissions, consider switching to renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydropower, OR geothermal) to significantly reduce your carbon footprint. This will provide long-term cost savings (through lower energy bills and less exposure to volatile fuel prices) and reduce your environmental impact.
- Invest in energy-efficient technology: Investigate upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment and technologies (LED lighting, better HVAC system, energy efficient motors/drives, etc.) lowering costs and reducing your footprint.
- Consider an energy management system to monitor and manage energy consumption in real-time, allowing the identification of opportunities for improvement and optimizing energy usage.
- Implement energy-saving practices: Turn off equipment when not in use. Keep equipment clean and maintained. Use natural light when possible. Check the insulation factor of the building. Reduce the close delay time frame on automatic doors. Limit the frequency of cool room access. Simple practices such as these can reduce consumption and lower costs.
- Decrease pollution: Implement pollution prevention practices (e-waste management, product lifecycle management, use of eco-friendly materials, pollution control measures, proper chemical handling, optimization of processes, new technologies, capturing/treating pollutants, wastewater treatment, etc.). A pollution monitoring program that tracks your environmental impact (air emissions, water discharges, waste streams) can help identify opportunities for improvement. Partner with regulatory agencies to identify opportunities for pollution prevention. Participate in programs that promote sustainable manufacturing practices.
- Reduce waste production: Implement a waste reduction program. Design your products for sustainability. Implement lean manufacturing principles and use technology to optimize processes. This will conserve resources and minimize your environmental impact.
- Recycle: Consider using recycled materials, implementing closed-loop processes, implementing a waste management system, partnering with suppliers and educating workers. This will lower production costs and reduce environmental impact.
- Try sustainable supply chain management, incorporating eco-friendly practices in your supply chain life cycle, from product design and development to steps such as material selection, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, warehousing, distribution, consumption, return and disposal.
- Use smart manufacturing software to help carry out green production. This technology-driven approach utilizes Internet-connected machinery to monitor the production process. The goal is to identify opportunities for automating operations and use data analytics to improve manufacturing performance.
- Develop sustainability policies/procedures that enlist the help of employees. Invest in training for workers on best practices and the importance of sustaining the environment. Discuss ways to conserve resources and reduce waste. Develop a company-wide recycling program.
Sustainable manufacturing practices are good for the environment, improve brand reputation and attract an ever-increasing number of eco-conscious users. They allow companies to stay competitive in an increasingly environmentally aware market. It does not matter whether you are a small custom factory or a big manufacturing plant, as manufacturers you can choose sustainability and adopt best practices for reducing your environmental impact.
Interested in reducing your environmental impact? Wish to increase sustainability in your manufacturing processes? Contact Calgary-based Innovative Manufacturing Source (IMS). Our team of knowledgeable, skilled, dedicated people offer unsurpassed service and product. We serve you through in-house manufacturing capabilities completed on state-of-the-art equipment. Call us at 403.279.7702 Let us be your premier partner and provider of Electronic Manufacturing Services for all of your manufacturing needs. We support customer-specific requirements on all our products.