The importance of sustainability in manufacturing is growing at an exponential pace. The US Department of Commerce defines sustainable manufacturing as “the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimise negative environmental impacts; conserve energy and natural resources; are safe for employees, communities and consumers; and are economically sound.” In this context, the term sustainable manufacturing includes the extraction, process and manufacturing industries.
Globally, consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, the percentage of people who believe that climate change is real and human-caused is up to 68%, and growing sharply. Concern over water quality, air quality, soil quality, oceanic “dead-zones,” plastic bottle islands and a host of other environmental issues is also rising sharply. These concerns are affecting consumer buying habits. According to a Nielsen study, the percentage of consumers who will pay more for sustainably produced products has risen sharply, increasing from 50% in 2014 to 55% in 2015 and an even sharper increase to 66% in 2016. The trend is consistently on the rise (figure 1).
Figure 1 – The percentage of consumers who are willing to pay for sustainably produced products is rising sharply
Additionally, according to the same Nielsen survey, millennials are even more oriented toward sustainably produced products. 73% of consumers who are under 34 years of age are willing to pay more for sustainably produced products as compared to 66% for the general population (figure 2). Early research indicates that the effect is even stronger fro generation Z, those born after 1995. The oldest of generation Z are just finishing college and entering the workforce in great numbers. We’ll have a much clearer picture of spending patterns in the years to come.
Figure 2 – Younger consumers are even more likely to be willing to pay more for sustainably produced products
A Production Life Cycle Assessment for the Sustainable Manufacturer
More and more manufacturers are seriously incorporating the considerations of sustainable manufacturing into their production life cycle strategies. Below is a tick list of questions designed to kick-start the discussions around sustainability in your own place production cycle.
- Are products designed to minimise materials used in their manufacture?
- Are products designed to maximise the amount of recycled materials in their manufacture?
- Are products designed to maximise the recyclability and/or biodegradability at the end of the products life cycle?
- Are products designed to minimise energy consumption during the lifecycle?
- Are products designed to maximise the use of renewable energy (e.g. solar panels)?
- Are products designed to minimise the use of hazardous materials in the manufacturing process?
- Are products designed to minimise effluent contamination into the air, waterways and soils?
- Are products designed to assure safety of the workers who produce them, the consumers who use them and society at large?
- Are production processes designed to minimise energy consumption?
- Are production process designed to maximise the use of renewable energy?
- Are production process designed to minimise the use of materials that are hazardous to the environment, workers and society at large?
- Are production processes designed to minimise the release of effluent contaminant to the air, waterways and soil?
- Are production processes designed to assure reliability, maintainability and operability so as to minimise the risk of harmful impacts to the environment, workers and society at large, and to proactively extend the useful life of the machines and systems utilised in the manufacturing process?
- Are production machines and systems designed to maximise reuse and/or recyclability at the end of the life cycle?
Raw Materials and Supply Chain
- Are raw materials responsibly extracted or harvested in a manner that minimises the risk of adverse effects on the environment, workers and society at large?
- Are nutrition raw materials responsibly grown and harvested in a manner that minimises the risk of adverse effects on the environment, workers and society at large?
- Do sustainable manufacturing organisations demand that their upstream suppliers employ sustainable manufacturing practices?
- Are logistical practices employed to minimise energy consumption and hazardous effluent into the air, water and soil?
- Do logistical transport methods maximise the use of renewable energy?
Changing consumer and industry focus, and a global shift towards environmental sustainability means that manufacturing needs to follow suit, changing and adapting to realise new standards of excellence in responsible practice. Join in the conversation at Mainstream Conference 2018 where you can hear Drew Troyer and other asset management thought-leaders discussing responsible manufacturing and other hot topics facing the industry right now.
About the Author
Drew D. Troyer has more than 25 years of practical experience as a reliability engineer and asset management thought-leader. An advisor to hundreds of blue chip clients in the manufacturing, mining and process industries, Drew brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and creativity to organisations to enable them to increase the productivity, safety and environmental performance of their engineered assets, while simultaneously reducing the cost of ownership.
Drew has authored more than 200 books, chapters, articles and technical papers on various aspects of reliability engineering and management. He’s created numerous training workshops, including Reliability Engineering in Dollars & $ense and Cut the FLAB with Proactive Maintenance, which focuses on fasteners, lubrication, alignment and balance – the foundation of equipment reliability. Drew holds the Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE), Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP), and MBA qualifications.
Drew is also passionate about land conservation and preserving our natural resources for future generations. He chairs the board of directors for the Compatible Lands Foundation, a nonprofit land trust. Pursuant to that passion, he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability at Harvard University.