Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why Green Manufacturing? (Part 4) Some Examples.

There are a number of companies already addressing some of the green manufacturing challenges ... and there are many who are not (yet).

We'll take a little lighter look at green in this posting. Let's start with what folks are saying in the name of green.

The 'term of art' is "greenwashing" - I referred to a site that has a greenwashing index (ranging from authentic to bogus) in the blog posted on July 20th.

According to Wikipedia (and I don't consider this as an academic source of information but it is a popular, and easy, one!) greenwashing is "a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly" ( It includes the "six sins of greenwashing" from Terrachoice (see to help you determine is something is, or is not, greenwashing. I note, parenthetically, that these sites are very popular with my students at Berkeley and, I suspect, with many others as well and actually serve a very useful educational (or at least awareness) purpose. And, they are smack on in most cases! And, some of the ads and videos posted are thought provoking and, for sure, amusing. Andy Warhol said "Art is what you can get away with." Ditto for advertising. Unfortunately also ditto for much green advertising.

We've all been in hotel rooms with the placard about reusing our towels to save water and detergent. That is usually next to the heated mirror or, in the case of one hotel I stayed in recently in a foreign country, the electric toilet which required the use of buttons/electric motors to accomplish simple tasks - like raising the seat! What's wrong with this picture?!

A recent advert for a lawnmower with an exceptionally tight turning radius proclaimed it was green because you could cut your lawn in less time (due to fewer maneuvers I suppose) thanks to this feature. Let's be clear. Things that are done in the normal course of product or process improvement to enhance productivity, reduce cost, etc. should not really be claimed as green. We'd like to think that smart manufacturers follow a path of continuous improvement anyways.

If, however, you consider the impact of any process changes or improvements on the environment, or energy consumption, or green house gas emission, water use, etc as part of your continuous improvement - that counts. And, if you make decisions on how your improvements or modifications evolve with that impact in mind, that's green.

This is not always a clear decision. If I run a copier company, and I change my business strategy to take back used toner cartridges from my customers, re-manufacture (or at least refill them) and send them back out as part of the normal resupply (at no cost penalty) that is smart business. If I can lower the price a bit due to my savings and gain market share that's even better. And, good for the environment. I'd probably call that green - even though the major impetus for this was perhaps not environmental impact. But, if in the tradeoff analysis between the materials, energy, transportation, handling, etc. expended in providing virgin toner cartridges vs re-covering used ones and returning them to service shows that the reuse is also better on all these counts- that's green.

In my classes, I use a couple of examples of companies that are pursuing this with a passion and are consistent with green principles (which we've not clearly defined but let's let that go for the moment). Suffice it to say, they are not greenwashing.

Prominent in this list is Interface Carpets (see and the link on sustainability). Interface was very early in this movement, defined a corporate strategy, defined metrics for measuring how they are doing and tried to include a balance of the three legs of sustainability in their approach - social, economic and environmental. And they report their progress annually. Their CEO, Ray Anderson, developed "Ecometrics" as the term for their measurement system to track their progress. These indicators include waste reduction, renewable energy, carbon emissions, water and energy usage, and percentage of recycled and biobased materials in products. Much more detail on their site including data on the reduction of energy used per unit of product manufactured, waste diverted landfills, etc. They are green manufacturers and one of the leaders of developing a business strategy for green manufacturing and, eventually, sustainability. Some may argue that "carpets are not semiconductors" so this is easy to do this in such an industry. Not fair. The principles they are developing and following are applicable across a wide range of industries of varying complexities.

Green coal is another story and a good example of the confusion over what is green. I won't weigh in on this but just Google "clean coal" and you'll get several screens full of various opinions. And the subtle mix of "clean" and "green" is even more interesting.

You can do your own research on this. But, awareness of the issues is step one and I hope that the material above will help with that. We'll speak more about metrics and tradeoffs in the future.

Next time we move beyond "What is green manufacturing."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Green Manufacturing? The next great leap forward! (Part 3)

Last time part of the discussion included the comment that regardless of your feelings towards the severity of the situation, there are forces moving to make it more and more expensive and difficult to continue "business as usual". This is only one of the motivators for embodying green manufacturing. Reduction of waste (in any form) is desirable. Henry Ford (yes ... that Ford) said over 80 years ago in his book "Today and Tomorrow" (1926) that "…we will not so lightly waste material simply because we can reclaim it— for salvage involves labour. The ideal is to have nothing to salvage." What a great restatement of green manufacturing!

Any one who has parents who lived through the great depression (the one in the 30's that is) will have observed their behavior with respect to resources. My dad, who was a just out of high school during the depression, set a high standard for use, reuse, repair, life extension - the whole package. One of his remarks, when observing something that, to me, had little use was "it will come in handy even if we never use it!" He was a tool and die maker, then department supervisor for John Deere Horicon Works in Wisconsin. He got me interested in manufacturing as a kid by taking my brother and I to "the shop" on Saturday morning so he could see what the second shift on Friday night had accomplished in the tool room. They certainly subscribed to Henry's philosophy and he'd be very upset today to see the throwaway society we've evolved into.

I suspect that Henry Ford's observation was less motivated by his concern for the environment (I won't touch that one) than with his concern for wasting money. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, if you review the major leaps forward in manufacturing over the last several hundred years they were prompted by, first, a realization of the cost of something that had been considered "free" or of insignificant value, second, of a way to modify or fix the procedures or system to remove that cost and realize the savings (meaning - convert to money) and, third, reduce the price of the product/increase the quality or functionality of the product manufactured reflecting this savings. In the case of folks building things off shore, and subject to the whims of exchange rates, etc., they would use this new found savings to insure themselves against currency swings or other export related challenges.

What am I speaking of? Let's review some of these big leaps.

The evolution of manufacturing in terms of productivity, flexibility, response time, work philosophy or business model, and market responsiveness/customer “pull” shows the evidence of tremendous changes from the earliest organized industry or manufacturing in the 1800s up to today. These changes correspond to distinct periods of production. These periods can be characterized as the craft period, mass production period, flexible production period and lean manufacturing period as follows:
  • Craft production: In the early days of industry, skilled workers, or artisans, worked on a variety of machines to create specially built products with high labor input. Very little mechanization was available, and these artisans were completely on their own in terms of process planning, timing, and techniques used.
  • Mass production: The late 1800s to early 1900s saw the development of mass production. (or example Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, or Henry Ford and the assembly line) Mass production yielded a dramatic reduction in direct labor (at the expense of the craftsman), higher production rates, more control of the process, ability to satisfy larger customer demand, interchangeable parts, and the first elements of automation. The cost per piece dropped substantially as a result. F. W. Taylor was a driver of this also.
  • Flexible production: In the 1980s, thanks to visionaries like Eugene Merchant in the United States, and Japanese manufacturers like Taiichi Ono and the Toyota Production System (among others) the efficiency of these production systems increased tremendously. Unnecessary operations are done apart from the manufacturing process on the machine, resulting in high levels of machine availability and utilization. This is due, in part, to computers and clever methods of preparing workpieces and tooling for the machine offline, while assuring quality and accuracy.
  • Lean Manufacturing and “Mass Personalization”: The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the introduction of true response to customer demands. This came because of the ability to manufacture customized products in small quantities with mass production efficiency and short lead times (that is, the time from when an order is placed to when the product is delivered). Strict quality methods insure the “first part correct,” built on Ohno’s ideas and the quality control methodology taught by W. Edwards Deming and others. These methods eliminated backup stock, inventory, and the cost associated with keeping mounds of parts and products available to cover manufacturing faults or an inability to plan for or respond to customer demand. That is, make it right - don't stock extras to cover mistakes or out of control processes.
Each of these changes noted above occurred because of a realization that an improved system of manufacturing could be attained if the system was “designed and optimized” based on an understanding of some new criteria. These criteria included more control of the process and standardization introduced by Henry Ford, better use of manufacturing machinery and increased productivity introduced by Taiichi Ohno, and reduced inventory and buffer stocks for quality production, the ideas of Edwards Deming and Taiichi Ohno. And, they all had a monetary value that could be assigned to do the required "cost-benefit" analysis.

What is the next big change? I believe it will be a move to account for the "embedded costs" associated with energy, carbon footprint, re-use and re-manufacturing leading closer to sustainable production. But, how will this be accomplished?

The motivation for this change is the need to include the true cost of producing goods, from the point of resource extraction to the end of life and reuse or recycling, in the cost of the products. This true cost is more than the “value added” through these stages (which one might argue is already included, according to the best of capitalism).

The environmental and social costs associated with the lifecycle need to be added as well. This will not be easy; we don’t purport that all the information or tools needed to do this exist today. We need to incorporate costs for all the embedded energy, materials and other resources, labor, impacts on the environment, and accompanying social requirements and impacts (among others) in the price of the product. Then, when consumers purchase a new computer, automobile, airplane ticket, machine tool, or other goods, they will “see” the true impact of that product reflected in the price. Just like the Ford website listing grams of CO2/km traveled of a vehicle.

Furthermore, on that basis, they can shop around. Today, the cost of recycling or disposal, often covered by local governments or whoever is paid to pick up the trash at the curb every week, is not reflected in the cost of the product. Tomorrow it most likely will be. We better anticipate all of these costs - just as Ohno did when thinking about lean manufacturing.

We will be speaking about means to estimate these costs, metrics for assessing tradeoffs between alternate means of production, design of machines and equipment for green manufacturing and so forth in upcoming blogs. Stay tuned!

And, again, those that incorporate "environmental economics" in the design and production of their products are likely to be ahead of their competition.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why Green Manufacturing? (Part 2)

Last time we discussed some of the motivators for companies paying attention to green manufacturing - that is, drivers for incorporating green in your business strategy. I have posted, on my lab's website, a set of slides presented recently to an industry group meeting titled "Challenges & Opportunities for Sustainable Manufacturing: Green as a Competitive Advantage" (see and click on the image in "featured work" for a pdf download). You'll see some familiar material there but this will be useful background for some of our discussions from the last posting, today and future postings on "Why Green Manufacturing?" I will post more material in the future to back up this discussion.

All the data on energy consumption, global temperatures, CO2 levels in the atmosphere, other impacts of industrialization and population growth head up and to the right in the graphs...meaning things are moving toward more challenging conditions. You may or may not fully agree with the predictions but, from the perspective of cost of energy, availability of energy, cost of treatment/disposal of waste products, etc. things will get more expensive. And, as mentioned in the previous posting, legislation marches on. The recent deliberations in the US Congress have a goal to reduce CO2 emissions from utilites, manufacturers and other emitters by 83% by 2050 and envision some form of cap and trade program (see

Regardless of your feelings towards the severity of the situation, there are forces moving to make it more and more expensive and difficult to continue "business as usual" with respect to environmental impacts of manufacturing around the world. We should be prepared and use this to our advantage.

Consider where something, say an auto, is manufactured. One can make a simple analysis of energy needed to make an automobile. This is called "embodied energy" and expressed in units of kWh and is a representation of the energy needed to make the car, not to operate it, the so called manufacturing phase not use phase requirements. Then, through the magic of conversions, we can estimate the green house gases (GHG) attributable to that embodied energy by converting from kWh to GHG using factors that are based on the source of the electricity; that is, from coal or other carbon-based energy sources, or hydro, solar or wind and other renewable sources, or nuclear. Carbon based energy has a higher GHG impact than renewable. This allows us to see the impact of where we manufacture something. Interestingly, making the same vehicle in different places (depending on the energy mix) will result in dramatically different GHG output. If you'd like to see the data on this...send me a note...I can send the links.

Let's look at some examples. If I build my "typical auto" in France, which has most of its electrical energy generated in nuclear plants, the GHG impact of manufacturing that auto will be about one seventh that of building it in the US, or less than one tenth that of building it in China. If we zoom in on the US we see great differences between states also. Building a car in California with its mix of renewable energy vs Kentucky with its dependence on coal fired plants means a factor of 4 difference in GHG impact between the same manufacturing process - only based on location. Maybe manufacturing automobiles in California is not such a wild idea!

So why does this matter? Regulations already exist that apply penalties for excessive GHG emission in products during the use phase. For example, if you want to buy an auto in France you will see listed, along with fuel consumption in liters/km, the GHG generated in units of grams of CO2/km traveled. The auto adverts on the web in France are in French (!) but here is one for a Ford site in the UK. CO2 emission is listed in g/km and you can compare performance over a range of engines ( And, if you buy a vehicle with a large engine that emits GHG above a certain level you'll pay more. If you buy one below a certain level, you pay less. Same manufacturer, same quality vehicle, same operation, same manufacturing process - but costs more if it emits more GHG in operation. This will happen in due time for manufacturing based on embedded energy in the product due to manufacture (that is, embedded energy in the materials, water, energy, consumables, etc.)

If your product is a machine tool your customer will worry about (because it may affect the cost) the energy and resources used to build the machine tool. And then, when it is installed in the factory, the customer will be worried about how much energy the machine uses in its "use phase". And then there is the transportation cost from the manufacturing site to the distribution site and customer. We should include those impacts as well.

And so it goes! The smart manufacturer will optimize where to build the product in terms of energy mix and transportation costs to the consumer. We probably need to add availability of water and the energy cost of providing that as well. These kinds of considerations will, in my opinion, greatly influence the location of manufacturing (and, hopefully, offset some of the fascination with low labor costs as the sole determiner of location).

Paraphrasing Lord Kelvin, "If you can't measure what you make, you don't know if you've made it or not." We need to be able to understand and measure the resources used in our products and their use. Then we can make informed decisions about their design, distribution and utilization. This really encourages us to think about the life cycle costs of energy and consumables in the manufacture of a product - an important driver for green manufacturing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why Green Manufacturing? (Part 1)

It is important to define, as best as we are able, why it is important to focus on green manufacturing. Green manufacturing is an important part of business. And business must be analyzed "holistically" - that is, let's not fiddle with just little parts. Do it right for the whole system. Here's what Paul Hawken and the Lovins said in Natural Capital (Little Brown, 1999, pp. x-xi):
"Without a fundamental rethinking of the structure and the reward system of commerce, narrowly focused eco-efficiency could be a disaster for the environment by overwhelming resource savings with even larger growth in production of the wrong materials, in the wrong place, at the wrong scale, and delivered using the wrong business models."
They go on to say that the best solutions are not simply some kind of tradeoff between the objectives of economic, environment and social capital (recall our definition of sustainable?) but an integrated approach at all levels from "technical devices to production systems to companies to economic sectors to entire cities and societies" (same source).

Sounds like manufacturing is a big part of that.

OK, let's say you are not impressed with these guys' opinion. Think about the following in response to a question "why should industry care?":

  • Pressure from Government (and let's think global ... EU, Asia, US, South America, the whole world's governments - yes, even the UN) in terms of regulations, penalties, tax benefits or obligations. The EU has been very proactive here; US is working on it (reference recent legislation working its way through Congress; China, for example, is working hard on new regulations for both domestic industry and imports.
  • Interest in Efficiency/Reduced CoO (remember Deming?) His principles apply here. Waste is waste; reduced cost of ownership (CoO) is still the mantra in most industries (check out the semiconductor industry where this is the motivator). Time is is money...consumables are money. If you can make the same product using fewer resources/energy that seems like a good strategy.
  • Scarcity of resources/risk; if you need water for your product and, suddenly, you can't get it in the quantities you need for manufacturing ... this is a problem! And a risk to your business. Or, more likely, one of your suppliers will experience this. The vulnerability to this risk may be noted by your investors or lenders. This is not an abstract concern. We need to be able to assess these risks. Green manufacturing applies to resource availability as well as energy and emissions.
  • Continuous Improvement (back to Deming!); while we are working to improve our systems and processes let's integrate green practices as well.
  • Pressure from Society/Consumers/Customers (Not to mention your kids!) Your customers may not be able to define it, but if you can't show a serious effort in green manufacturing they may go to someone who does; and it may be for a variety of reasons ... but why take that chance?
  • Pressure from Competitors; if they can do it, and win market share and be profitable as part of an integrated strategy in their business - shouldn't you? Let's not repeat the mistakes of past industries who felt they were isolated from (or simply misread) the shifting market or the consumers demand for higher quality/performance/reliability at a competitive price.

We'll continue this in part 2 (as part of a series of "n" posts on "why green manufacturing?" where n is a small number!)

Future posts will include more details on how to assess what you need to do, examples of companies who are working on this in a serious way, and examples of doing the wrong thing (just Google the term "greenwashing" to see - or go to as an example - more on this later!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Defining terms

One of the challenges in studying green manufacturing is the definition of terms. And one of the toughest terms to define is "sustainability". I consider green as a subset of sustainability (and, thus, green manufacturing as a subset of sustainable manufacturing). The term "sustainable" is heavily used, and mostly misused, today.

We could start with a more academic definition derived, for example, from early United Nations studies (like the Brundtland Commission, 1983, formally called World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED)) but a simple definition has been offered by the Japanese copier company Ricoh and can be found on their website (updated 3/26/13). Ricoh defines sustainability, in terms of development and progress, as follows: "We are aiming to create a society whose environmental impact is below the level that the self-recovery capability of the natural environment can deal with." And they go on to give a simple example: "For example, the reduction target of CO2 emissions is generally based on the 1990 emission level, but in the future we need to limit emissions based on the estimated emission level that the self-recovery capability of the Earth could deal with.”

So this definition points out the key elements: there is a strong social component in addition to the usual business and environmental emphasis (we usually define three "legs" to sustainability as economic benefits, environmental benefits, and social benefits), there is a comparison to a "sustainable level" that has natural roots (for example the ability of the environment to accomodate the inputs/impacts we make to it), and the need to adjust our level of impact to be consistent with that. And, Ricoh illustrates the need to adjust the target to insure we stay within acceptable levels of impact - that is, adjust our definition of the level of sustainability we are aim targeting.

This offers real challenges to engineers, specially with respect to manufacture and production of goods. If we are not today operating at a "sustainable level" (think Ricoh example and the level of energy/material/water/other resources used for manufacturing or the impacts of manufacture) then we need to adjust our processes, systems and enterprises to get to that level over time.

This is not easy. With population growth and the accompanying growth in demand (even in the teeth of a recession!) just "business as usual" will drive increased unsustainable trends. This means we need to have a compounded reduction in our impact/use that considers both the increases in demand and the difference between a sustainable and unsustainable level of consumption/impact. This mismatch is the so-called "wedge" pointed out by the excellent paper on stabilization wedges (Pacala and Sokolow, 2004. ). I've written about the use of these wedges of technology by manufacturers to provide a set of solutions to the mismatch between where we are today and where we need to be in the future (we'll get to that in due time!).

Green manufacturing deals with technologies and solutions that provide these wedges - help to "turn the supertanker" if you will and, ideally, with enough wedges we transition from business as usual to a sustainable level of impact/consumption. And, our premise is that this can be done to our competitive advantage and profitably.

We'll pick here next time.

FYI Department: Check out the article by Alan Richter in "Cutting Tool Engineering", July 2009 edition on "Power Down - Reducing a machine tool's energy consumption helps achieve 'green manufacturing'" -; good overview and he includes some of the conversation he and I had on the subject.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Green Manufacturing

Welcome to the green manufacturing blog. This is something I've been thinking about for some time...mostly due to the lack of information about manufacturing processes, systems and enterprises on green technologies, tools and metrics and examples of good, and not so good, implementations of green technology.

The contents come from a variety of sources ranging from magazine or other news articles (web or paper), technical journals and magazines, contacts with industry practitioners, and, most importantly, my students at UC Berkeley.

Our lab, Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability (LMAS -, is researching green manufacturing topics ranging from manufacturing process and system technologies for the energy sector, methods and tools for implementing green manufacturing, machine tool and process studies for assessing energy, materials and other resource (including water) use in manufacturing, green supply chains and design tools for enabling green manufacturing.

Although not easy to define, we are also working on sustainable manufacturing.

More to come.

Thanks for reading!

Dave Dornfeld