Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ubiquitously Green - II

Sub title: Manufacture for Green and Sustainable Design

Last time we presented the concept of green design and manufacturing incorporating all the stages of the product from extraction of materials through the process of material conversion, to manufacture and assembly of the product, its distribution and delivery, use and eventual  reuse, remanufacture or recycling. The principles of green and sustainable manufacturing should be "everywhere at the same time; constantly encountered" - the meaning of ubiquitous. The motivation for this came from Dr. Yoon Lee of Samsung in California in a discussion we had on "consumerization" and green principles.

Part II of this discussion elaborates on this.

To make sustainable manufacturing an eventual reality, by taking small green steps in the design of our process and product along the full life cycle, we need to create the "equilibrium point" between the needs of the consumer and and creating lasting value. This comes from good design - with all the meaning of that word "design" intact along the entire product life cycle. An axiom of this is that there is no value to sustainability unless it delivers the design - meaning the product must function correctly with the required quality and reliability manufactured at the required cost while meeting the constraints of the "triple bottom line" of sustainability - economic, societal and environmental resources.

Ubiquitously green requires a certain fundamental basis for manufacturing at the design, process planning level and resource management level. On top of that foundation must be build an operational capability that incorporates correct choice and use of materials, consumables, minimization of waste in production, and so on. That gets the product or system built. This can be referred to as the "functional" level of our sustainability structure (or principles.)

Now we need to communicate that "value" to the customer and record our progress or impact. This requires two additional levels in our structure, on a more "emotional" level (in terms of perception of value but, importantly, backed up by metrics). These two levels can be characterized as, first, green messaging (or managing the product identity) and communication and, second, green rewards (determined by return on investment and metrics).

A convenient way of representing this sustainability structure is seen in the figure below from Dr. Lee. The pyramid is arranged with the lower foundational principles, applied to infrastructure and operations (the functional levels) providing a base on which the higher level principles, messaging and rewards, are built. It is clear that, applying this all along the life cycle (from materials extraction to end of product life and/or reuse) will insure that the product or process designed is ubiquitously green.

Source: Y. Lee, Samsung  (Note: click on the image to see a larger image for viewing)

What about the details? In earlier postings we've touched on many of these elements - certainly communication and management of consumables or process optimization. We've not yet spoken about identity management (to come in the future). In the August 10th and 24th postings we had a substantial discussion about metrics and options for greening manufacturing. These  options

- Use less material and energy
- Substitute input materials: non-toxic for toxic, renewable for non-renewable
- Reduce unwanted outputs: cleaner production, industrial symbiosis
- Convert outputs to inputs: recycling and all its variants
- Changed structures of ownership and production: product service systems and supply chain structure
(see for the details)

laid out approaches to the lower two levels of the sustainability pyramid shown above.

But what about the metrics? In the August 25th posting I defined a metric as a type of "measurement used to gauge some quantifiable component" of performance. I then listed some candidate metrics:

o Global warming gases emission (CO2, methane CH4, N2O, CFC’s)
  per capita
  per GDP
  per area/nation

o Recyclability (or percent recycled)

o Reuse of materials

o Energy consumption

o Pollution (air, water, land)

o Ecological footprint - “fair share” - footprint (discussed in an earlier blog)

o Exergy (available energy) or other thermodynamic measures

I proposed that these could be represented in terms of a "return on investment (ROI)" - for example, greenhouse gas return on investment (GROI) or similar concepts of energy payback time , water (or materials, consumables) payback time, carbon footprint, or efficiency improvement (for example, wrt exergy).

Is this reasonable? I think so. Let me give you one example (and I am sure there are others.)

I recently found and read Honda's 2009 Environmental Annual Report (it's online - see
It reads like a "how to" manual for implementing ubiquitously green design and manufacturing. It covers most of the important elements from product development, through manufacturing and use. Even product recycling is addressed. It does not cover some of the earlier aspects of the full product life cycle (resource extraction, for example) that I can tell. But it is very complete.

It also addresses the "emotional" levels in the sustainability pyramid in terms of identity management and, for sure, metrics and ROI. Figures are given on the last several year's performance in production CO2, waste generation, volatile organic compounds (VOC) per automobile painted, packaging use in transportation, recycling rates, and so on. This would allow computation of a ROI if data on magnitude of the efforts taken to achieve these results were available.

Certainly there is more to be done. But efforts such as those reported by Honda indicate that these principles can be applied in real companies making real products.

Here is your assignment - find some additional examples of companies moving towards "ubiquitously green" and send them to me. I'll put together a list of the more interesting ones in a future blog.

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