Thursday, December 31, 2009

What about corporate sustainability reports (CSR)?

A few weeks back I read a comment from an industry representative questioning the value of corporate sustainability reports - the CSR. Over the past few years (specially as I have been preparing materials for my course on sustainable manufacturing and directing students to sources of information and data on industry performance) I've been impressed with two things.  One is the tremendous evolution of these reports in the past few years from "few and far between" to widely used. And, second, is the impressive increase in information, data and details presented in many of these reports as companies have understood their purpose better and gotten their arms around how to collect, organize and represent the data.

The CSR has its roots in the Global Reporting Initiative ( or GRI - see which describes itself as "a network-based organization that has pioneered the development of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework and is committed to its continuous improvement and application worldwide." They offer a framework that lays out "what to report" and "how to report it." I am not sure how many corporations use this framework in constructing their reports but the goal of transparency and accountability is the major objective.

In my experience, the CSR (whether GRI based or not) has a number of important roles to play in our discussion of green manufacturing and, longer term, our efforts towards sustainability. In no particular order these are:

- education (these documents, freely available, offer a tremendous resource for students, the public, analysts, and so on, to look into an organization to see what is estimated to be the impact, and progress, of their business towards sustainability)
- comparison with others (benchmarking is always useful; one must always read any report that is "self generated" with caution but the CSR offers a convenient way for an organization to measure itself with respect to its competitors, or the industry in general)
- accountability within organization (the CSR offers a convenient vehicle for communicating and empowering various units in to the organization with respect to their piece of the whole picture and what role they play in the - overall impact of the organization (and this is an important one - the CSR, if properly done, will show the magnitude of the challenge facing the organization; it marks the "present state" of sustainability)
- mark progress (if  you know where you are today, and then re-assess where you are tomorrow or next year, you can use the difference, positive or negative, to chart your progress or note where additional effort or better data is needed.)

I'm sure you could add a few additional items to this list.

In my use of the CSR as an educational tool over the last 3-4 years I've noted positive changes in their complexity (meaning the extent to which they represent more and more of the organizations activities - essentially more scopes), transparency, level of detail, and, importantly, the level of "science" and deterministic measures/assessments made in constructing the reports. To me, this is very good. I am also sure this is expensive.

There have been some excellent studies comparing the "quality" of CSR's based on unique scoring schemes. One of the more interesting, and, to me, comprehensive, comparisons has been done by the Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College in California (see It is called the Pacific Sustainability Index (PSI), is calculated based on on-line information only and is computed with the following weighting:

- Accountability (3%)
- Management (12%)
- Vision and Policy (12%)
- Resources utilizations & emissions data (13%)

 - Accountability (3%)
- Vision and Policy (8%)
- Management (8%)
- Labor issues (22%)

Human rights
- Principles (18%)

Total (100%)

There is a carefully defined scoring criteria that is based on the transparency in the company's public discussions "independent of success in making improvements." My interpretation is that even if you are not doing so well, you get points for being honest about the issues you are confronting (the antidote to 'greenwashing'!).

There is a schema for reporting on both qualitative and quantitative topics. For example, under quantitative - the five measures used in scoring include  i.  discussion on the topic, ii. putting the discussion in an external context, iii. including one or more explicit numerical goals, iv. including at least one previous measure of performance for the topic (and additional point for more than one previous measure - that is, more history). Under the category of environmental reporting the company is given credit for illustrating how their performance relates to that of peer industries or industry standards. Please see the above link for the full explanation. The derived PSI score is represented as a letter grade (this is an academic institution after all!) such as A+, A, A-, B+, etc. but the scores are normalized to the highest scoring company in the same sector. The website says they "grade on the curve."

Now comes the (more) interesting part - the comparisons across sectors using the PSI. You can find the scores by sector and score type (meaning overall PSI score or individual environmental or social components) at an interactive webpage ( The sectors are quite specific - for example, aerospace and defense, government institutions, telecommunications, networks and peripherals, all the way to utilities, gas and electric.  You can "drill down" to each company or institution on the chart displayed to see their individual "grade" and when the latest assessment was published with spider charts representing the scores for the various components.

The information used is from publicly available sources - so if your favorite is not included tell them to get on it! I was chagrined to find that my own institution, University of California Berkeley, is only current up to 2005 (and doesn't get a very good grade! I'm composing the letter to our chancellor right now.) The only redeeming observation is that Cal's arch rival, Stanford, doesn't show up at all! (Go Bears!!)

The best ranked educational institution is Williams College with lot's or A+'s - well done.

Take some time and play around with this informative site and its rankings. The methodology and inclusiveness is most interesting. Of course the scores are nice too! Here's hoping your organization or alma mater rank well!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Green New Year

The Copenhagen conference on climate change has just concluded (see and we will not really know or understand the full impact of any decisions made there for some time. I certainly am not going to speculate on this. Different countries will respond in different ways. One of the reasons for getting this blog up and running was to contribute to the discussion about how we, at the manufacturing level, can respond and take advantage of the various initiatives to move us towards a greener world. And, as I've stated before, if you are not convinced of some of the predictions or the urgency of this movement, we are still looking at steadily rising energy costs, restrictions on resources (think water for starters) and consumer preferences and push back as sufficient motivation to pay attention to this. Not to mention the regulations and requirements of many parts of the world in which our products find themselves being used or consumed.

Last posting I mentioned we'd spend a little more time looking at "the scopes" - that is  Scope 1 through 3 of ISO 14064 (1- direct emissions from on-site/company owned assets, 2- indirect emissions  from energy generation or supply, 3- all others resulting from your business operation including business travel, shipping of goods, resource extraction and product disposal)) and, now, the movement toward Scope 4, which would include the use phase and end of product life, is under discussion. Many of you are already familiar with these and their implications for determining a carbon footprint and green house gas impact for our organizations.

The figure below, from Future State Solutions based on information from the World Resources Institute ( shows this graphically. (Another version with a discussion on the green house gas protocol is available at (from 2008) with original information at

Interestingly, and we discussed this in the last Future State Solutions webinar, for many companies the bulk of the impacts (that is the contribution by scope) comes from scopes outside of their core control. This can be due to their supply chain, activities that do not show up in the product itself (or process they are conducting). For firms like Walmart,  their direct impact on the footprint of their products is very small since they rely on a large and distributed supply chain for their business. So their efforts at sustainability indices for their major product groups is an attempt to get their arms around this (see

But, most manufacturers are not like Walmart (not only in size of the business but manufacturers actually make things.) So the distribution of impacts over scope may be different, or similar, but relate to different aspects of the supply chain both into and out of your facility. It will look a lot more like Ricoh's comet circle we've spoken of in the past. And, things like employee travel to/from work, and purchased materials or other outsourcing, can be big impacts. But, if you are going to be held accountable for the contributions of these impacts as part of your product "footprint", then you want to be aware of these, and work with your suppliers and distributors to make sure the impact is known (that is quantified), and minimized. This 'minimization' can take any of the paths we've been discussing from reduced materials, or substituted materials, to lean processes, to reduced energy operation, to recycling and waste minimization, etc. Makes the ideas of video conferencing rather than flying around the world look more attractive for reasons besides economy!

If we add a future Scope 4 to the analysis, that is, how your customer uses or consumes your product and what happens to it when it is at its end of life, we can see our "leverage" on our product's or process' impact further reduced. Of course, for Walmart and similar companies, Scope 4 may be the major impact since everything they sell goes into the hands of consumers and will eventually find itself back in the reuse, recovery or disposal stage.

This is where some of the "steps to sustainability" mentioned in an earlier posting and seen on some of the websites and process or system analysis tools will come into play. We'll be talking a lot more about "steps" (that is beyond my rather skeptical review some postings ago - see October 7th posting, In my graduate class recently completed I had the students do a homework on "steps to sustainability" by searching for and categorizing information on the web in this topic area. The energy and enthusiasm of some 30 students attacking this problem is hard to beat! The results were very informative. But this is for a future posting.

Finally, under the "things that need poking at" category a word about greenwashing. You'll recall that this describes the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly" (see and  the July 30 posting -

I was reading a travel magazine I get as a user of a credit card and there was a side bar article on a resort location in Northern California titled "Who's the greenest of them all?" The article was sprinkled with the terms "green" and "sustainable" so I had to read this. Well, needless to say, their concept was somewhat different than what we've been speaking of here. Materials in construction used for reclaimed wine-barrels (ok- that's good), run the resort on geothermal, solar and grid electricity (not bad - but I believe they get their power from the same public utility I do so I can claim the same "mix"), but then we get to the "other part." Large rooms with lots of amenities, outdoor and indoor steam baths for the guests, mud wraps and hot-stone rubdowns - the whole works and a gourmet kitchen to boot. Maybe they have the little sign in the bathroom about reusing your towels to help save the planet.

This could be sustainable but I'd need to see the power consumption "balance of trade", the operating resource and material consumption data - you know - everything we've been speaking about with respect to sustainable, or at least green, businesses. Of course the guests and staff at this spa drive in from some distance so there goes your Scope 3 and 4 impact! Point is - if you are going to bandy the terms about, please be prepared to back them up with some data. Did I mention the rooms are "from" $300 a night? Now that's a nice definition of green!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Green Balancing

Knowledge is useful. This may not sound surprising coming from an academic. Or, if not knowledge, then at least start with data.  As we have been discussing in the last few postings, data and knowledge are critical to decision making on the shop floor. The more information you have the easier it is to understand what is going on and what you should do next. And, this simple statement lays out the basic strategy to green manufacturing - at any level.

The webinar just held on December 14th (see Future State Solutions website for archived material) covered some of the tradeoffs between lean strategies of reducing cost, lead time and waste and natural resource and energy use and carbon emissions while at the same time insuring that process capability is maintained (and product quality insured) as well as safety and profit margins. We also spoke about the need to include all the Scope 1 through 3 effects to insure that a full picture of your process or product impact is reflected in your analysis and decision making. For a refresher on that see August 25th posting - which discusses the three scopes of ISO 14064 (1- direct emissions from on-site/company owned assets, 2- indirect emissions  from energy generation or supply, 3- all others resulting from your business operation including business travel, shipping of goods, resource extraction and product disposal).

So - the data requirements can be over a broad range of your operations.

At a deeper level, reflecting our discussions in the last two postings, with data we can look at optimization of performance. Here we discuss this from the perspective of "balancing" resource use. I would like to go into two examples: balancing the operation of multiple machines in a production line and multi capability vs single use machines. In the December 9th posting I went into some detail about the operational peculiarities of a machine tool for illustrating how variations in process parameters could affect energy and resource consumption. The previous posting, December 3rd, defines some of the "in the box" inputs in a process, like a machine tool.

Being good engineers, we often try to coordinate (or synchronize) the actions in a production system so that all processes are operating at the same time completing their tasks. At the end of the cycle time the product, in whatever state of completion along the line is, is advanced to the next station for the next operation. Except for the bottleneck station (the one which, due to complexity or number of operations on the station, uses all the cycle time) there is usually some idle time at each station. Lean techniques try to eliminate this as much as possible but, usually, some still exists.

One solution is to adjust the start/stop time of each process at a station so that, when the line is humming along, all the process steps do not exactly occur at the same time. When all synchronized the energy usage of the line will be at a maximum. If they are staggered a bit, but not so much as to lengthen cycle time, decrease throughput or affect quality, we might be able to shave a bit off the "peak power consumption" of the line. The illustration below shows how this might work (and you might need to click on the illustration for a larger view).

This can have a significant impact on the line and, if applied to other aspects of the factory operations, the overall factory energy use. And it is free. But, you need to be able to see the energy variation within the process cycle so that you know how to stagger the process start/stops.

Another strategy, not so much balancing as compounding, is to look at the potential for multi-function machines. You might recall the discussion in the November 18th posting ( on "smart assembly" and the new multipurpose machine introduced for automotive production. The vendors of this smart machine touted a smaller footprint and faster changeover to each product variation (lean!). This strategy also can save energy and embedded resources (green!). There are a number of machinery builders who are introducing multipurpose machines...specially for machining processes.

If one takes a hypothetical production system with a number of separate conventional machine tools - say for drilling, turning, horizontal and vertical milling applications - and replaces them with one machine that is able to do all these processes, in one set up, with cycle time reductions thanks to reduced part handling, fixturing, etc., it can be argued that, in addition to time, we'll save energy and resources. Then, each process energy input, embedded energy and resources for each machine, embedded energy and resources and operational energy in the handling machinery are all collapsed into one machine. Granted, the machine is more complex - but, one machine never-the-less. The figure below shows this hypothetical comparison (and you'll need to enlarge this one for sure!).

The red line tracks the individual process machines in a sequence. The line goes up to the right to reflect the process energy and the "jump" is the handling machinery impact. The green line shows the operation of the multi-machine. And the hashed green box illustrates the energy savings. Likely cycle time savings are seen as well. Granted this is a simplified illustration but the potential savings are real. And this is an excellent example of one of those "technology" wedges that's been referred to before.

These two examples, one that is for existing machinery and requires little additional cost, and the second when machinery is replaced, are both enabled thanks to data on the process operation at the lowest level. And we can build other efficiencies on top of this.

In the next blog  we'll talk a bit more about Scopes 1, 2, 3 (and 4?).

And happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Diving Deeper - Green at the Process Level (Last of a 2 Part Series)

The more information you have the easier it is to understand what is going on and what you should do next. This simple statement lays out the basic strategy to green manufacturing - at any level. If you recall the major improvements (or leaps forward) in manufacturing we spoke about in an earlier posting (on July 27th to be precise - see you will remember that each of these "leaps" was based on observation of the process from a new perspective, data to document what was being observed and then a plan of improvement built on that observation and data. That's diving deeper in to the process at many different levels.

Last time we identified two distinct modes of performance of a manufacturing process (and, of course, there will be exceptions but in general this is a reasonable classification) that distinguished between processes (or machine or tools). One mode was  where the process energy dominates or, at least, is a significant component of consumption relative to tare energy, and another where the tare power dominates. And, depending on which "mode" you are in will determine what potential approaches you'll take to reduce energy, or consumption, during the process. The table below summarizes this (and recall that where the tare energy dominates, Et >> Ep and, when, Ep >> Et, process energy is much greater than tare energy.)

Depending on the units of measure (here meaning power or energy per unit of time or per unit of production) our strategies may be somewhat different, but, in general, our strategy for the tare dominant operation vs the process dominant operation are as shown in the table. I'll define some of the other terms as we go along.

For the operation of the machine under the tare dominant mode we should try to make the cycle time on the machine as short as possible (cycle time is tc) which will give the part produced the lowest energy footprint from the process. The machine itself (operation with out process) we need to look at ways to reduce the tare consumption. For a numerically controlled machine tool (following our milling example from part 1 of this posting) with reasonable precision we know that the main sources of energy consumption are related to the power for the controller itself, the control panel of the machine, rotating the spindle, table motion, and coolant pump. In fact, the coolant pump is a big one since machines of this quality need to be kept thermally stable to avoid thermal distortion. So idling the machine controller between process steps and finding a way to keep the spindle thermally stable (material? design? air cooling?) without the use of the coolant pump would be first on the list.

For operation under the process dominant mode we focus on optimizing the process itself. You may recall a posting on the 29th September on "Greening the factory floor: (see In that I distinguished between different levels of machine operation from the "microplan" (the particular speeds, feeds, depths of cut (for a machining process) and tooling required to accomplish the operation on the machine), the "macroplan" (process sequence which represents the order in which the operations are carried out with requirements for "what comes first") and the machine tool or system of machines itself. Our interest here is on the first two, micro and macroplan.

For the microplan we know from research and experience that the choice of process settings will impact energy and resource use. It follows then that the correct choice will yield reduced energy consumption. This would be, for milling, the cutting speed (rate of rotation of the tool in the spindle translated to peripheral velocity), the feed rate (rate of advancement of the cutter through the work) and type of tools  used (for example, material type and any coating to reduce friction, resist temperature, etc.)

For the microplan (and still speaking about process energy) the process sequence level determines the path that a cutting tool takes across the workpiece and the sequence of operations. Machines use more or less energy depending on how their axes move, accelerate and decelerate, how many times the spindle starts and stops, tools are changed, etc. So sequence and paths can have a big effect.

As an example, consider a workpiece that requires motion of the machine table in two directions (two orthogonal axes) to produce. Usually, the machine is built with one of these axes stacked at a right angle on top of another - like a sandwich. The workpiece is fixed to a table on the top axis. But, if I need to move that workpiece in the direction of the bottom axis (that is at a right angle to the direction of the top axis) I need to move the bottom axis in the correct direction which also carries the top axis. Not surprisingly, it takes a lot more energy to move one carrying the other than to move the top axis by itself. So, a workpiece which has a lot of features that need to be machined using the bottom axis motion will consume more process energy than one that doesn't.

Make sense? So by either position the workpiece the table so that the maximum "top axis" features can be machined or, at least, adjusting the tool motion to incorporate as many top axis moves as possible as the tool sweeps over the part we can substantially reduce energy consumption. And that is both on a per part and a per unit time basis.

Machine "warmup" is also a big issue that requires the machine to operate much longer than needed for the specific process at the start of the production run. Strategies for minimizing that vary from thermal insensitive materials to special process plans that use the relative inaccuracy of the machine when it is "cold" to work on less accurate sections of the workpiece or for roughing cuts.

Embedded energy was a factor in either mode of operation since it accounts for the energy and materials used to build the machine in the first place. Here, we'd need to look at selection of materials for the machine (specially trade-off between "low embedded energy" materials and those that meet the structural or thermal requirements of the machine design) as well as ease of recycling or reuse of components, etc.

Whatever level of scrutiny we apply to the manufacturing process we can find potential for improving the energy or resource performance of the process or machine or system.

Next time we'll discuss some ideas about "line balancing" and the potential advantages of machines that do more than one process.

The webinar on Thursday, December 10, 2009 on "Built to Last:  Sustainable Manufacturing" is history. Go to the Future State Solutions website to see the archived webinar ( There will be a follow-on webinar on "Sustainable Manufacturing: The Details You Need to Know" that I will participate in on Tuesday the 14th December. Go to to register.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Diving Deeper - Green at the Process Level (Part I of II)

In the last three postings we discussed the potential for combining lean approaches to manufacturing process optimization with green analysis to get a double hit. The basis of this is, of course, that both are seeking to eliminate waste in the process and the system so should have a logical link. I noted that the linkage between lean methodology and green and sustainable production analysis shows great promise and should offer valuable insight to process improvement that is both economically and environmentally sound.

A staple of lean manufacturing is the value stream map. A brief overview was given of that with some references for more details. But there is more to this and we need to bore deeper into the process box to see the full potential (or, make the case for a more detailed value stream analysis than is often done today.)

The posting on November 12 (part of the series on "is lean green" - illustrated the process box representing a manufacturing process. There were a number of inputs and outputs identified, including:

 - Process energy
 - Machine/process “tare” energy
 - Process chemicals
 - Other process consumables
 - Machine/process operation consumables
 - Machine/process operation environment
 - Operator consumables
 - Operator operation environment

- Product
- Waste (heat, liquids, other consumables/tooling, etc.)
- Rejected/failed product

Later in that posting I linked several of these boxes together to create a system of production - that was the basis of our discussion on value stream maps. Many of these inputs are included in the value stream map for lean manufacturing analysis. Reviewing the list of inputs, and recalling the "Google earth view" of manufacturing that was presented in one of the earliest postings (see September 15th posting -, we know that we can look deeper into the process box than the rather summary data listed above. In fact, we can dig a lot deeper.

Allow me to elaborate! Take just two of the inputs - process energy and tare energy. This refers to the actual consumption of the machine but allocated to that which is associated with the actual production process (process energy) and that which is associated with the peripheral consumption just to keep the machine running (tare energy). This later one is called tare energy consumption from the similar concept of weight determination - the weight of the container holding the contents has to be accounted for when accurately determining the weight of the contents. The two will be dependent upon the process, the machine design, the sophistication of the control, the number of processes on the machine, the precision and accuracy of the machine, etc.

For the sake of simplicity, let's look at a machining process - like milling (but you can do the same for welding, injection molding, chemical vapor deposition, baking a turkey, etc.) We measure these two components by hooking up a power meter to the machine and noting the energy consumption when the machine is "on" but idle - not making any parts or, in the case of milling, cutting metal. We then start up the machine and begin cutting metal and again measure the power consumption during the cycle to create the part (or finish the process).

Interestingly, we can divide the performance up into two large camps - one in which the process energy dominates or, at least, is a significant component of consumption relative to tare energy, and another where the tare power dominates. We can represent these two regimes as in the figures below (and click on the figure to get a larger image).

We see in the figure on the left the circumstance where the tare energy dominates, Et >> Ep and, on the right, the opposite, Ep >> Et, process energy is much greater than tare energy. The strategies we'll want to follow to reduce energy will be entirely different! For the left case, our best interest is served if we try to make the part with the smallest cycle time possible since the process uses very little energy and slowing down only uses more. In this case we should focus on the machine design and operation to try to reduce the idle energy consumption.

In the right case where the process energy dominates, since the tare is much lower than the process energy, it will pay to look more closely into the details of the process to see how we can reduce energy consumption in the process.

There is also a small component labeled "embedded energy" that must be included to be complete. This represents the amortized "cost" of the energy it took to build, transport, and install the machine. We'll get back to this at a later date.

We''ll dig into these two cases in more detail next time. An important question we'll need to answer is - what is the unit of measure? Are we tracking power (or energy)/unit product? or power (or energy)/unit time?

(Blogger's note: I am liberally interchanging energy and power in this discussion. They are not the same of course but, I think, you follow the idea. I don't want to annoy the purists too much!)

Finally, in the last blog I mentioned that one approach to "lean and green" is offered by  Future State Solutions, Inc. (see They have invited me to present a webinar on Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:45 PM - 12:45 PM EST. The topic is "Built to Last:  Sustainable Manufacturing" - go to to register or you can register through the Future State Solutions website and see details of the webinar discussion.