Friday, January 29, 2010

Low Hanging Fruit - 4

Last part in a 4 part series

The "map" of spatial and temporal levels of design to manufacturing to distribution/enterprise effects we've been discussing forms the basis of identifying the information and potential actions to take over this complex space. I cannot go into all the possibilities in any detail.

The paper on which this discussion has been based ("Appropriate use of green manufacturing frameworks" authored by Corrine Reich-Weiser, Athulan Vijayaraghavan and myself) was submitted to the CIRP 2010 LCE Conference in Heifei PRC later this spring. A copy of the full paper is available - please send me an e-mail if you'd like a copy or, soon, we'll have it posted on the LMAS website. The paper goes on to review the leading life cycle analysis (LCA) methodologies (for example, process LCA, hybrid LCA and input-output LCA) and LCA frameworks and standards (for example, ISO 14040 and ISO 14044: 2006, US EPA : Life Cycle Engineering Guidelines: 2001, and NIST SLIM (SLIM stands for "Sustainable and Lifecycle Information-based Manufacturing"), and some green house gas (GHG) specific frameworks and standards (for example, PAS 2050, for publicly available standard 2050, and Corporate Reporting and Inventory Standards - Climate Registry and EPA Climate Leaders are good examples of reporting standards, while the WRI/WBCSD GHG Protocol and ISO 14064-1 are well-known inventory standards.)

We analyze how LCA and GHG methodologies apply at the various temporal and spatial levels we've been discussing. Not surprisingly, different methodologies and frameworks apply at different levels. The figures below, from the paper, show this variation. The colored dots indicate the degree of applicability - green indicates that the methodology applies well, yellow indicate a decent applicability, and red indicates poor applicability.

These figures suggest when each methodology is appropriate for each temporal and spatial level of manufacturing. Some are not applicable at all for some aspects of manufacturing.

The key differences to understand are that process LCA is most appropriate for detailed analysis of specific stages of an assessment or well-defined pieces of the manufacturing lifecycle. Hybrid assessment is best for two purposes: (1) ensuring a complete analysis across the boundaries of the analysis and (2) providing a screening to determine where process LCA is most effective.

Most existing standards are based on process LCA. In addition, existing GHG standards limit the scope of the analysis to only direct and electricity emissions, thus limiting the usefulness of the results. The exceptions to this are the PAS 2050 standards and the emerging WRI enterprise and full produce LCA guidelines. For the most part, the standards have focused on quantifying facility level emissions making extrapolation to the machine or supply chain level difficult. The figures demonstrate how these standards apply.

So, what does this all mean with respect to our discussion? Depending on the goal and scope of the assessment there is an appropriate tool available. However, all tools do not apply at all levels. Top-down hybrid LCA methodologies are effective at capturing full supply chain and enterprise level emissions; however process LCA approaches are most effective for tradeoffs at the factory or machine tool tool level of analysis. Most standards have focused on process LCA or limited enterprise LCA (just direct and electricity emissions). However, it is possible that this hole in existing standards will be filled by the emerging WRI standards on Scope 3 and product analysis.

So, back to our low hanging fruit. In addition to the methodologies identified above as applicable across the temporal and spatial scales of the manufacturing enterprise (some available for free on the internet, i.e the Carnegie-Mellon economic input-output LCA tools, see there are some more straightforward approaches.

One example addresses the concerns around sustainable packaging and the manufacture of packaging. Joe Greene, a professor of mechanical engineering at California State University - Chico has started, with industry support, the nonprofit Sustainable Green Products Inc. He starts with a "Sustainable Green Packaging Audit Checklist" which includes easily accessible information such as annual electricity and natural gas usage, car and air travel, amount of product used and recycled at the plant,waste generation and so on. Note - this is for plastic processing operations for packaging - not for everyone. But it's a start! Joe is working on a website but if you want more information contact him at

There are a number of similar efforts across many industries. We'll look into some of these in future postings. Whether or not they are complete or reliable depends on who's put them together. But they give you some initial data.

Next time we'll get a little less "academic" and talk about some interesting comparisons between comparable manufacturing technologies (different process paths to the same result) and how they stack up in terms of green manufacturing.


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