Friday, February 19, 2010

Motivations for Green Manufacturing


Or ... the ball is rolling

In an early blog posting (July 20th to be exact; http://green-manufacturing.blogspot.com/2009/07/why-green-manufacturing-part-1.html) I started out by posing the question "Why green manufacturing?" This was in my input to what appeared to me to be a lot of discussion and confusion about terms, motivations, likely results and procedures in greening manufacturing.

The justification I gave was as answers in response to the question "why does 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; 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 semiconductor industry where this is the motivator). Time is money...energy 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! This is not an abstract concern. 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.

When I posted this, last July, I began accumulating evidence in support (or opposition) to these assumptions. One of my favorite web sites, Environmental Leader (see link at the bottom of this blog page), has a number of examples, opinion pieces and news notes that support these motives for green.

On February 8th, Maria Cramer has an article there on how to use what you have to grow sustainability in your organization (see http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/02/08/accidental-to-purposeful-sustainability-using-what-you-already-have-to-grow-sustainability/). In the article she mentions the following benefits:

"Respect for environment – Your business is doing its part to better the community" and  "Respect for the bottom line – Your business will save money by reducing the use of such things as consumables and natural resources."

Pretty close to the society pressure and efficiency/reduced CoO of my list (and recall CoO is "cost of ownership" - the full cost of purchasing, installing, running, maintaining, and disposing of a piece of equipment, or system, factory, etc.)

Another advert announces a meeting of the Alliance for Water Stewardship roundtable on "Understanding, Measuring and Managing Water Risks, Footprints and Impacts Throughout your Supply Chain" this coming April in London (http://www.corporate-water-scarcity-risk-management.com/). That's item 3 on the list above.

Another one of my favorite "go to" sites is Greenbiz.com (also with a link below). They just published their "State of Green Business 2010" Report (see http://www.stateofgreenbusiness.com/). It is a long and comprehensive report (but free and can be downloaded - green indeed!) but mentions, among other items, that green innovation has become seen as a great idea - and points out that

"The emerging green economy is about much more than green products and services. Behind them are countless materials, processes and technologies. And as the parade of progress marches inexorably forward, a growing number of innovations have a distinctly green tinge, significantly reducing material, chemical, water and energy inputs. Some of the innovations enable closed-loop or cradle-to-cradle products or processes, with little or no problematic waste or emissions." (Source: State of Green Business 2010, Greenbiz.com, page 8).

Wow - we couldn't agree more! And we hope this blog helps to keep up the momentum. This is continuous improvement and efficiency/reduced CoO.

By the way ... just so we are all clear, I am not suggesting all these people read the July 20th blog and then took action! I'm just trying to add evidence to the motivations proposed.

Finally, as a mechanical engineer I naturally am a member of ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and get their monthly magazine "Mechanical Engineering" (appropriately titled!). This month there is an article on "Compelled to be Green" by Jeff Winters that reports on an ASME/Autodesk study on sustainability (called the Sustainable Design Trend Watch Survey) to determine the interest and attitudes of ASME members on this topic.

The article made a few summary statements about the results. For example:

"In spite of the recession, most working engineers reported that their companies continued to be involved with sustainability or sustainable technologies. Indeed, more than 24 percent reported that their companies were extremely involved in sustainability and 43 percent were somewhat involved.

Of the 89 percent who said their companies had any level of involvement, just over seven in ten reported that their companies were creating designs that use less energy or produce fewer emissions. More than 70 percent also responded that their companies were producing designs specifically to comply with governmental standards and regulations.

About four in ten reported that the companies they worked for were involved in making designs that use non-toxic materials, or recycled materials, or a reduced amount of material in manufacturing."  (Source: Mechanical Engineering, February 2010, page 42; and see http://memagazine.asme.org/Articles/2010/february/Compelled_Green.cfm for the full article.)

That seems to be pretty good support for the continuous improvement argument along with the pressure from government regulation motivation.

And all of these examples lend credence to our interest in developing tools for analysis and execution of designs and manufacturing to insure that the greening being considered is going to be as impactful as we hope.

Much more to come on this.

Next time we'll talk about what level of change will be needed to truly affect greening and a significant impact on global warming and  resource use. Brace yourself - low hanging fruit is not going to do it.

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