Monday, July 4, 2011

Running with the big guys

And now a word from the government!

In honor of the 4th of July celebration here in the US I am taking a break from our discussion about "less is more" to focus on major initiatives to move the cause of green manufacturing forward - these from the government. The discussion on "less is more" will continue with part 3 next time.

We've heard a lot about some of the major corporations and the initiatives they've taken to enhance the sustainability of their organizations and influence their supply chain. One of the first that comes to mind is Walmart and their efforts to insure the products they sell, and their operations delivering them, are "more efficient, last longer and perform better." There are many more players in this field and a simple glance at Environmental Leader or GreenBiz  website will give a great introduction and allow you to track their progress.

For example, one recent item on GreenBiz refers to Marks and Spencers "carbon neutral bra" program  which complements their "carbon neutral undies." These are, according to GreenBiz, "a way to showcase an energy-efficient  factory in Sri Lanka that was built as part of Plan A. The factory is powered, in part, by solar energy and hydropower." (Plan A = Marks and Spencers sustainability effort;  'because there is no plan B'). It was also an exercise in carbon footprinting since the bra contains some 21 component parts from 12 different suppliers. The article states that M&S are offsetting the CO2 generated by the bra’s manufacturing and shipping by planting 6,000 trees in Sri Lanka. Since some of these trees are lime and mango trees there is the potential to generate income for farmers in the area.

Meanwhile, on the US fashion-eco front, one of our research collaborators Sarah Krasley, alerted me to the fact that Lady Gaga's infamous meat dress will become an exhibit in America's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. The "dress" from the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards will be part of a display at the museum in the 'Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power' exhibition. Another reason to visit Cleveland this summer.

You will recall that the outfit was made entirely of raw animal flesh and generated an "environmental reaction" which I commented on.  The dress has apparently been preserved to prevent deterioration so is, according to Sarah, likely to be rather like a "jerky dress."

But the story here is on government initiatives. First, one announced by President Obama recently on manufacturing.

Berkeley will be one of the six universities in the US participating in the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP). The AMP is being developed based on the recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which released a report June 24 entitled “Ensuring Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing.” The PCAST report calls for a partnership between government, industry and academia to identify the most pressing challenges and transformative opportunities to improve the technologies, processes and products across multiple manufacturing industries.

According to the PCAST report, manufacturing has been declining as a share of U.S. GDP and employment, and the loss of U.S. leadership in this domain has not been limited to low-wage jobs in low-tech, conventional industries; the United States is also trailing in high-tech industries that employ highly-skilled workers. The U.S. trade balance in advanced technology manufactured products shifted from surplus to deficit starting in 2001, according to PCAST.

The report lays out three compelling reasons why the US should strive to revitalize its leadership in manufacturing, and in particular advanced manufacturing, as:
1. Jobs: Manufacturing that is based on new technologies, including high-precision tools and advanced materials, can provide high-quality, good-paying jobs for American workers.
2. Innovation: It is not enough to invent in America and manufacture abroad. By keeping manufacturing local, a number of synergies ensue through which the design, engineering, scale-up, and production processes feed back on the conception and innovation sectors to generate new ideas and novel second- and third-generation products.
3. Security: Domestic manufacturing capabilities using advanced technologies and techniques are vital to maintaining national security.

One of the specific program goals is increasing the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes; and developing new technologies that will dramatically reduce the time required to design, build, and test manufactured goods.

First of all, anything that shines a little more light on manufacturing is great. Second, one of the objectives is energy efficiency of manufacturing processes. To me, this includes all of the approaches to green manufacturing we've been discussing here. The "design to production" element is also good for greening manufacturing if we can insure that sustainable design decisions are made early in the process and, to re-iterate Walmart's focus, make sure products are more efficient, last longer and perform better.

For our part at Berkeley we'll make sure that green manufacturing, as part of jobs, innovation and security, is an integral part of the discussion.

But there is more, also from a government organization. This time the Defense Department.

The Air Force has launched a sustainable manufacturing initiative. This in response to the 2010 Department of Defense Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP). The SSPP identifies goals for meeting the intent of Executive Order 13514 “Federal Leadership in Environmental Energy and Economic Performance.” An essential component to sustainable acquisition and procurement is sustainable manufacturing.

A white paper on line gives a lot more detail on the Air Force ManTech Sustainable Aerospace Manufacturing Initiative - acronym SAMI. From the white paper, the purpose of SAMI is to "fulfill Department of Defense (DoD), AF, and industry strategic intent for sustainability by maturing sustainable manufacturing practices that will enhance the production capability necessary to process and fabricate DoD weapons systems with optimized energy footprints and environmentally sustainable processes while preserving performance requirements." SAMI operates out of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

Specific program goals include:
- Develop assessment tools for identifying manufacturing process step-changes
- Demonstrate sustainable technologies in military unique process
- Design for sustainability
- Produce military systems with less energy
- Minimize environmental impacts
- Reduce environmental footprint associated with manufacturing without compromising capability or end product performance

The Air Force is partnering with a number of organizations on this including the LMAS of UC-Berkeley (my lab), the NCDMM in Pennsylvania, and several organizations in the supply chain such as General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, Remmele Engineering, and GKN Aerospace in addition to others.

The importance of all these initiatives, from Walmart and Marks & Spencers to the Air Force, is that they are laying the groundwork for systematically designing, procuring and manufacturing, distributing, selling and, eventually, recovering products covering a wide range of "consumer needs."

Big organizations driving big effects. That's worth some fireworks!

Next time we'll continue with  "less is more" part 3.


  1. I think big industry gets a bad rap by default many times. It is good to read about these innovators.

  2. I think the meat dress was a baaaaaaaaad idea.

  3. I think what is equally notable is what the government is NOT doing. They really aren't helping practicing engineers, and graduating engineering students, to gain broad manufacturing hands-on knowledge. That would enable those engineers to spend less time figuring out the basics and more time on making their product/process more green.

    We need a national program that walks mechanical and manufacturing engineers through design and manufacturing case studies, with hands-on experience with a variety of manufacturing processes.