Sustainability In Manufacturing

When recently touring one of our customers facilities I noticed the term “sustainability” on posters and signs in the conference rooms and hallways.  They stated the importance of everyone’s participation for overall success.  This term struck my interest, I had to learn more!

sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty – avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance

Sustainable manufacturing is the practice of strategically protecting the resources and the environment to allow a positive future for the company and wellbeing for the people.   In order to achieve sustainability in manufacturing a well facilitated process must be in place that permits lower cost production leaving room for profit, using resources effectively and having a healthy environment. It must also have the participation from employees to ensure ongoing opportunities.  I recently learned that over the last 10 years the top 150 companies in the country had already hired sustainability officers.

In becoming sustainable, a manufacturer must start:

Evaluating Energy Consumption

  • upgrade lighting to more efficient LED’s
  • verify all equipment is within tolerance and working efficiently
  • utilize solar panels and solar energy

Replacing old equipment and using new technologies such as variable-frequency drives, power-control devices, energy-efficient components and servo motors significantly reduce the amount of energy required to power production processes. The use of motion sensor lights is also an effective way to cut energy consumption.  I was impressed to learn that some plants have implemented a program called “lights out” where portions of their facilities that are fully automated run in the dark!

Protecting Resources

  • eliminate waste by utilizing every part of the material
  • recycle the scrap
  • reuse steel, aluminum, plastic, glass and other raw materials

One of my favorite products has an incentive program that rewards the consumer for returning the plastic container for reuse by giving you free product!  This is a great way to protect the environment and cut costs for the manufacturer.

Eliminating Waste Disposal

  • waste disposal should be kept in compliance of government regulations and guidelines
  • emissions must also be within compliance
  • employ lean tools such as Kaizen, 5S or Six Sigma

Inventory management is often the quickest start to practicing good waste disposal habits. Knowing what the company uses the most, what is used the least and where it is all located eliminates wasted materials.

Manufacturing is an absolute necessity.  How we manufacture and how we protect our environment is of the utmost importance.  Practicing sustainable manufacturing helps preserve our resources to allow the success of future generations. Presently, more consumers want to purchase from companies that are conscious of the impact that their production makes on the environment over those who don’t.   Use less, waste less and leave more resources!

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