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What does manufacturing sustainably mean?

20 Jun, 2022 | Manufacturing

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We can all think of several good reasons to use sustainable manufacturing practices. But mostly, employing sustainable methods of manufacturing ensures that future generations will have the resources they need.

Developing sustainable manufacturing practices requires a commitment to improving the environment. You must strive to minimize your company’s carbon footprint while still producing quality products. Put another way, sustainable manufacturing practices should reduce your energy and resource usage while increasing your bottom line.

Even if you can’t make a major investment right now, you can begin to implement small changes to your manufacturing processes that will make an impact on natural resources. Transition costs for sustainable manufacturing can be sizable, but it will pay off in the long run – especially considering that Gen Zers are demanding companies embrace sustainable practices and shopping for products manufactured and sold by companies with sustainability policies.


What is sustainable manufacturing?

As defined by National Council for Advanced Manufacturing (NACFAM):

“Sustainable manufacturing is a process that minimizes energy use, conserves natural resources, and protects the environment and public health.”

It’s also economically and socially sound and is safe for consumers, communities, and employees.

Sustainable manufacturing requires commitment from stakeholders to minimize environmental impact. Once there’s buy-in, a comprehensive examination of product workflow is necessary including year-over-year comparisons of energy and material use. You will need to work with suppliers to reduce waste and evaluate energy consumption for materials cost.

During this process, you’ll identify areas to reduce energy, water, and emissions during manufacturing – including material acquisition. Additionally, sustainable manufacturing practices also reduce physical waste through recycling and reusing.

Despite the higher costs, there are a lot of benefits to embracing a sustainable manufacturing process. Sustainable manufacturing:

  • Promotes customer loyalty and brand awareness.
  • Lowers costs and reduces risk of audits.
  • Improves a company’s competitive edge.


Develop a sustainable manufacturing plan

To begin, you’ll need to create a sustainable manufacturing plan. Developing a detailed sustainability plan will help you reduce your environmental impact and at the same time improve your bottom line.

Here’s what you need to know about writing a sustainability plan:

  • Determine what your company needs to do to make the transition.
  • Write down how to implement those changes.
  • Measure the impact of your business activities on the environment over time.

Kickstart your company’s sustainability plan using a checklist. It doesn’t have to be exhaustive, it just has to give you enough information to get started. Choose the actions that are most effective for your business to help you achieve your sustainable manufacturing goals.


How to start sustainable manufacturing

As a manufacturer, you may be wondering how to initiate sustainable manufacturing practices and policies. While the manufacturing industry is huge and its green initiatives may be intimidating, you can make a significant impact with simple steps that will have a long-term impact on your business.

DEAR Systems offer the following tips for getting started:

  • Reuse raw materials: Avoid single-use items. Find ways to reuse raw materials to maximize the efficiency of resources and decrease pollution.
  • Leverage recycling: Look for opportunities to leverage your materials and recycle unused materials. Regularly monitor raw materials and resources.
  • Encourage environmentally friendliness: Adopt a company-wide environmentally friendly initiative that includes your employees.
  • Implement circular manufacturing: Circular manufacturing is a process that creates a regenerative model for production. It involves reusing and repurposing resources, pooling equipment, and upcycling waste from other companies.
  • Reduce machine use: Find ways to reduce the number of machines needed to produce the same quantity of products. This will save on energy costs while also reducing your company’s carbon footprint.
  • Choose like-minded suppliers: Manufacturers rely on their suppliers. Select suppliers with similar environmental policies to further reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Establish strategic partnerships: The more environmentally-conscious your raw material sources are, the more readily you’ll attract customers, increase profits, and remain competitive.

After you’ve established a sustainable manufacturing program, focus on improving operations. Build an efficient team around environment preservation.


Approaches to sustainable manufacturing

Approaches to sustainable manufacturing are essential for modern manufacturers to meet customers’ demands and stay competitive. Manufacturers should focus on the most efficient ways to produce a product while preserving natural resources.

The process of sustainability is not only about big-ticket items. There are a lot of little things that make a big difference. Manufacturers can become more environmentally friendly in several small ways:

Protect local ecosystems from impacts of manufacturing activities

Reduce waste from all phases of the production process. Using renewable energy and renewable materials.

Limit use of natural resources

Most companies have a limited supply of natural resources, so this option is not feasible for every business or industry. Nonetheless, most companies can commit to being more environmentally friendly.

Reduce production process-based waste to cut costs and emissions

By implementing business processes that optimize the use of natural resources, you can reduce the number of resources needed in your operations. This approach also helps you stay competitive globally.

Decrease transportation costs

Selecting suppliers and retailers in your local area can significantly reduce transportation costs. Keep it local when you can.

Consider the weight of your products

Ensure products are lightweight to further decrease transportation costs.

Several approaches to sustainable manufacturing include minimizing negative environmental impacts, conserving energy, and improving product safety. By reducing waste, you can enhance the quality of your products and avoid waste-related lawsuits.

Implementing new sustainability approaches requires a large amount of capital and effort, but it’s worth it. Weigh the capital investment included in these approaches against the positive impact and long-term financial gains.


Get started with the OECD sustainable manufacturing toolkit

To make your business more environmentally friendly, you can use a sustainable manufacturing toolkit. The OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit is an internationally applicable set of indicators that help companies assess their environmental performance at the plant level.

The OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit includes a start-up guide with easy-to-read guidelines for manufacturers and internet resources with detailed explanations of indicators and technical advice.

Use this guide to find the best indicators to measure environmental performance of your company. This toolkit has helped businesses around the world measure the environmental performance of their company’s processes and products. These tools focus on the environmental aspects of sustainable development but are useful in many industries and companies of all sizes.


Benefits of sustainable manufacturing

Long-term cost savings is one of the top benefits of sustainable manufacturing. It minimizes future serviceability costs, reduces labor costs, and improves customer and supplier relations. That’s on top of considerable environmental benefits including reducing your company’s carbon footprint.

Sustainable manufacturing increases your bottom line through:

Increasing profitability

Many businesses with sustainable manufacturing have higher profits than their competitors. This is because they attract customers who care about the environment – remember, Gen Zers are all about sustainability practices. They’re also the next generation of shoppers.

Raising prices

When a product is in demand, the price of the product is generally higher. Demand for environmentally sustainable products drives prices upward.

Increasing revenue

Adding eco-friendly features to products can increase revenue. Since an increasing number of consumers are looking for products that are environmentally friendly, these add-ons are more attractive.

Reducing energy consumption

Cost savings are realized during manufacturing operations by reducing energy consumption. Reducing energy costs leads to environmentally friendly products at a greater profit margin.

Sustainable manufacturing also positively impacts the economy. Companies can access new markets and take advantage of financial incentives. Typically, companies with sustainability practices have happier employees and experience lower turnover rates. In addition, they tend to have greater customer satisfaction.

Finally, companies who have sustainable manufacturing practices benefit from lower overhead costs through reductions in waste and materials.


Go green – Go DEAR Systems

Sustainable manufacturing focuses on both meeting carbon neutrality targets and financial goals. Sustainable manufacturing can be rewarding for your business on many levels. At DEAR Systems, we’re committed to helping our users transition to more sustainable manufacturing operations and our customer success team works in close coordination with regional and international guidelines on eco-friendly production processes.

DEAR Systems is here to help your company transition to a greener, more profitable manufacturing business. Reach out to schedule a 20-minute consultation with one of our specialists today.

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