Enhancing Sustainability in Manufacturing in America
Much work has been done in the area of sustainability in manufacturing in the United States. Virtually everyone agrees that much more needs to be done to improve energy efficiency in manufacturing, reduce waste, improve the development and management of the workforce, and design and manufacture products that use our scarce material and human resources in a more optimal manner. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) states on its website:
The NAM and our member companies are committed to working with Congress to establish sensible federal climate change policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining a competitive playing field for U.S. companies in the global marketplace.
However, on the NAM website as of December 30, 2008 there is not one paper telling manufacturers about any best practices they could adopt to promote sustainability. It appears that NAM has no such task force studying how manufacturing concerns can create their current products in a more sustainable manner or begin to advance the state of the art in designing and producing the next generation of products that are more sustainable, efficient, effective, and less harmful to the environment. Possibly NAM and state associations promoting manufacturing and technology could undertake and publish detailed research across the tens of thousands of manufacturers to identify the sustainability oriented practices that have helped improve the environment, helped improve the productivity of their workers, and helped improve their bottom line.
The Current Situation
Much information already exists on “green manufacturing.” Conferences are being held. Books are being written. Engineering schools are focusing on Sustainable engineering to attract students who can find great jobs in meeting the future manufacturing environments which will be embracing sustainability principles. A guick GoogleTM search reveals the following:
Green Manufacturing News
ManagingAutomation.com/Green.Mfg The Latest News on Technologies, Business Practices and Trends!
IndustryWeek – Connecting Manufacturing’s Leaders
Making Green: Sustainability In Manufacturing And The Clean-Tech Economy. Now that the green marketplace has firmly taken root, many manufacturers are…
Sustainability is good business
The main business drivers of sustainability for manufacturing firms make a good strategic concept for improving business performance:…
Amazon.com: Sustainability in Manufacturing: Recovery of Resources…
Amazon.com: Sustainability in Manufacturing: Recovery of Resources in Product and Material Cycles: Günther Seliger: Books.
Dec 10, 2008… Australian manufacturing firms are being placed on a more sustainable footing by our research in eco-efficient technologies and engineering…
SUSTAINABLE LEAN MANUFACTURING
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This set of slides is a brief introduction to the perspective Act Now brings to Sustainable Lean Manufacturing. This is not intended as actionable advice….
Tips for sustainability in manufacturing – 11/18/2008 – Control…
Nov 18, 2008… Controls engineers have quietly done sustainability related efforts for years; we call them “lean initiatives,” says Pack Expo speaker.
The Sustainable Manufacturing Summit provides the opportunity to find out how top manufacturers and their customers are lowering their carbon emissions and…
Fifty Sustainability Experts To Speak At Sustainable Manufacturing…
Jan 21, 2008… Sustainability experts are looking forward to sharing their carbon reduction strategies on April 8th and 9th at the upcoming Corporate…
Green Manufacturing Expo 2009
Sustainable manufacturing, defined as the “creation of manufactured products that use processes that are non-polluting, conserve energy and natural…
Information and Progress
The existence of information, conferences, books, tips, be it from the U.S. or Australia in the examples is an excellent first step in promoting the improvement of manufacturing based on sustainability principles. However, information alone is not sufficient to propel manufacturing concerns throughout the U.S. to begin adopting on a large scale more sustainability oriented manufacturing practices.
One challenge to securing broader and more rapid adoption of sustainability oriented manufacturing processes is that there is no universal agreement as to what “sustainability” really means. Tremendous work has been done on creating very useful sustainability “scorecards” and measures, and this is very helpful. In an effort to give a simple, yet direct definition of sustainability in manufacturing, we offer the following definition.
“Sustainable manufacturing processes deploy the optimal use of material and human resources for the long term to produce the desired product.”
That is the official definition adopted by the Sustainable Business Group concerning manufacturing and sustainability. It is simple and direct and focuses on one key term: Optimal.
When a manufacturing concern can shave one kilowatt or one cubic foot of natural gas use through energy conservation, without creating an inferior product or inferior work conditions, then it is not operating in a sustainable manner because it is not operating in an optimal manner. Even when it can use less energy in peak times, it becomes a more sustainable manufacturing enterprise since peak energy use is by far the most costly (in dollar and environmental terms) type of energy use that exists.
If the employees of a manufacturing concern are not properly trained and educated by the company regarding how to conserve energy and materials use on their jobs, in their homes, their churches, and in their life-style choices, then these employees are not engaging in the highest level of sustainable activities since their actions are not optimal.
These are easy words to write, but brutally hard to implement at the manufacturing plant level or across an entire globalized manufacturing concern. Where does a manufacturing concern start on the path or expand its already existing efforts toward becoming a more sustainable enterprise? This article begins in a very small way to address this question.