Create a free account to continue

5 Ways Manufacturers Are Going Green And Don’t Even Know It

By Patrick Michel, Vice President, DELMIA Industry Solutions & Marketing, Dassault Systèmes With digital manufacturing, companies are not only becoming more efficient, but in the process they are also greening their supply chain without even knowing it.

It seems like you can’t turn around without a company touting a new “green” initiative. What was once a fad has now become mandatory for manufacturers to not only maintain corporate responsibility, but to positively impact the bottom line. However, few companies look inside their own organization to see what they may already be doing -- or what small improvements they can make -- to save time, energy, resources, and in turn, help the environment.

There are multiple points within the product lifecycle where manufacturers can go green and save money -- from design, to the costs and energy it takes to develop physical prototypes, to the ongoing rounds of trial and error, all the way through to manufacturing and product support.

It is estimated that 80 percent of development costs are consumed in the early phases of the product lifecycle and in order to achieve dramatic time and cost reductions, designs must be conceived with manufacturing in mind and released to production “error free.” One solution that allows executives to increase revenue and reduce cycle times by taking a holistic approach towards design and manufacturing excellence is digital manufacturing.

Digital manufacturing is a departure from typical manufacturing methodology as it provides the ability to go from digital designs directly to actual production. This results in early identification of production issues avoiding costly design and manufacturing changes, in addition to promoting higher quality designs that result in the reduced need for late engineering alterations. In turn, the quantity of electricity, oil, gas, metals and paper materials consumed throughout the entire manufacturing cycle are significantly reduced.

Digital manufacturing is an integral part of enterprise-wide product lifecycle management (PLM) that further supports the development of improved production processes. Until recently, executives were faced with using point solutions directed primarily toward manufacturing engineering organizations and not fully integrated into broader PLM environments. The missing ingredients are common data models that link design activities with production engineering.

PLM consulting firm CIMdata recently published a report entitled, “The Benefits of Digital Manufacturing,” claims that companies using digital manufacturing can see a 40 percent reduction in manufacturing process planning; 30 percent reduction in lead time-to-market; a 15 percent increase in production throughput; a 13 percent decrease in overall production cost; and a 40 percent reduction in equipment costs. So, not only does digital manufacturing serve as the ultimate competitive advantage but it also provides many green benefits.

Case In Point: A UK Railway Goes Green
A major UK railway company uses digital manufacturing software to aid in stock reduction, increase machinery utilization, create more efficient personnel and equipment movement around its plant, and to significantly free up production capacity.

Using digital manufacturing in conjunction with other PLM solutions, the company was able to put its resources to better use by simulating virtual cranes, forklifts, lathes, presses and balances and applying cell cycle times to their use. With full understanding of the impact of each change, and the ability to easily make changes in a virtual environment they were able to maximize machine utilization in many cases and improve overall productivity as a result.

For example, the company is able to leverage its experience to gain major stock reduction, which has improved both cash flow and helped towards JIT (Just in Time) operation; in an increasingly efficient plant environment.

The team has developed an ability to operate with agility, accuracy and with an attention to detail. Whether it be supplying a single wheel or refurbishing and upgrading a complete train to operate for another 15 years, it is done by engineers who apply their skills and experience to maximum effect. Digital manufacturing has added a layer of information and control that allows the company to work more efficiently by reducing waste and increasing productivity.

Greening Your Supply Chain
With digital manufacturing, companies are not only becoming more efficient, but in the process they are also greening their supply chain without even knowing it. Here are five ways these unsuspecting companies are turning green:

1. Early Access
Giving planners early visibility to in-work designs allows for concurrent design/manufacturing planning and ongoing manufacturing input into design decisions.

Green Aspect: Problems will be spotted earlier in the design process which will reduce costs while eliminating non-value added activities that waste time and energy.

2. Production Rules
PLM assists in introducing production rules into the design process from the very beginning. For example, a PLM data model will advise a designer that a company cannot manufacture an assembly as they have conceived it because of compliance or supplier conflicts.

Green Aspect: Production engineers can continue to consult the data models during the design process, ensuring repeatability. Having a repeatable model will save time and eliminate trial and error, as a successful model will be at their disposal and can be easily followed.

3. Change Management and Two-way Communication
Collaboration is very important between the players involved as the information required to describe the production of a product vastly exceeds the information represented within the product design itself.

Green Aspect: Providing a change management system with bi-directional communication and real-time impact analysis eliminates potential miscommunications and wasted cycles.

4. The Virtual Product and Factory
Digital manufacturing tools connect the product that exists in a designer's vision and the processes necessary to make that product a reality. It’s important to validate and optimize plant and product layouts and processes before production begins through simulation of equipment, lines, people, and material delivery.

Green Aspect: Establishing an integrated virtual product and factory definition that evolves together allows the team to better plan out the production line and ensures it remains up-to-date. By some accounts, this reduces material flow costs by as much as 35 percent.

5. 3D Environments
Many leading manufacturers are using a digital environment to produce virtual products and perfect manufacturing processes before making physical plant investments. By simulating production in a "digital factory," companies can evaluate multiple plant and process designs before investing in a prototype.

Green Aspect: The result of collaboration in a unified 3D environment is to ensure designs are produced “right the first time.” It is a faster, more efficient, error-free manufacturing process, and promises a higher level of information-sharing throughout the supply chain.

All these activities allow operations to run more smoothly and they share common results in how they can impact the “green” efforts of an organization. Being able to digitally plan, create, monitor and control before execution is key, and results in a reduction of materials used, energy consumed and byproducts that a manufacture might otherwise produce.

With digital manufacturing, developers can go from design to production, a two-step process that traditionally took multiple, almost endless, cycles to get right. By phasing out unnecessary steps like man power, energy and equipment, companies can reflect on not only an increase in innovation, but the efficient and green initiative they have established.

Patrick Michel leads the Industry Solutions & Marketing organization for DELMIA, Dassault Systemes’ brand for Digital Manufacturing, defining solutions for the different industries including automotive, aerospace & shipbuilding industries. For more information visit,