Top Trends In Sustainable Manufacturing Practices

Exciting advances in materials science, software compatibility and data collection can make any manufacturer more sustainable and more competitive.

Sustainability is only a buzzword if your organization treats it like one. Sustainable manufacturing goes beyond waste prevention, environmental impacts, worker health, and safety. Its ultimate goal is to improve production and profitability. Luckily, some exciting advances in materials science, software compatibility and data collection can make any manufacturer more sustainable and more competitive. Add a touch of common sense and manufacturers can get leaner and greener faster than ever.   

It’s Everybody’s Problem. It’s Everybody’s Solution.

Every aspect of the manufacturing process must be evaluated from a sustainable POV. It’s easier than it sounds. It means bringing together experts from each department (process engineers, product designers, production, shipping, environment health, safety staff, etc.) to search for non-value adding steps. Just establishing relationships between these personnel can help organizations identify where it’s losing valuable time, money, or both.

Rethink Your Raw Materials.

Raw materials that have low friction and energy use can ease the strain on manufacturing tools and procedures. Manufacturers can safely extend the lifespan of certain instruments and reduce the need for costly (or time consuming) repairs.

Fewer Bacteria. Fewer Stoppages.

Manufacturers can reduce inefficiencies and stoppages related to enhanced cleaning protocols in hospitals and healthcare facilities by using antimicrobial copper alloys. These metals continuously kill bacteria, even after recontamination. The material is so effective that the EPA registered the alloy as the only class of solid surface materials to actively kill the bacteria that cause infections and pose a risk to human health.

Take a Hard Look at Your Shipping

Reusable packaging and collapsible bulk boxes make supply chains leaner. A package that can be reused thousands of times beats buying and assembling boxes and wood crates each time product ships. The upfront investment is quickly recouped through repeated use, labor, handling, quality, floor space and per piece packaging costs. Sustainable packaging and shipping materials have an additional benefit – they’re highly visible. Customers and others along the supply chain can see a company’s commitment to sustainability, strengthening a manufacturer’s brand and building public trust.

A Revolution in Workflow

The Internet of Things: Easier Than Ever

Advances in software compatibility make adopting IOT easier and safer than ever. Thanks to updates in OPC Unified Architecture, manufacturers can use open IOT to upgrade older legacy systems to Industry 4.0 with confidence. This allows sustainable manufacturers to put IOT on all software platforms and countless devices: from small, embedded controllers to huge cloud infrastructures. And with new, robust security measures, there’s no excuse not to do it.

Digital Twins: Better Than Ever.

Likewise, advances in Digital Twins modeling allows users to test workflow before production even starts. Manufacturers can forecast when a physical asset will be due for a repair, find methods to develop better versions of the product, and alter processes - without touching a physical asset.

By pairing IOT with Digital Twins modeling, factories can more accurately forecast production, adapt workflow to equipment’s actual performance, conduct preventative maintenance, and avoid unforeseen stoppages.

Small Fixes, Huge Cost Savings

The physical plant of a factory presents some of the easiest, most cost efficient ways to reduce waste. Despite the lack of sexiness, these solutions have allowed manufacturers to cut utilities by as much as 36 percent and CO2 emissions by 37 percent:

  • Green, living roofs reduce energy for heating and cooling
  • Smart thermostats to lower heat during plant idle time and get the temperature back up before production starts again
  • LED lighting
  • Motion sensors in conference rooms, storage areas, warehouses, and restrooms, so lights turn on only when needed
  • Daily shutdown SOPs for copiers, PC monitors, and other office machines when not in use
  • Weekend shutdown SOPs

All of these innovations: whether big or small, systemic or granular, are only effective if manufacturers have institutional buy-in. Sustainability is best addressed when it is coordinated across departments and built into key personnel’s understanding of their job responsibilities. If sustainability measures come off as inconsistent or disconnected from core job functions, it’s an uphill battle. Like any other pitch to stakeholders, focus on increased competitiveness and revenues and tie those concepts back to cost cutting, risk reduction, and improved efficiency. If it’s everyone’s responsibility, everyone should feel empowered to provide solutions.  

Angela Woody is the Manager for Growth & Business Development at Olin Brass and is responsible for the CuVerro product line.

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