By Robbie West | Published September 17, 2020
Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources. Sustainable manufacturing reduces waste and costs for a company while it gains public support. The public is drawn toward organizations that acknowledge there is a natural resource issue and do their part to tackle the problem. The conservation of the earth’s natural resources has become a pressing issue throughout the globe. Scientists have detected tremendous declines in the natural resources available. Without a concerted focus on reducing the consumption of natural resources from manufacturing industries, we could see a tremendous shortage within the next century. Sustainable manufacturing is a good first step in ensuring this does not happen.
There are several ways companies can approach sustainable manufacturing. Emission reduction, water reduction, energy reduction, and waste reduction are all feasible steps companies can impose. Business-process-applications such as lean manufacturing and six-sigma can reduce the number of resources used by a company. Traditional manufacturing practices have proven to give off high levels of emissions. This type of environment is dangerous for employees and members of the community. With new technology developing every day, finding alternative resources to power machines should be feasible. Top companies in the world, such as Walmart, Samsung, and General Motors are leading the change in energy conservation. Implementing sustainable manufacturing takes a lot of capital, which dissuades companies from making the change.
Conducting energy audits are one way to track sustainability. Companies can examine which sectors in their organization exhausted vast amounts of electricity. Having five automation machines running every day can consume much of the company’s electrical output. If these companies can eliminate energy usage during idle times, we can expect to see a gradual reduction in resource expenditures. Replacing outdated machines with new ones can increase energy conservation. It will be challenging to reduce energy consumption in every department since some sectors require excessive amounts of electricity. Electricity mitigation can help save thousands of watts of electricity annually.
Currently, nonrenewable resources make up nearly 90% of the global energy supply. Developing countries have had a remarkable increase in their use of energy over the last few years. Finding an energy-efficient way for these countries to operate is essential to global conservation. Using renewable energy is one way to do this. Implementing solar panels is an option that organizations can implement to capitalize on renewable energy. Solar power is more efficient as it relates to global resource conservation than relying on nonrenewable resources. Hydrodynamics is another form of resource conservation. Hydrodynamics is the study of liquids in motion. Water makes up a little over 70% of the earth’s surface area. Transferring water into an energy source can cut the consumption of less abundant resources. Water is easily assessable from oceans, lakes, rivers, etc. Finding ways to harness hydroelectric energy can be the key to sustainability.
Companies need to invest in their communities and do their part to increase long-term sustainability. Customers often look for businesses that display a healthy environmental footprint. Potential employees also look for companies that practice environmental sustainability. Companies can do this by donating to local environmental organizations, or they can take it upon themselves to internally change their practices. The whole idea of the triple bottom line was for companies to measure their economic, social, and environmental value-added.
Sustainable manufacturing is a practice that should have been implemented during the Industrial Revolution. As technology continues to develop, engineers will find new ways to conserve the earth’s resources. If every company participates in an internal energy audit and creates a plan, we could see a huge reduction in our annual energy consumption.