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3 Innovative Ways to Achieve Sustainability in Production

Posted: Nov 26, 2019 10:00:00 AM

Most manufacturers are focused on sustainability, even if they don't know it. Sustainability is about getting more from less, minimizing waste and protecting people. Lean manufacturing is, arguably, sustainable manufacturing. Here's an introduction to sustainability in production, a look at the benefits, and some suggestions for becoming more sustainable.

Understanding Sustainable Manufacturing

Organizations like the US Department of Commerce and the OECD have formal definitions, but they come down to these three points:

  • Use less of everything – energy, materials, water
  • Minimize environmental impact - reduce air and water emissions and waste going to landfill
  • Protect people – employees, those living nearby, customers

What manufacturer isn't going to sign up for those?

Benefits of Sustainable Manufacturing

On their websites the Department of Commerce and OECD identify various benefits, like improving company image, reducing liability risks and meeting customer demands. Those are good, but there are some more tangible benefits to be had. For example:

  • Reduced energy and water costs. Achieving the same output while using less electricity, gas and water is a direct cost saving.
  • Reduced raw material costs. Increasing yields cuts consumption and so saves money.
  • Lower waste disposal costs. Whether it's landfill, water treatment or emissions from stacks, increasing yields and cutting consumption means there's less to get rid of.
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Ideas for Increasing Sustainability in Production

Manufacturers that have embraced Lean focus on driving out waste. They use continuous improvement techniques to attack the seven wastes of inventory, transport, unnecessary motion, waiting, overproduction, inappropriate processing, and defects. This increases yields, reduces landfill and so on, but may leave some sustainability opportunities overlooked. Here are three ideas for going further.

1. Use ISO 14001 as a springboard

This is the Environmental Management Systems standard. It does for environmental practices what ISO 9001 does for quality. More specifically, it puts policies and procedures in place to measure and manage environmental aspects of the business, like waste disposal.

As measurement precedes improvement, use ISO 14001 to quantify current sustainability practices. Use the OECD sustainable manufacturing toolkit, then let those results help guide your priorities and improvement actions.

2. Audit energy consumption

Manufacturing industry is hugely energy-intensive. Commission an audit, or organize it internally, to identify how and where energy is being used. Pareto the findings, then identify and implement changes. This might include: increasing use of variable frequency drives (VFDs) on motors, switching to LED lighting, adding insulation and fans and exploring oven and furnace heat recovery systems.

3. Reassess metal cleaning practices

Concerns over VOCs, CFCs and greenhouse gas emissions have pushed many manufacturers to use aqueous cleaning systems. In many cases these use more energy and water than the solvent systems they’ve replaced. Finding appropriate, low hazard solvents may improve overall manufacturing sustainability.

Doing The Right Thing

Hartford Technologies has supplied bearings to customers in a diverse range of industries since the 1930s. Bearings have changed over that time but some things have not: Hartford remains committed to responsible manufacturing and being a good neighbor, as evidenced by our ISO 9001 and 14001 certifications and passion for Lean manufacturing. To learn more, we invite you to contact us today.