Sustainability in Manufacturing: Use Green Business Practices to Do Good and Attract Brand Loyalty
The modern-day green movement began in the 1960s in response to North America’s rapid post-World War II industrialization. As manufacturing increased to all-time highs, so did air pollution and the harm it brings to people and the environment.
Earth Day, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and environmental legislation like the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts were all born during this period in response to the ecological crisis created by the manufacturing boom. The federal government and citizens alike knew something had to be done to balance the need for manufacturing with a requirement to care for the environment and the people who rely on it daily.
The solution? Sustainable manufacturing went from simply being a good idea to becoming a priority investment for business owners. In the following sections, you’ll learn what sustainable manufacturing is, why it matters to the industry’s longevity, and how your business can benefit from sustainable practices.
What Is Sustainable Manufacturing?
The United States Department of Commerce defines sustainable manufacturing as manufacturing processes with four critical and distinct characteristics:
- Economically sound
- Conserves energy and natural resources
- Minimizes negative environmental impacts
- Increases safety for all stakeholders
To that end, sustainability in manufacturing is about so much more than simply “going green.” Instead, the US EPA asks manufacturing enterprises to reduce consumption, waste, and emissions to protect the well-being of citizens around the nation and the globe and ensure they can live safely in their communities.
Why Sustainability in Manufacturing Matters
Nowadays, all stakeholders expect manufacturing enterprises to commit to sustainability. When business owners consider shifting their processes to embrace a greener approach, they must realize they can benefit just as much as the community and the environment.
Most people adopt a sustainability mindset because they know it’s good for the environment. However, you may not realize that adopting environmentally sound practices can be mutually beneficial. How would a manufacturer benefit from sustainability? Here’s a short rundown of what’s possible with a different approach.
Meeting Stakeholder Demands
Around 2009, retail giant Walmart rolled out its sustainability index, giving all products in its stores an environmental rating. These days, consumers and businesses are paying more attention to the products they purchase and making more of an effort to support green companies. If your customers expect you to maintain sustainable practices, you should take their concerns seriously.
Increase Your Business Value
Simply put, studies show that environmentally friendly companies have higher valuations than businesses that don’t do well in that category. Investors know that a lack of environmental responsibility is a financial and legal risk. Consequently, they may be less likely to want to put their money into something that may ruin their reputation with the public or put their money at risk.
Scaling Back the Budget
While shifting to sustainability in manufacturing may require an initial financial investment, it can save your business a great deal of money in the long run. Often, adopting sustainable practices allows you to increase productivity and do more with fewer resources. Some studies indicate that you may see a reduction of up to 20% in your energy bills, which is a big deal for growing enterprises.
Boosting Your Bottom Line
Saving money on energy costs isn’t the only way to increase your revenue. Surveys show that more than half of small and medium-sized enterprises invest in technology and products that reduce their carbon footprint. Going green allows your large business to take advantage of changing market sentiment and create products that other companies want to buy.
Attracting Top Talent
Global workplace surveys indicate that young employees desire workplaces where owners and managers are aware of their company’s impact on the environment and are actively moving toward decarbonization. If you want to attract and keep today’s top talent in your manufacturing business, it’s vital that you take steps to reduce waste, conserve energy, and prioritize environmental safety.
Sustainable Manufacturing Practices for Your Business
Sustainability in manufacturing may sound like a great idea, but you may need more information about implementing it in your enterprise. It’s crucial for you to figure out how to create sustainable business practices on a foundational level so that investors, employees, and the community at large can see and understand how it plays out in your day-to-day processes.
In this section, you’ll learn several key areas you should be focusing on to improve your manufacturing sustainability and best practices for making the switch.
There’s no way around it — cost-optimization and sustainability manufacturing in product design is necessary. According to investment firm Ernst & Young, 80% of a product’s lifetime emissions can be determined by what happens at the product design stage. While using more environmentally-friendly materials to design products is one way lower emissions, there are other solutions to focus on.
For example, computer-assisted design (CAD) technology increases the accuracy of drawings and makes them more robust. It allows customers and engineers to analyze designs thoroughly before documents make it to the shop floor.
When you can get the design right, less time and materials are wasted on the way to creating the final product. In turn, this results in a significant reduction in carbon emissions.
Achieving operational efficiency is a goal often associated with increasing the corporate bottom line. While this is undoubtedly a benefit, it’s essential to realize that it’s also at the heart of creating a culture of sustainable manufacturing.
When your operations are in order, you are better positioned to make supply chain decisions and source materials that align with your corporate sustainability values and action plan. In addition, you’ll reduce human error at every turn, contributing to an economically sound manufacturing process that reduces waste and emissions.
Achieving carbon neutrality should be paramount to every manufacturing organization. Not only is energy management required by law, but it plays a massive role in ensuring your company contributes to a flourishing environment. Still, energy management can be challenging to achieve, primarily because energy use can be highly distributed among facilities and processes. You may need clarification about which parts of your operation are responsible for energy waste to tackle the problem successfully.
Switching to a renewable energy source available in your area can be helpful but isn’t the end-all solution for most enterprises. It’s also critical for sustainable manufacturers to research and invest in emerging digital technologies that provide visibility into your entire operation and can contribute to lean processes, better energy usage, and waste reduction.
Best Practices for Implementation
As you seek to implement sustainable manufacturing processes at your company, you should keep the following best practices in mind:
- Assess your company’s values and ensure they align with a sustainability mindset
- Take time to communicate your values to executive staff, employees, and all corporate stakeholders to gain maximum buy-in
- Evaluate your business’ current sustainability initiatives and identify gaps
- Set priorities and create an action plan for moving toward sustainability
- Invest heavily in technology that can help you implement green practices, such as Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) and CAD automation software
- Ensure that you find the right balance between business growth and environmental sustainability
- As you execute your strategy, find ways to create a near-immediate return on investment as you look to make long-term changes
It’s important to acknowledge that pivoting to sustainable manufacturing processes isn’t easy, especially if this hasn’t always been top of mind. When you take the time to do it right, you’ll be able to create a company culture that values sustainability and is committed to ensuring environmental preservation and safety for all.
Eco-Friendly Manufacturing with CPQ Solutions from Tacton
When it comes to practical sustainability, Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) technology is changing the game in the manufacturing industry. CPQ software integrates with computer-aided design (CAD) automation and has native visual configuration technology to allow real-time, customer-driven customization and engineered-to-order product manufacturing.
When customers can create the exact product they want and get clear on pricing before requests reach the manufacturing floor, everyone involved can use their time more wisely and avoid significant material waste. In this way, CPQ technology is a substantial piece in solving the sustainability puzzle.
If sustainability is your goal, Tacton can help you meet it with CPQ solutions. Contact us to discover how our platform can help you save time, reduce waste, and meet your customers’ demands for precision, customization, and sustainability.