Sustainability advice, tips

Think Again: Smart process design and technology implementations go a long way to promoting sustainability and energy efficiency goals. Sustainability efforts involve many of the same things involved in effective manufacturing improvement and in waste reduction efforts, says Trevor Cusworth, director of Deloitte Consulting.


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Tips for smarter automation designs that helps with sustainability

Smart process design and technology implementations go a long way to promoting sustainability and energy efficiency goals. Sustainability efforts involve many of the same things involved in effective manufacturing improvement and in waste reduction efforts, says Trevor Cusworth, director of Deloitte Consulting. At the Pack Expo 2008 conference in Chicago, Cusworth offered advice for now and in the future regarding retrofits and new manufacturing lines, looking at processes and technologies.

There’s a lot of room for progress . “Focus to date has been on low-hanging fruit, such as lightweight containers and reduction in primary and secondary packing,” usually with disconnected initiatives, Cusworth says. “Few companies have undertaken integrated sustainability across functions, even though it has been talked about for years. It’s not corporate culture yet.” Integrated sustainability is good for business and efficiency, he adds. Lean and clean programs can incorporate sustainability for existing lines without significant extra spending. While practical, pragmatic views get my attention, Cusworth won me over with the observation that sustainability metrics are few. As control engineers like to say, he reminded the audience, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it.”

It’s not as if understanding sustainability is easy , with conflicting consumer and customer demands, network complexities, economic uncertainties, and undefined metrics. Yes, consumers want greener packaging, but they also want single-serve containers, customized sizes and lots, and mixed and rainbow pallets. That seems in conflict with demands to reduce costs and packaging materials. Adding to these challenges are manufacturing business issues: consolidation across industries, inefficiency across networks, SKU (stock keeping unit) number proliferation, and the need for more direct-to-store deliveries.

What to do? Cusworth says look at waste elimination initiatives and lean efforts and add sustainability. It readily fits, and for just a little extra effort, a lot of extra benefits can be derived. Ensure when quantifying sustainability, or any capital project, that you look at costs beyond capital investment. In justifying spending for sustainability, Cusworth says companies need to include sustainability factors in procurement and business cases, including total cost of ownership versus initial capital costs. Other benefits include enhancing eco-efficiency, improving product value add, creating new market opportunities, and augmenting company and brand reputations.

Please accept my best wishes for a blessed, prosperous, and sustainable 2009.

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