Sustainable production commitment addresses manufacturing challenges

Multiple converging drivers are culminating in the move toward green manufacturing and sustainable production – and the global push for sustainability is demanding that companies manufacture their products in a more responsible manner. One such driver is consumer demand for products from companies involved in sustainable business practices.


Multiple converging drivers are culminating in the move toward green manufacturing and sustainable production %%MDASSML%% and the global push for sustainability is demanding that companies manufacture their products in a more responsible manner. One such driver is consumer demand for products from companies involved in sustainable business practices.

Another is the creation of important new government-, industry- and company-driven standards and report cards %%MDASSML%% including the Global Reporting Initiative, LEED certification and carbon footprint scorecards requested by “power retailers.” Last, and certainly not least, is the economic imperative %%MDASSML%% driven by rising energy prices and escalating raw material costs. These converging drivers have led to a major initiative by many companies to implement sustainable production and design practices.

Another consideration is that manufacturing facilities will soon come under more regulatory scrutiny in terms of carbon emissions and water usage due to the increased legislative focus on these issues. It is likely that they will be required to monitor and report the large amounts of data that resides in their automation systems.

Although many manufacturers have not yet grasped what to measure and how to report it, the convergence of IT and automation infrastructures in manufacturing are the leading trends that will help manufacturers more effectively comply and compete.

Moving beyond the obvious

Forward-looking manufacturers are moving beyond superficial window dressing %%MDASSML%% also known as greenwashing %%MDASSML%% toward truly strategic, long-term sustainable production initiatives. Companies need to get out of a reactive “initiative du jour ” mode %%MDASSML%% where they jump on the bandwagon of the day %%MDASSML%% whether it be sustainability scorecards, trading carbon credits or planting trees to reduce their “carbon footprints.”

Instead, they need to develop a comprehensive sustainability program that takes into account traditional “green” issues such as energy efficiency and emission control, but also goes further to address issues such as reduced use of raw materials, workplace safety, product safety and reliability and reuse of waste in a “reverse supply chain” scenario. There is a fundamental business opportunity for leading companies to drive their entire supply chain toward sustainable production, and use that as a long-term competitive advantage.

Companies who think sustainable production practices are a drain on cost, quality and productivity are missing the boat. It doesn’t have to be an “either-or” proposition. Companies can be more environmentally and socially responsible while improving the bottom line.

In fact, there is a critical business case for adopting long-term sustainable production, as it is the only solution for overcoming the rising costs of energy, raw materials, environmental hazard remediation, workers compensation, lost worker productivity and product liability. Automation plays a critical role in making sustainable production a win-win proposition.

For example, conducting a preliminary energy audit presents a comprehensive picture of a plant’s energy use. From there, companies can make basic changes such as using energy efficient drives that help reduce the amount of power used by the hundreds or thousands of motors in the factory. These kinds of easily identifiable changes can positively affect a company’s environmental impact while saving thousands of dollars on their energy bill.

Maintain, preserve existing assets

Beyond installing more efficient products and software, there is also a sustainability case for maintaining and preserving the assets already available in the plant.

By gathering and analyzing vital data from across production facilities using condition monitoring tools and networked drives linked to central controllers, engineers can help maximize their asset availability, utilization and efficiency. This means more production uptime, and reducing the raw materials used in producing replacement parts and optimizing efficient energy use.

Forward-looking companies are looking to innovative manufacturing strategies that help optimize reuse of various utilities within the plant, minimizing their environmental impact. With the convergence of industry drivers and the availability of value-add automation solutions, there is no reason why companies should not look at sustainable production for long-term competitiveness. It allows manufacturers to overcome today’s economic pressures, achieve their long-term business goals, improve their global competitiveness and have a more positive impact on society and the environment.

Author Information

John Nesi is vice president of commercial marketing for the ACIG group of Rockwell Automation, recently taking on responsibility for company-wide marketing efforts.

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