Cradle to grave: IBM Consulting PLM offering makes for greener products, processes

The IBM Environmental Product Life-cycle Management (PLM) solution introduced in September is a consulting offering that calls upon IBM's own applications and expertise to ensure products are made to the environmental standards laid out by the client.


A growing number of environmental regulations and the popularity of green products find manufacturers more focused than ever on eco-friendly design, production, and distribution.
But complying with a tangled web of regulations, verifying compliance, and honing in on design, manufacturing, and shipping practices to isolate methods ripe for environmental cleanup is much easier said than done. To that end, IBM introduced in September a consulting offering that calls upon
The IBM Environmental Product Life-cycle Management (PLM) solution assists clients in analyzing every phase their products pass through to ensure regulatory compliance and to find practices that could be greened—to coin a phrase.

Predicting before building: IBM Environmental Product Life-cycle Management (PLM) offerings help companies analyze each phase of product design and development. IBM consultants and researchers tap into a variety of PLM applications, including Dassault Systemes DELMIA digital manufacturing solutions, to determine the proper levels of materials and energy needed to build an environmentally friendly product before prototypes ever enter the production phase.

Consultants take into account the product’s development and manufacturing processes as well as delivery methods and end-of-life reclamation and recycling considerations. This involves these areas:
• Materials used to make and package the product;
• Design—i.e., whether it can easily be recycled or refurbished when no longer useable; and
• Energy sources required to produce it, transport, and use it.
According to Jeff Hittner, corporate social responsibility leader for IBM Business Services , the consulting service is available to all manufacturing industries—ranging from cars, televisions, consumer goods, food, and clothing.
“One business might look at distribution statistics, another at packaging, another at design for compliance, and another at end-of-life requirements so products can be easily recycled or broken down,” Hittner says.
While this IBM PLM offering is too new to boast a user base, Marc Halpern, a research director with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group , says IBM is well situated to enter the environmental consulting space in this way.
“There are so many dimensions to green, and IBM has a good number of tools to support it,” Halpern says.
That is, Big Blue incorporates green practices into the manufacture of its own computers and high-tech electronics and can offer consulting clients insights from lessons learned, Halpern adds. But IBM also makes its own software applications and infrastructure useful to the manufacturer that needs to produce to stringent environmental standards.
IBM also ensures software is implemented and configured to support processes and databases that meet with a manufacturer’s green initiatives and objectives.
Environmental mandates include the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, or RoHS , which went into effect in 2006. It restricts six hazardous materials—including cadmium and lead, in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment.
Likewise, the EU's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, or WEEE , puts the responsibility for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment on the equipment's manufacturers.
China takes a different approach to regulation. To sell products in China, the makers of targeted electronics need to disclose the presence of certain chemicals such as lead, under China’s Administrative Measure on the Control of Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products.
The automotive industry is particularly affected by changing legislation. Many automakers must comply with the End-of-Life Vehicle Directive passed by the EU in 2000. That law aims to redirect, from landfill to recycling, the approximately eight million tons of waste generated by the disposal of vehicles in EU countries each year.
The directive specifies the materials and chemicals that can be included in particular amounts in automotive parts. It sets target dates by which each part of the directive must be met. By 2015, about 90 percent of a vehicle must be recyclable, according to the Automotive Industry Action Group , a nonprofit consortium of companies involved in the worldwide automotive industry.
“This is a huge undertaking—that’s why IBM is interested,” concludes Halpern. “I know of a number of companies that need to become compliant with European Union mandates. If their markets are in Europe, they’ll have to care about this.”

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Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

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