Six ways to reduce waste in a manufacturing process

Companies small and large, across all industries, are faced with waste in their manufacturing process. Six tips on how waste enters the process and how to monitor it are highlighted.


Effective and efficient waste-stream management in a food facility. Courtesy: CRBSmall and large manufacturers, across all industries, are faced with waste in their process. From raw ingredients to packaging, every stage of the manufacturing process must take waste into consideration and how to manage it. 

Preventive approach to limit waste

A preventative approach to waste management requires taking a step back and focusing on the entire manufacturing process, the facility and the business drivers. Often, steps can be taken to address the process and identify areas where excess waste is produced. Six questions to consider are highlighted below:

1. How do ingredients, materials, or inclusions enter the facility? Is the extra dunnage needed to maintain the integrity of the ingredient or raw material? Could product be transported in tubs or tanks instead of bags? Could the ingredients come in larger or smaller containers to prevent waste? Are there materials that could be reused rather than becoming waste? These questions, and more, can help begin to address the waste generated as a result of ingredients and materials. 

2. Is there a plan? Quality assurance and environmental teams will develop standard operating procedures to manage waste. These procedures ensure personnel are trained to maintain segregation and organization of product and prevent cross-contamination. From bundling corrugate and shredding/crushing primary packaging waste to handling waste product, personnel trained on the facility’s standard operating procedures are critical to the proper implementation of an effective waste-management program. A dedicated dock and personnel responsible for handling waste will ensure that the materials are processed efficiently. 

3. Is the line operating correctly and efficiently? Does the production line produce excess reject product? A poorly operating line can result in waste in the form of food product that does not meet company standards. A closer look at the line design, operation and procedures could reveal assignable causes for product rejects. These causes can often be mitigated!

4. Is food safety in waste being monitored? As a result of the Food Safety Modernization Act, quality must be more closely controlled and documented—even food waste. Waste product leaving the facility to be repurposed or used for animal consumption must comply with the requirements of 21CFR507. Manufacturers must ensure product is not contaminated in a way that could bring illness to animals or spread from animals to humans.  

5. What business drivers effect waste-stream management? From company values to cost savings, there are many factors that weigh into a waste-stream management plan. Sustainability is a growing trend in the modern manufacturing environment. Many companies are opting for sustainable practices that are aligned with company values, despite the increased operating cost. Others are driven by cost savings, with an emphasis on profitability and growth. Regardless of the drivers, all manufacturers must adhere to local codes and laws for manufacturing. 

6. What can be done early on to build waste management into the process? Even in the early planning stages of a new facility, waste-stream management should be considered. When selecting a site, manufacturers should consider the availability of a local recycling center and access to animal feed outlets. Is there an appropriate facility nearby, or will waste be transported a long distance? All of these factors can affect site selection and a facility’s overall waste-management plan. 

While this is not an exhaustive list of considerations, it does pose several key questions that can shape an effective plan. As manufacturers seek to mitigate waste, improve efficiency and drive down cost, it’s imperative to develop an effective and efficient waste-stream management plan. 

Renee Benson, packaging engineer, CRB, a CFE Media content partner. This article originally appeared on CRB's website.

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