Tips for sustainability in manufacturing

Controls engineers have quietly done sustainability related efforts for years; we call them "lean initiatives," says Pack Expo speaker.


Chicago – Smart engineering can help promote sustainability efforts in manufacturing, says Trevor Cusworth, director of Deloitte Consulting , at the Pack Expo 2008 conference on Nov. 11. Good control engineering practices play a key role. Links follow below with tips and additional advice.

Smart process design and technology implementations go a long way to promoting sustainability and energy efficiency goals. Redesigned lean line Control Engineering , Deloitte Consulting, Pack Expo 2008

Sustainability efforts involve many of the same things involved in effective manufacturing improvement and in waste reduction efforts, Cusworth says. He offered advice for now and in the future regarding retrofits and new manufacturing lines, looking at processes and technologies.
“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 spend. Here’s how.
Sustainability defined
Deloitte defines sustainability based on a United Nations definition: Continual improvement of business operations to ensure long-term resource availability through environmental, socially sensitive and transparent performance as it relates to consumers, business partners, and the community.
In quantifying sustainability benefits, the views and goodwill of customers and consumers should be considered when looking at overall return on investment (ROI) in a plant. On the downside, without considering engineering, sustainability can have unintended consequences. Reducing bottle-wall thickness, for instance, without considering line and packaging design can increase the number of damaged bottles and waste.
Leading reasons for increased business emphasis on sustainability, according to a Deloitte-cited survey, are:
53% reputation;
40% customer demand;
39% industry trends;
36% cost savings;
34% CEO board commitment;
30% competitive advantages;
25% license to operate;
21% NGO (non-governmental organization) demand; and
19% shareholder demand, among others.
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--along 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.
Demands to save money and get more out of operations without spending more capital make sustainability efforts more difficult. There are no clear metrics for how sustainable someone is. “ 'If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it' is
Tips, types of sustainability gains
Innovate products and processes to make significant gains, Cusworth suggests. Changes should be cultural, integral, proactive: Mitigate regulatory and commodity supply risks, and engage customers and the supply chain. Less useful are incremental, project-by-project changes. Doing nothing is also an optionAnd some companies choose to do nothing.
Cusworth says that perhaps 70% of companies have some lean program and suggests integrating sustainability into existing efforts. Lean can be extended to include sustainability, making it lean and clean, he says. The five S’s of lean are: sort, set in order, standardize, shine, and sustain. Sustainability can be the sixth 'S,' with safety added all around.
In addition, efforts to eliminate waste also can incorporate sustainability. The seven deadly wastes are inventory, transportation, defects, over processing, motion, waiting, and over production. Add to that a sustainability measurement, looking at
A four-step approach can 1) identify environmental metrics and energy loss, 2) map the value stream, 3) analyze solutions using cross functional teams, and 4) implement solutions. Doing that would involve looking at performance measures and sustainability metrics, eliminating identified losses, implementing sustainability within lean efforts, implementing process changes based on findings, and installing or upgrading operations management processes, he says.
Other advice for long-term sustainability gains in plant operations:
- Design lines with lean in mind. Start with process requirements needs, not conveyor considerations. The image shows how a lean manufacturing packaging line at 16,850 ft2is more efficient than a traditional design at 36,120 ft2, producing savings of 25% to 92% across 10 measured parameters. Smarter configuration, sensors, motors, and robotics are involves, as are
- Change parts and equipment to automatically adapt to containers as they changes in size;
- Perform faster changeouts when needed.
- Look at line lubrication to reduce energy and wastewater use. Control technology can help eliminate water based lines completely. One company saved 20 millions gallons per year.
- Reduce downtime with remote monitoring and less travel to the plant.
- Use robotics to reduce downtime and make palletization more flexible.
- Consider 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. In an extreme case, a pharmaceutical company looked at two printers. The one priced at $12,678 cost $3,200 to operate for five days. The one priced at $65,678 cost $33,335 to operate for five days.
- Look at wider benefits, such as
The Deloitte study was done with help from GMA (the association of food, beverage and consumer product companies), PMMI, and Hartness International.
Also Pack Expo Show Daily coverage of Cusworth's sustainability comments
From Control Engineering, read:

Engineered for sustainability

and More Pack Expo coverage .
–  Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief
Control Engineering
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