Sustainable Manufacturing: Reducing Environmental Footprint

Those that know me would never describe me as an eco-warrior but being more efficient with our resources, utilising green power sources and embracing more sustainable approaches to manufacture makes sound economic sense in my book.

Over the last 2 months I’ve visited 3 different organisations, all of them growing despite the headwinds that businesses are facing at the moment on a number of fronts.  Before I visited them, I did a bit of cyber stalking and the first thing I noticed looking on google maps was the number of solar panels the companies had.  One in particular had almost the whole roof covered and when I visited, they proudly displayed the energy being generated in reception.  During the discussions I mentioned the solar energy and they disclosed that they payback was 2 years quicker than planned and now they were exporting back to the grid on most days during the summer.  It was obviously a nice money maker from the look on her face!

Walking around the shopfloor at the same business, the way which they had segregated the waste was clearly evident and the MD indicated that whilst they we constantly looking to reduce waste in all areas, they were now deriving a revenue from almost all the waste streams, nothing was going to land fill and all employees were collectively incentivised to avoid making waste in the first place.  The KPI’s on the year-on-year performance was really impressive but due to the nature of the business unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any pictures.

Another interesting angle is using materials more efficiently and a visit to an organisation with a big R&D focus was really enlightening.  Additive manufacturing has been around for quite a while now, but this company had developed a really novel approach to AM and were focusing on increasing the scope, scale and volume potential for AM to challenge well established industries.  Not only does the process avoid waste, but any waste that is created is recycled into more product.

Whilst metallic materials are very energy intensive to produce, they are infinitely recyclable, and the last company I’ll talk about have developed a business model of offering to exchange older versions of their products for the latest model.  This is in no way unique, and lots of industries from drinks cans, electronics, white goods, etc. have provided this service for years.  This company are ensuring that every new version of the product is more energy efficient, uses less material and the packaging is fully recyclable, which for the size and complexity of the product is no mean feat in itself.

Not everyone is embracing sustainability and green technologies, I can’t understand anyone who wouldn’t want to care about our environment.  Nevertheless, if we look through a purely economic lens, many of the energy efficiency and eco initiatives have a sound economic benefit, and you’d be daft not want to save a few quid.

This article was written by our secret blogger.

Would you like to hear how the SMA can help you ? Contact: