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5 Tips to Practice Sustainable Manufacturing

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Albert Einstein

Sustainability is the future of manufacturing. With methodology like lean manufacturing, industrial companies can stay ahead of the competition by reducing waste, improving customer opinion, and increasing cost savings.

If you want to start on the path of sustainability, read more below.

What is sustainable manufacturing?

Sustainable manufacturing is a term to describe methods of manufacturing in which companies focus on minimizing environmental impacts while continuing to remain competitive.

Lean manufacturing is thought to be a method of sustainable manufacturing because of its “one-piece flow” production process that processes materials in one continuous flow that is highly controlled and demands constant improvement.

Forms of lean manufacturing methods include:

  • Kaizen: Japanese for “change for the better,” this process encourages the entire company to constantly improve
  • 5S: includes 5 steps to a sustainable process
  • Cellular Manufacturing: products are made in one cell with just-in-time manufacturing processes
  • Kanban: another just-in-time manufacturing method, balancing demand with available material
  • TPM: stands for “total productive maintenance” and encourages constant preventative and breakdown maintenance for perfect production
  • Six Sigma: aims to eliminate wasteful steps and only add steps that add value to the production process
  • 3P: stands for “production preparation process” and aims to eliminate waste in the product through product design

The above methods can be combined in a way that best suits your company’s needs and methodology. Each method can help you cut back on waste while reserving energy and increasing cost savings.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) notes that in 2010, 56 percent of UK manufacturers invested in low-carbon technologies and strategies. Top manufacturers such as Toyota have been practicing lean manufacturing since the mid-20th century.

Sustainable manufacturing is not new, but the recent surge in consumer demand for green products has pushed companies to embrace lean thinking.

Climate change and the benefits of sustainable manufacturing

Our planet has undergone massive changes on a global scale since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Just a few of these changes include warming and increasingly acidic oceans, microplastics polluting our waters, increased rate of species extinction, and loss of biodiversity.

Sustainable manufacturing provides an opportunity for humans to continue producing the goods we need to survive and thrive while also negating the effects of climate change.

Thankfully for businesses, sustainable manufacturing doesn’t mean a reduction in profit. By practicing lean manufacturing, companies experience the following benefits:

  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Increase in demand from green-minded consumers
  • Long-term business success
  • Lower resource and production costs

The cost savings from employing lean manufacturing methods are real: businesses can reduce their energy bills by up to 20 percent with a small investment in sustainable practices and can see up to a 5 percent increase in overall profits.

How to practice sustainable manufacturing in your facility

If you like the way “cost savings,” “increase in demand,” and “long-term business success” sound, then start implementing sustainable manufacturing practices into your facility.

1. Start practicing sustainable manufacturing with a plan

The best way to start on the path to sustainable manufacturing is with a plan. Haphazardly adding lead methodology to your company without a plan is frustrating and may not show any positive results.

Analyze the lean manufacturing methods listed above and determine which methods would suit your company. Then you can create a step-by-step plan to achieve your sustainability goals.

This slow approach to sustainability will increase your chances of success and make for a smoother process.

2. Keep the benefits at the forefront of your focus

Sustainability may not be your number one concern in your day-to-day work. Because of this, jumping on the sustainability bandwagon could be frustrating, especially when the benefits are slow to show.

Maintain a detailed account of your operational costs and waste as you change your production process so incremental changes in cost savings are immediately available. This will prevent you from feeling like lean manufacturing is more trouble than it’s worth and motivate you to continue adding more sustainable practices.

3. Get certified in ISO standards that encourage environmental sustainability

ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 are accountability measures that keep you in line with your sustainability mission while also proving to your customers that you are serious about being a green company.

4. Analyze your production process and see what can be eliminated

Continuously look at your production data for indications of waste. This could be in the form of material waste, waste of energy in industrial equipment, excess of labor, and more.

Eliminate any waste that draws more energy, materials, or labor than you need to produce quality goods. Only add steps or equipment to the production process that are sure to add value and either maintain or reduce waste production.

For example, an industrial productivity tracker like an HMI or a PLC will add value to your production line by tracking your energy levels and waste while adding minimal energy costs.

5. Encourage your entire company to be involved

Finally, get your staff involved in your efforts to become more sustainable. It will motivate your employees and make them feel connected to your company’s mission.

Plus, your employees may come up with ideas that improve your sustainability practices and increase your cost savings. When your business is working toward a greener planet (and a greener profit), everyone will benefit.

Grow your company while preserving resources

Sustainable manufacturing is the key to reducing unnecessary costs and staying competitive in the 21st century. Companies can practice the noble act of preserving precious resources while still meeting their customers’ demands.

Stay on top of the sustainability trends to see improvements in your company’s business outlook and your current revenue.

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