The theme of this year’s Digital Manufacturing Week, ‘Sustainable Industry 4.0 Unleashed’, is a subject that’s top of mind for manufacturers across the world.
The latest global report by Deloitte, “Sustainable manufacturing: From vision to action”, explores the opportunities for substantial financial and environmental benefits from sustainable manufacturing.
What is sustainable manufacturing?
Deloitte defines it as ‘the creation of products through economically-sound processes that minimise negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources’.
The expansion of sustainable manufacturing practices has been driven by several key forces. These include a desire to enjoy the economies and market opportunities that are available, but equally important is the need to address pressure from internal and external stakeholders across the value chain.
The report notes that many pockets of the industry benefit from the implementation of sustainable manufacturing, not just industrial and consumer products. It is true, however, that different manufacturing segments involve different environmental impacts. Therefore aerospace, construction, and chemicals may approach sustainable manufacturing differently compared with technology and healthcare.
“While some progress has already been made in the industry, much more needs to be done,” says Duncan Johnston, Industrial Products & Construction leader at Deloitte. “Players across the industry must put in place sustainability measures appropriate to their type of manufacturing and the environmental impacts attributable to it. Only through committed efforts can manufacturers drive meaningful environmental improvements. I look forward to discussing this topic with manufacturing leaders at the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit on 10 & 11 November”.
Five areas of impact
The report looks at five main areas of impact where sustainable practices can drive measurable improvements across the manufacturing value chain:
- Engineering: Revisiting the design of the products being manufactured leads to small modifications as well as major reinventions that result in reduced costs and waste, and often open the door to new market opportunities.
- Sourcing: Smarter material selection, ethical sourcing, and improved processes can reduce raw material consumption, greatly decrease toxic materials, shorten supply chains, and reduce the carbon footprint.
- Production: Improved operational efficiency, smart technologies, and green energy are being combined to create the “factory of the future.”
- Transportation: Environmental impact can be lessened through reconfiguring supply chains, streamlining transportation routes, improving truck efficiency, and even moving production closer to the point of consumption.
- Aftermarket: Transitioning to a circular economy model can change the way products are designed, produced, sold, used, and disposed of, resulting in huge material cost savings to the industry and significant emission reductions.
The push for sustainable manufacturing is poised to accelerate in the face of rising concerns around climate change. Governments, communities, and concerned citizens around the world will likely be looking for meaningful change from businesses in every sector, including manufacturing.
The report offers potential solutions to manufacturers that desire to take positive action. They should assess their current state and use that analysis to refresh their strategy, set targets and define priorities. This in turn will lead to companies reconsidering their investment choices, resourcing needs, and tax implications.
“Manufacturers will be called upon to actively reconsider how they design, source, manufacture, deliver, and service all their products, and to be transparent about the changes they make. Those that do may find themselves pursuing unprecedented innovation and the business opportunities that come with that. Those that do not may find themselves being left behind.”