Manufacturing isn’t typically seen as environmentally friendly or clean. It’s 2017, however, and things have changed drastically. The manufacturing industry is on board with the green movement more than ever—and for a number of reasons. Sustainability, healthier environments, and lower costs are just some of the incentives.
How is manufacturing going green, though? You can count the ways.
1. Updating Facilities
When people think about manufacturing, they often picture factories with big smoke stacks. Not the greenest image ever—and it’s one manufacturers are ditching with glee. The move to greener facilities, whether they’re new or refurbished, means that old image is now a relic of the past.
How can a facility be made green? One easy way is to target waste in all its forms. Inefficient machinery can consume up to 70 percent more energy than it needs to; a focus on an energy-efficient plant will help a manufacturer reduce its energy consumption—and its bill.
Other areas of focus include heating and cooling. Some manufacturers are even investing in clean and renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.
2. Reducing Waste
Reduce, reuse, recycle—it’s been the mantra of the green movement for some time, and manufacturers are on board. One of the biggest concerns in the manufacturing industry is the efficient use of raw materials.
Unfortunately, older processes have been incredibly inefficient, leading to lots of waste. Think of, for example, wood products: Demand for new lumber has led to clear-cutting of virgin forests. Yet, so much of that wood ends up as sawdust on the floor.
Reducing waste and using raw materials more efficiently helps everyone go green. Using more sustainable materials (such as bamboo, which is quick growing) is also becoming more popular in the manufacturing industry.
Another area in which manufacturers can reduce waste? Inventory. Often overlooked, overstocking materials (especially those that go bad or expire) can lead to waste. With the advent of just-in-time delivery, those in the manufacturing industry can refine their ordering and purchasing to ensure they always have enough in stock—never too much.
In the same vein as reducing waste, more manufacturers are adopting recycling as an important part of their processes. Many are choosing recycled products to use as the base of their own products, instead of using raw materials. Think about recycled paper: Newspapers can form the base of blankets, among other uses for post-consumer paper. Synthetic gypsum, created at coal-fired power plants, can be used in construction projects.
Similarly, companies can decide to switch from environmentally unfriendly materials to those that are greener. Think about plastics, which aren’t biodegradable. New materials with the durability of plastic are now appearing on the market, providing manufacturers with a greener option.
4. Lean Production
The 1980s and 1990s saw a revolution in manufacturing: lean production. While the focus then was mainly on lowering production costs and increasing profits, lean production has another benefit: It’s green!
Lean production processes reduce waste across the board. They look at just-in-time production, so companies are employing only the number of people they need, making and shipping only as much as they need to, and generally streamlining their processes to maximize efficiency. Newer technology improves all aspects of production, making it possible to reduce energy consumption while producing more units.
5. Green Jobs
Manufacturing has been a leader in creating green jobs. Green jobs in the industry span everywhere from engineers to design processes and machines, to product engineers, to electrical engineers.
Efficiency and waste reduction are focuses of these jobs. Specialists have emerged to help manufacturers go green. Even production supervisors can help a manufacturer operate in a greener way as they oversee the process!