Sustainable manufacturing involves optimizing processes to minimize adverse environmental impacts, conserve natural resources, and provide safe products for employees, communities, and consumers. It is often a formalized process driven by legislation, regulation, or customer demand.

Manufacturers prioritizing sustainability can create durable products, reducing the need to produce new items and increasing brand loyalty and customer retention. Here are some of the top sustainable manufacturing practices you should implement.

Reducing Waste

To achieve sustainability goals, sustainable manufacturing practices must take a whole-systems approach. This means they must reduce waste throughout the supply chain, including shipping, storage, and distribution. This can also mean reducing the need for raw materials, such as plastics, metals, and other fossil fuels, by using more sustainable materials or creating new products entirely.

One way to do this is by leveraging employee feedback. Since employees work directly on production daily, they are often best equipped to identify and communicate areas of waste. Additionally, if employees are given the training and resources to improve efficiency, it can positively impact production quality.

Manufacturers can also reduce waste by implementing green supplier programs and optimizing their supply chains with reusable packaging and bulk shipping. They can also use new technology, like 5G and AI, to improve inventory management and predict shortages. This allows them to plan for the future and make better purchasing decisions that minimize waste. This is especially important as more companies are adopting ‘polluter pays’ policies and extended producer responsibility or product stewardship regulations that require original equipment manufacturers, importers, and retailers to meet material collection and recycling goals.

Reducing Energy Use

With the world becoming increasingly aware of climate change and the need to reduce carbon emissions, industrial businesses recognize the importance of sustainable manufacturing. They must move from focusing on profitability and economic growth to prioritizing sustainability.

The key to moving to a more sustainable business model is data analysis. Access to detailed, accurate, and fast information can help companies identify energy savings and, more importantly, measure the impact of sustainability efforts on their bottom line. In addition, using converged industrial platforms can eliminate data silos and ensure a more responsive system.

Whether due to regulatory mandates, environmental concerns, or a desire to attract eco-conscious consumers, manufacturers are under pressure to increase their focus on sustainability initiatives. However, they must first identify their priorities and implement effective solutions to progress in this area. The best way to do this is by leveraging the power of the connected smart factory. This is the only way manufacturers can effectively make their processes more sustainable and achieve measurable results.

Reducing Water Use

A growing number of manufacturers are making sustainability a top priority. This is partly due to increasing eco-consciousness among consumers, but it also offers manufacturers many benefits, such as reducing costs, improving efficiency, and boosting the brand image.

Whether producing paper, assembling electronics, or growing crops, all manufacturers depend on water. Manufacturers can reduce their water usage by designing products for disassembly and using recycled materials, implementing closed-loop recycling processes, and employing lean manufacturing principles to minimize waste.

Companies with difficulty executing their sustainable objectives may need to hire new employees, such as a chief sustainability officer, and invest in new technology. They may also need to improve their data analysis capabilities and invest in new tools that can help them visualize and analyze data from across the plant and supply chain. For example, one company struggled to understand its true energy use because data was siloed in various systems and didn’t provide a holistic view of the plant. The company found that a connected, intelligent factory solution provided the necessary visibility to make better decisions.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

In addition to reducing their environmental footprint, businesses benefit from implementing sustainable manufacturing practices by gaining eco-conscious consumer support and a boost in brand reputation. To reduce carbon emissions, manufacturers can use various techniques, including optimizing energy usage, engaging in time-saving processes, recycling, and utilizing greener shipping methods.

A key factor in lowering carbon emissions is effectively managing the supply chain. This can be done by collaborating with suppliers, implementing closed-loop recycling processes, using recycled materials, and more. Additionally, leveraging an industrial data analytics platform that can provide fast, comprehensive analyses of a value chain’s consumption of material components and energy is vital.

Manufacturers must embrace sustainability to stay competitive and attract investors, consumers, and employees. However, achieving significant change requires a deliberate approach, significant investments in technology and innovation, and commitment from across the business. Manufacturers need to focus on measurable sustainability outcomes and set a straightforward market narrative while considering all change management implications of their actions. Companies can drive a more sustainable future and achieve long-term success by taking these steps.

Reducing Waste Throughout the Supply Chain

There are many ways to reduce waste throughout the supply chain. This includes reducing the amount of raw materials used, fuel used in transportation, and debris produced by manufacturing processes. This requires collaboration between supply chains and manufacturers and better systems for monitoring and evaluating data.

Another great way to reduce waste is by implementing a closed-loop manufacturing system, which recycles products and uses them as raw materials for the following product. This system helps conserve resources and also diverts waste from landfills.

Finally, a company can reduce waste by examining its design process and eliminating unnecessary material use. It can also investigate production processes to see if expensive materials can be replaced with less costly ones or if the processes themselves could be changed to eliminate waste.

The company’s workforce is the most excellent resource for identifying process inefficiencies. Employees can be surveyed to get feedback on how efficient their work is, and they can also be asked to identify any areas where waste may occur. A company can then take action to address these issues and make further improvements.