As the demand for environmentally conscious products rises, manufacturers are moving to meet that demand with a variety of innovations in their supply chains, including the design of better and greener products that create less environmental waste.
A manufacturing supply chain involves every aspect of the manufacturing process, from the input and processing to the output and disposal. If you are manufacturing computers, for example, the input is all the component parts, and the processing is assembling these parts into a computer. The computer is your final output or product. Disposal can be for the material left over from the manufacturing process or disposal of the product itself at the end of its period of use.
The main challenge in making a manufacturing supply chain greener is to create it so that the waste from the manufacturing process is recycled and fed back into the input of another supply chain. When this happens it reduces the environmental and carbon footprint left by the company. This can also cut expenses, increase earnings, and help our planet by creating fewer pollutants and toxins that enter into the ecosystem.
To make your supply chains greener and reduce your environmental footprint, you need to create a sustainable supply chain. The following are some actions you can take:
- Reuse and recycle your waste.
- Reduce energy consumption.
- Reduce your use of natural resources.
The conscious effort to implement a sustainable manufacturing supply chain begins at the design stage. This is the point where you design products that are recyclable, consume less energy, and make better use of natural resources. Basically you are designing products and services that bring social, environmental, operational, and innovation excellence together as one.
As an example, computer maker Hewlett-Packard has designed parts that snap together, avoiding the need for toxic solvents and making the products easier to recycle. HP eliminated 30,000 cubic feet of polystyrene computer packaging and more than 6 million pounds of PVC packaging that was part of its inkjet printer business.
Another way to innovate your supply chain and to make it greener is to work with your supply chain partners. For example, let your suppliers know what you need from them. This often means knowing what chemicals and practices are used in the materials you are purchasing for processing. You may encounter some initial resistance, but the idea is to find suppliers that can help you in your endeavor to become greener. What you input into your process has a great effect on the processing and output stages of your supply chain.
Innovations in processing have reduced consumption of energy and bolstered maximum usage of natural resources. Engineers have begun designing systems that require less power to operate. For instance, a large European company redesigned its processing system by using fatter pipes and as a result reduced its energy consumption by 92 percent. Such efforts not only make processing greener but also more cost effective.
In their book, Green to Gold: How Smart Companies Use Environmental Strategy to Innovate, Create Value, and Build Competitive Advantage, Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston explain how everything coming out of a plant is either product, byproduct (which can be reused or sold), or waste. Waste that is not biodegradable harms the environment and squanders manufacturing materials that could possibly be reused.
The green challenge is to create a manufacturing supply chain that sustains itself without large amounts of material input and processing waste. By making the chain’s use of materials more efficient and by designing products that can be used and recycled, you can achieve the goal of becoming greener.