There are certain trends and buzzwords in manufacturing—some short-lived and quickly outgrown, and others that are trendy and buzz-worthy for a reason. These are the ones that last.
Sustainability in manufacturing is one such example. In a world in which wastefulness and inefficient practices are no longer tolerated the way they used to be, and consumers care more and more about their “footprint,” sustainability is something that will only get more important. From a business standpoint, it makes sense for a number of reasons: Environmentally-conscious consumers prefer environmentally-conscious goods; efficient practices save money; and doing good for the planet is never a bad thing.
The National Council for Advanced Manufacturing (NACFAM) defined sustainable manufacturing by the United Nation’s definition: it “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” They work toward this goal “by helping [their] members determine how to close supply chain loops, drive through efficiency and towards industrial ecology, develop objective research-based policy recommendations, and create business opportunities within the sustainable manufacturing paradigm.”
Manufacturers around the country, large and small, are now realizing that tighter, more efficient supply chains, more responsible practices, and greener technologies have many benefits. These practices help them access new customers and markets while keeping operating costs down, achieving higher profit margins, and reducing their carbon, energy, and water footprint. According to this article, less waste and more sustainability actually provide greater safety as well. “Lean principles,” the article states, “can help make a company safer and more efficient, thereby supporting a more sustainable business.” This could include identifying areas where waste has a direct impact on both safety and sustainability, and eliminating it where possible.
Of course the move to sustainability can seem daunting and overwhelming. What’s important to remember is that it doesn’t have to be accomplished overnight, and that every little bit helps. The closer you get to it, and the more you do, will create an all around win/win situation.