I saw an article in IndustryWeek the other day stating that according to the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI, the proposed reduction in ozone emissions would harm US manufacturers. The report cites costs in the Trillions and job losses in the Millions. This really got me annoyed. Why does it seem that every time there is a concerted effort to make improvements, there is always some group pushing back, trying to keep things the way they are?
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m very sympathetic to the plight of the North American manufacturer. As a person who started his career in manufacturing and now work for a software company that sells solutions specifically for the manufacturing industry, I want to see manufacturing in North America thrive. I’m also going to freely admit that I’m not the most environmentally conscientious person in the world. I’m not out there hugging trees or blocking logging roads. The majority of my ecological decisions (energy efficient lights, appliances, vehicles) were choices I made mostly because they made economic sense. But even I can’t ignore the mounting evidence that we’re in trouble from an ecological point of view; Species are disappearing at an alarming rate. Glaciers are shrinking dramatically. The weather is absolutely Bizarre. The issues facing the planet can no longer wait. I remember hearing warnings about global warming and the environmental impact we were having back in the 80s. Back then, the warnings were “ if we don’t change in the next 15-20 years we’re in serious trouble”. Well…here we are 30 years later and guess what? We’re in trouble!
Of course, it’s not just manufacturers that are to blame. People are still buying oversized SUVs at a ridiculous rate; We buy and discard technology as soon as the next big thing comes out. We moan and complain if our energy bills go up a few cents so energy companies avoid new green technologies because they cost more. If we want to slow the changes to our climate, everyone needs to do their part, including manufacturers.
It’s time we faced the reality that outdated manufacturing processes must change. This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of manufacturing in North America, in fact, this is a huge opportunity if only we can be bold enough to reach out and take it.
The world must move to greener technologies. The US and Canada have a long history of inventing new technologies. Think about it; radio, telephone, powered flight, computers, cell phones all were invented here. If there is one thing we can do and do well it’s invent and bring to market new technologies. What if we were to take this knowhow and apply it to green manufacturing. It can be done!
Green manufacturing doesn’t necessarily have to cost more From a lean perspective, one thing I’ve learned is that lean manufacturing can be green manufacturing. Why? Lean manufacturing is about the relentless elimination of waste. If, for example, your value stream mapping exercise includes energy consumption and one of your goals is to reduce wasted energy, you will likely find many opportunities to reduce wasted energy. What does this cost? Typically very little. What does it save? Could be millions.
There are many opportunities for green manufacturing;
- New, greener materials for chemical processing and parts cleaning
- Fuel savings through better logistics planning
- Energy savings through cleaner, more efficient office and factory equipment
- Packaging reductions (also reduces the tones of garbage produced by the average North American consumer)
- Energy supplements through solar and wind power
Further savings can be realized if the product is designed considering green manufacturing right from its inception. Designing a product that uses a component that has an expensive, environmentally damaging manufacturing process to one that is “green” can have a huge impact on environmental issues. The material on green manufacturing is continuously growing. One of my favourite sources is Dave Meyer’s blog on the Supply Chain Expert community. You can find it here.
Don’t wait for government regulations or public pressure to make your operations greener. Everything we do today will help tomorrow.
Do you have ideas on Green manufacturing? Comment back and let us know.