In manufacturing, just like any business, the number one priority is ensuring profitability. After all, if income doesn’t exceed expenditures, there’s no way for the business to stay afloat. In today’s competitive world, that means that manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve their business. That can mean getting less expensive materials, finding better ways to transport finished goods, or streamlining their build process.
Other ways that manufacturers have looked at becoming a leaner and more agile company are through the use of maximizing operational equipment effectiveness (OEE) and cutting costs through standardization. Of course, with the recent global trends toward making companies more eco-friendly, companies are starting to look at ways that going green can have a positive impact on their bottom line.
One of the best things about making eco-friendly changes to a manufacturing process is that most of them don’t really change the actual process itself. For example, installing solar panels on the flat roof of a manufacturing facility can make an enormous impact that goes beyond just providing free energy for the buildings. In the United States, there are corporate tax credits that are good for 30% of the investment cost for solar, fuel cells and wind turbines.
Another way that companies can go green without affecting their processes is by incorporating ways to reduce waste. Waste, in this case, doesn’t just refer to unused materials or products; it also refers to finished components that have to be discarded due to damage caused by packaging, shipping, or even production. It can also indicate damage to manufacturing or delivery equipment itself. For example, using wear blocks in delivery chutes can prevent damage to the product and to the chute itself. The blocks are designed to absorb impact damage from hardened materials that could puncture or damage the weaker material of the transport chutes.
Another huge way that manufacturers can become more eco-friendly and save money is by reducing or eliminating most of their mailing. Pretty much every business has an email address. Take advantage of that and shift to electronically delivered invoices and statements. Customers still need to be invoiced, but electronic invoicing helps in two ways. First, the customer receives the invoice more quickly, which means a more timely payment. Secondly, manufacturers not only save time that was used to print, fold, and mail, they also save money on postal costs.
Of course, you can’t go green if you aren’t thinking of ways to reduce waste and recycle. In any manufacturing process, there can be numerous opportunities to ensure that they are maximized. Consider the impact that a more stringent inventory management system can have on a manufacturer that uses goods with a specific shelf life. Overstock can result in a lot of waste; eliminating that by making accurate forecasts about production needs will reduce that waste. The company still has the product they need on-hand, but by using just-in-time delivery systems, overstock waste can be virtually eliminated.
When it comes to recycling, new ways to reuse what was once considered waste has become a huge business in itself. Paper can be recycled into packing materials or even blankets for shipping. Products that were once considered sheer waste have found new life in other industries. Take synthetic gypsum, which is a byproduct of coal plants. This gypsum is created when chemical scrubbers remove sulfur dioxide from the plant emissions. It is then used in plaster, drywall, and other construction materials. The creation of this gypsum came about as coal plants became more eco-friendly and reduced their role in the acid rain cycle.
Another way that manufacturers can go green without making a huge change in their manufacturing process is by making small changes in their maintenance routine. Making a dedicated change to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) in place of incandescent can reduce energy use by up to 75%. The choice of how a building is cleaned makes an impact as well. Most modern cleaners have an eco-friendly equivalent, and for those that don’t, using green packaging can still make a dent. Eliminating noxious cleaners will reduce pollution on waterways and the impact on local environments as well, which is always good for positive community impact.
In the fast-paced competitive business world, making small changes to an existing manufacturing process can reap huge dividends for companies. By making those small changes eco-friendly as well just makes it a win/win situation for both the company and the environment.