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Manufacture for Green and Sustainable Design (Part II)

david dornfeldLast time we presented the concept of green design and manufacturing incorporating all the stages of the product from extraction of materials through the process of material conversion, to manufacture and assembly of the product, its distribution and delivery, use and eventual reuse, remanufacture or recycling. The principles of green and sustainable manufacturing should be “everywhere at the same time; constantly encountered” – the meaning of ubiquitous. The motivation for this came from Dr. Yoon Lee of Samsung in California in a discussion we had on “consumerization” and green principles.

Part II of this discussion elaborates on this.

To make sustainable manufacturing an eventual reality, by taking small green steps in the design of our process and product along the full life cycle, we need to create the “equilibrium point” between the needs of the consumer and and creating lasting value. This comes from good design – with all the meaning of that word “design” intact along the entire product life cycle. An axiom of this is that there is no value to sustainability unless it delivers the design – meaning the product must function correctly with the required quality and reliability manufactured at the required cost while meeting the constraints of the “triple bottom line” of sustainability – economic, societal and environmental resources.

Ubiquitously green requires a certain fundamental basis for manufacturing at the design, process planning level and resource management level. On top of that foundation must be build an operational capability that incorporates correct choice and use of materials, consumables, minimization of waste in production, and so on. That gets the product or system built. This can be referred to as the “functional” level of our sustainability structure (or principles.)

Now we need to communicate that “value” to the customer and record our progress or impact. This requires two additional levels in our structure, on a more “emotional” level (in terms of perception of value but, importantly, backed up by metrics). These two levels can be characterized as, first, green messaging (or managing the product identity) and communication and, second, green rewards (determined by return on investment and metrics).

A convenient way of representing this sustainability structure is seen in the figure below from Dr. Lee. The pyramid is arranged with the lower foundational principles, applied to infrastructure and operations (the functional levels) providing a base on which the higher level principles, messaging and rewards, are built. It is clear that, applying this all along the life cycle (from materials extraction to end of product life and/or reuse) will insure that the product or process designed is ubiquitously green.


What about the details?

In earlier postings we’ve touched on many of these elements – certainly communication and management of consumables or process optimization.

Some important considerations:

  • Use less material and energy
  • Substitute input materials: non-toxic for toxic, renewable for non-renewable
  • Reduce unwanted outputs: cleaner production, industrial symbiosis
  • Convert outputs to inputs: recycling and all its variants
  • Changed structures of ownership and production: product service systems and supply chain structure

See here for more details.

But what about the metrics? A metric is a type of “measurement used to gauge some quantifiable component” of performance. Candidate metrics include:

  • Global warming gases emission (CO2, methane CH4, N2O, CFC’s), on the following categories: per capita, per GDP, per area/nation
  • Recyclability (or percent recycled)
  • Reuse of materials
  • Energy consumption
  • Pollution (air, water, land)
  • Ecological footprint – “fair share” – footprint (discussed in an earlier blog)
  • Exergy (available energy) or other thermodynamic measures

I proposed that these could be represented in terms of a “return on investment (ROI)” – for example, greenhouse gas return on investment (GROI) or similar concepts of energy payback time , water (or materials, consumables) payback time, carbon footprint, or efficiency improvement (for example, wrt exergy).

Is this reasonable? I think so. Let me give you one example (and I am sure there are others.)

I recently found and read Honda’s 2009 Environmental Annual Report. It reads like a “how to” manual for implementing ubiquitously green design and manufacturing. It covers most of the important elements from product development, through manufacturing and use. Even product recycling is addressed. It does not cover some of the earlier aspects of the full product life cycle (resource extraction, for example) that I can tell. But it is very complete.

It also addresses the “emotional” levels in the sustainability pyramid in terms of identity management and, for sure, metrics and ROI. Figures are given on the last several year’s performance in production CO2, waste generation, volatile organic compounds (VOC) per automobile painted, packaging use in transportation, recycling rates, and so on. This would allow computation of a ROI if data on magnitude of the efforts taken to achieve these results were available.

Certainly there is more to be done. But efforts such as those reported by Honda indicate that these principles can be applied in real companies making real products.

David Dornfeld is the Will C. Hall Family Chair in Engineering in Mechanical Engineering at University of California Berkeley. He leads the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability (LMAS), and he writes the Green Manufacturing blog.

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3 thoughts on “Manufacture for Green and Sustainable Design (Part II)

  1. California should use a similar approach (life cycle assessment from extraction of materials to disposal of the product at the end of its useful life)to assess the true value of solar energy, specifically the cost of emissions associated with acquiring the material, the energy to produce the panel, and the energy to transport the panel to California.

  2. I would welcome anyone pointing out trends or studies that indicate how regulations (such as carbon numbers of low carbon fuels) and consumer interest (specially among millennials) might increase the opportunity for marketers to tell the whole system stories of their products.

  3. The comment about California using complete LCA for assessing solar is true. We’ve done such studies and, depending on where you install the solar (meaning the number of sunny days) the payback time, even with manufacturing, transportation and installation included) is usually a very short time. But…and a big but…panels made and shipped “locally” will have a benefit in overall footprint reduction. This is a sobering thought when one of the large solar panel machinery manufacturers (Applied Materials in California) sells most if not all their large production lines to overseas companies since the incentive to build and install solar in the US lags most other parts of the world. Tom Friedman said (essentially) a while back in one of his New York Times column “If you like buying oil from the Middle East then you’ll love buying solar panels from the Chinese.” Whatever your feelings are about Mr. Friedman, he’s hit the nail on the head on this one. Let’s not repeat the domestic auto industry meltdown with the alternate energy field.

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