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Effective Resource Utilization, Part III

dornfeld, david, u of california berkeleySo … what is effective?

In my last article I covered some additional background about “resource productivity” as a driver for innovation in (sustainable) manufacturing. That also covered some of the established definitions of resource productivity and gave an an example of efficient production technology relative to a metal forming manufacturing process. This process, in exquisite alignment with the Ricoh Comet Circle (see an earlier posting on the Comet Circle if you don’t recall this!) Returning product back to the consumer with as little intervention from recycling, reprocessing, etc. as possible.

In trying to tie the resource productivity concept to the labor productivity measure so commonly referred to these days, the Wikipedia definition was cited as:

“…  the quantity of good or service (outcome) that is obtained through the expenditure of unit resource. “

The Wikipedia definition distinguished between “the efficiency of resource production as outcome per unit of resource use (resource productivity)” and” the efficiency of resource consumption as resource use per unit outcome (resource intensity).”

Our interest stems from (if you recall earlier articles in this series) the desire to wring more value of materials/processing/product per unit of impact to the environment (measured however you choose – greenhouse gas (GhG), other pollution of land, water or air, etc) as well as minimize the use of resources in the process – materials, water, other consumables and, of course, energy.

This fits with our fundamental focus in my articles on manufacturing. I had mentioned the “creating value” discussion (and article) in my graduate class last semester – meaning that there are three fundamental ways to create wealth (real, new wealth founded in tangible assets): agriculture, mining, and manufacturing.

A recent article in SME’s Manufacturing Engineering magazine  noted, with respect to the “other” forms of economic activity as follows:

“Think about it. Bankers, lawyers, doctors, barbers, landscapers—they all provide services. Those services are valuable, but they don’t, in themselves, create wealth. Financial instruments and financial dealings don’t create wealth—they may package wealth, shift it around, and enable investment in wealth-creating enterprises, but they don’t directly create wealth.”

This interpretation is not universally accepted …. But, it clarifies our thinking on the role of manufacturing and resource productivity. Might we then say that the most efficient use of resources is in manufacturing (I’m not forgetting agriculture or mining here but will stick to what I know!) because it both creates new wealth and provides the products that help increase, or at least maintain, a standard of living?

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