The manufacturing industry is in constant need of innovation to survive — and many are not aware of the limitless potentials surrounding the crucial need for eco-friendly approaches within industrial manufacturing. Sustainable thinking must be implemented at all levels of the organization to address inefficiencies throughout all our systems, especially when it comes to the use of our finite natural resources — air and water. This is a worldwide imperative necessary to keep growing in an evolving international marketplace.
The USGS Water Science School defines industrial water use as water used for such purposes as fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling or transporting a product; incorporating water into a product; or for sanitation needs within the manufacturing facility. The method of water delivery is generally based on the facility’s location, resulting in water that is either delivered from public suppliers or is self-supplied. In order to comprehend the astronomical amount of water usage, consider that it takes about 270 gallons of water to produce $1 worth of sugar; 200 gallons of water to make $1 worth of pet food; and 140 gallons of water to make $1 worth of milk.
While the demand for fresh water is quite high, as exhibited above, we all know that the supply of clean water is finite — and is dwindling. California is an easy example to point to, as 70 percent of the state is in “severe” drought with nearly half of the state in “exceptional” drought, the most serious category, according to the US Drought Monitor. However, this challenge is one faced not only by the Golden State, but by many parts of the United States and countries around the world. In fact, approximately 17 percent of the contiguous US fell in the moderate to extreme drought categories (based on the Palmer Drought Index) at the end of May.
Of course, agriculture plays a significant role in driving water usage, but don’t discount the manufacturers relying upon outdated industrial processes that require copious amounts of water.
The HVAC industry is another sector heavily dependent on traditional processes that lack cost-effective sustainable practices. Construction companies and property owners and developers are keenly aware of energy usage consumed by their HVAC systems, which are very expensive during installation or retrofitting. Commercial property HVAC costs often reach $15,000 for the smallest unit, with costs skyrocketing upward for larger systems. Creativity can be the difference in the total cost: deploying energy recovery along with new or retrofitted systems is one concrete step that can achieve both capital and operating expense goals.
In addition to requiring more CO2-emitting energy to power, inefficient HVAC systems have other downsides, such as durability. Like other processes, continuous use places significant strain on systems. HVAC systems that require constant energy consumption often experience wear and tear commonly associated with ongoing mechanical usage.
For these reasons, manufacturers and construction companies consider matters related to their water procurement/usage, as well as energy efficiencies, very carefully. They are always on the lookout for new technologies and service providers that represent cost savings, which they consider of greater importance than using renewable components. This represents the greatest quandary when it comes to more sustainable manufacturing.
Forward thinking manufacturing companies are challenging existing vendors and supply chains, as well as seeking new partners, to improve their use of natural resources while also implementing higher energy efficiency equipment in their plant(s). For those that aren’t pursuing more sustainable technologies, the reason is generally that they only view ‘green’ as a tiebreaker in the choice between two products of relatively the same cost.
The challenge facing vendors, to provide the needed differentiation (holding great upside for educated vendors and equipment suppliers), is to position their products and services within the context of a strategic sustainability view in their sales proposals.
One way vendors can change this is by addressing the importance of more eco-friendly components of the technology throughout the sales process, and not just as a “but wait, there’s more” sales pitch. By integrating the long-term efficiencies and ramifications of using energy-conscious technologies to manufacturers, the more likely route to winning the sale is to provide an interwoven strategic and simple operational view of how the newer technology better manages our finite natural resources. There is a happy medium to be reached to deploy technology that is cost-efficient and better for managing natural resources before these resources become more expensive in the years to come. Those who seek these products will be rewarded both financially and from a corporate social responsibility vantage point. Doing nothing is no longer an option.
Timothy Tangredi is the chairman and CEO of Dais Analytic, a developer of nanotechnology-based applications for heating and cooling, water treatment and energy storage. Tim executed strategic purchases of Analytic Power and American Fuel Cell Corporation, initiated four foreign joint ventures, created several foreign relationships, and has raised significant funding on behalf of the company.