If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ll be aware of the major environmental pressures many industries and their products have been and will be facing for the foreseeable future. You will also probably have realised then, that businesses who embrace the need for change and innovation will likely be the ones that thrive. Regulation and consumer awareness is at an all-time high. Even those who are slow to act will follow in the direction of their sustainable industry leaders when the choice becomes whether to sink or swim.
Sustainable manufacturing is defined as ‘the creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources’ (https://bit.ly/3fH7OUm). It should be no surprise then, that with the current demand for sustainability, manufacturing industries are becoming increasingly flooded with innovation to achieve a more sustainable world. Innovation is a key driver to sustainability because without it, any change to processes and products are essentially, impossible. Throughout the manufacturing industry, innovation is specifically necessary in two major areas to achieve significant sustainable changes. These areas are:
- Re-design innovation
- Manufacturing/process innovation
Perhaps the most complex of the three major areas in manufacturing innovation. With sub sections of its own, re-design tackles sustainability from several angles but before re-design is considered, please note that manufacturers should examine and rethink the necessity of all current products in case the number of available products available can be reduced. Next, manufacturers can explore opportunities to re-design each product so that they are long lasting, reusable, repairable and can be remanufactured where necessary.
The number one goal manufacturers should keep in mind during the re-design process is to create circular products. Circular products are, “those with reduced or no virgin resources, designed with the end of their life in mind. The product is therefore more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly throughout its life.” (https://bit.ly/3oXXSKo). Re-design is key to having a market full of circular products, why? Because you must design them to be recovered for repair or recycled at the end of the product’s ‘life’. This brings us onto the final point for re-design innovation, that re-design does not solely refer to products only. To achieve recovery, repair, and recycling of said products, effective infrastructure must be in place which in NZ also requires an extreme re-design nationwide.
Not only should manufacturers be looking to innovate to produce sustainable products, but they must also begin to be innovative in their processes and the way they are physically manufacturing their products. Below are just a few examples of how to achieve sustainable and innovative manufacturing and general business processes:
- Internal waste reduction throughout the manufacturing process
- Reduction of resources needed
- General process and performance improvement to reduce time, money and energy usage
- Water treatment systems
- Recycling systems
- Renewable energy systems
Many businesses have realised the substantial benefits sustainable and innovative manufacturing/processes can have. As you can see from the few examples above, benefits are not only limited to the environment but stretch out to the business itself too. The importance of these benefits and changes are so high that for many, sustainability is a top strategy objective for growth and competitiveness and often requires a dedicated team to be employed.
Below are 7 reasons for businesses to embrace innovative re-design, manufacturing, and business processes to drive sustainability:
- Positive brand reputation
- Financial benefits (many opportunities to reduce costs)
- Long-term business success
- Unique selling point
- The chance to be an industry leader in the 4th industrial revolution
- Improve productivity
- The opportunity for government funding
- Staff retention & attraction – feel good component of working for a company making a difference
These gains should not be overlooked in an increasingly competitive business environment. Whatever your business is, innovation is possible whether it be incremental, radical, disruptive, or architectural. If you’d like to learn more about our innovative manufacturing, get in touch today