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How Manufacturing Can Go Green

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The manufacturing industry is one of the most vibrant and innovative sectors in the world. However, it also has a sizeable carbon footprint. Between energy usage, greenhouse emissions, and waste production, the manufacturing industry inflicts considerable damage on the environment.

According to a study carried out by Siemens though, at least 89% of manufacturers now discuss energy management at board level, which shows that companies are becoming increasingly aware of the adverse effects that some of their processes can have on the environment. However, just talking about it is not enough, and there is always more that can be done. But this is good news for everyone because putting more of an effort into working responsibly and sustainably doesn’t just help the environment; it is also great for business too. It will bring you more money, build your brand, give your business a better reputation, and maybe even bring you more opportunities to expand.

More and more consumers are seeking out manufacturers and service providers that are trying to limit the environmental damage that their work can have. This notion is supported by the results of a survey carried out by the European Commission, which found that approximately 80% of European citizens are concerned about the environmental impact of their purchases.

It was also found that a lot of these people would actually be willing to pay more for products that they know have been manufactured using environmentally-friendly processes.

So, what changes can you make to your business to make sure you’re as sustainable as you can be?

Review Your Designs

It’s definitely worth reviewing your current products to see if you can make any design tweaks with sustainability in mind. Perhaps you could use less packaging? Or streamline one of your designs to use less material. Try to use recyclable materials wherever possible, and you’ll probably be surprised at how easy this is to do without compromising the quality of your products.

Think Carefully about the Materials You Use

Talking of materials, did you know that UK manufacturers use approximately five million tonnes of plastic each year? This figure comes from the British Plastics Foundation, which also says that only around 29% of this plastic is recycled or recovered. Make sure you are aware of the adverse effects this can have on the environment and be open-minded when choosing the materials you’re going to use in your manufacturing. It’s helpful to keep an eye on industry developments so that you’re always up to date with what new, more environmentally-friendly processes and materials are available. It’s not just about your products either but your processes; for example, when transferring heat in manufacturing, you can use recycled products with a low environmental impact.

Reconsider Your Energy Consumption

Manufacturing is always going to require a great deal of energy. But, there are things you can do to manage your business’ usage, such as using low-power LED lighting and properly insulated workspaces. This can help to reduce your energy consumption and your electricity and heating bills too.

The more sustainability initiatives an industrial company integrates into their standard production practices, the more attractive they appear to consumers, investors, and employees – all of whom can drive increased revenue.

Sustainable business practices can improve the supply chain, enhance brand value by developing a positive environmental and social reputation, inspire trust among industrial buyers and consumers, attract and retain qualified industry professionals interested in working for an environmentally conscious company and create new business opportunities in emerging markets.

There are many different ways you can approach to “greening” a manufacturing facility, including lowering carbon emissions and energy usage, reducing water usage, and improving e-waste recycling practices. Taking an analytical approach to operations can help manufacturers identify high-impact problem areas and seek out practical alternative solutions.

That said, while it’s great to have high sustainability ambitions, it’s essential to develop a realistic implementation plan. Sustainability is a marathon, not a sprint; new practices work best when implemented strategically. So, take your time, don’t try to dive in headfirst, dip a toe in the water, to begin with. Make a plan, start off slowly, and when you start to see the benefits, and it becomes part of your everyday work processes, then implement something new.

There are many case studies online, which you can refer to give you some more information and a bit of a head start if you’re not sure where to begin. Search online and read industry magazines to find out what is best for your business and for the environment too.

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