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Green Manufacturing--What's the Bottom Line?

By: Brad Kuvin

Wednesday, October 01, 2008
 
Consumers, business leaders and organizations of all kinds have developed a new enthusiasm for environmental consciousness. While green strategies have surfaced off and on since the 1970s, it’s fair to assume that this time the green-manufacturing movement is here to stay, according to Nabil Nasr, director of the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In a recent article published in Manufacturing Business Technology, Nasr says, “There is a belief among some manufacturers that green manufacturing costs money. This is absolutely wrong!” Instead, Nasr insists that manufacturers can implement green projects without incurring any costs, and that “these initiatives offer competitive market advantages.”

Being green means different things to different people —it’s purchasing green equipment, designing and building green solutions, and paying attention to energy consumption and to disposal and recycling of raw materials. According to our web poll at metalforming-magazine.com, nearly half of you (45.9 percent) are encouraging in-plant recycling, performing energy audits and installing energy-efficient products and techniques, and have worked to reduce emissions. At the same time, only 17.2 percent say that they believe that “incorporating green initiatives would only drive up costs.”

Equally, or maybe more impressive, is an August 2008 greening-efforts survey released by EFT Research, San Francisco, CA, of more than 300 North American manufacturers. The resulting Green Manufacturing: Adoption & Implementation Report reveals that nearly three of four manufacturing executives believe that the cost of greening manufacturing is getting lower and the potential profits higher.

I encourage all of you to include green initiatives in your near-term plans. Establish a corporate green team (one-third of those surveyed by EFT already have green teams in place) and develop plans to enact environmental imperatives that promise to improve your plant’s efficiency and product quality.

Here are some of the most popular green initiatives being taken today, according to EFT’s research, but I’m sure your team can think of others.

• Invest in recycling and reuse programs—currently performed by 65 percent of the manufacturers surveyed by EFT.

• Develop plans to reduce water consumption in your plant (58 percent).

• Implement procedures to better manage energy consumption (50 percent).

Again, more than half of those surveyed by EFT note cost reduction as a key benefit of their efforts to become greener, and leaner. And 47 percent have realized improved efficiency.

On a grand scale, General Motors announced just last month its plans to reduce, reuse and recycle all waste from its 80-plus manufacturing plants by 2010, to avoid sending manufacturing remnants to landfills. The move, say GM officials, is not just about saving the environment, it’s about growing the bottom line. As an example, it says that since it has emphasized landfill-free status among its plants, scrap-metal sales has grown to a $1 billion annual revenue stream.

For a cost-saving success story from within our industry, consider Truex Inc., a Pawtucket, RI, manufacturer of deep-drawn and stamped parts from brass, steel, stainless steel and aluminum alloys. It seems that Truex recently has found a buyer for the solid waste that its manufacturing plant produces. The buyer reclaims the copper from the waste for reuse. For the last 15 years, Truex had been processing its solid waste to eliminate hazardous substances. The result was thousands of pounds of an environmentally safe solid-waste product that it then paid to be deposited in a local landfill. Now, Truex makes money from the sale of its solid waste, and it also saves the cost of landfill disposal.

 

 


 


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