Sustainable manufacturing is defined as the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound.
Sustainable manufacturing uses both technological and non-technological solutions, from selection of materials and production processes to organizational mission, structure, and performance reporting. It shifts the focus from "end-of-pipeline" solutions such as disposal of waste, cleanup, and recovery, which is a liability approach, to the very beginning of the pipeline at the product or process design stage, which is an opportunity approach.
Some of the eco-efficient technologies and engineering practices to enhance the sustainable manufacturing are
- Sustainable design
- Alternative Energy Use in Manufacture
- Resource Efficiency in Manufacture
Sustainable design is a kind of design meant to yield products that are made only of renewable resources. Furthermore, products made though sustainable design are intended not to seriously impact the environment either when they are being created or when they are being used. These products are also often designed to allow the users to feel more connected or to relate more closely to the natural environment.
Opportunities in sustainable design
Products that are yielded from this kind of design range from the tiny to the massive. A tote bag made of recycled products that is intended to be used instead of paper or plastic bags at the grocery store is an example of sustainable design. Sustainable design can create much, much larger products. In fact, this kind of design can be used to create buildings, even skyscrapers.
Some fashion designers have also used the philosophy of sustainable design in their work by producing entire lines of clothing that are made with renewable resources. Interior designers have done the same by using earth-friendly fabrics, wall coverings, and flooring materials in their work. Because of this new trend among fashion and interior designers, many textile companies have begun to market more fabrics made out of renewable resource.
Sustainable Design explores opportunities in facilitating discussion and research on eco-design and broader sustainability considerations in product and service development.
Manufacturers are uniquely poised to impact and benefit from their own sustainability strategies. For companies and organizations across all sectors, corporate functions, facilities and policies present opportunities for improvement and risk mitigation. For manufacturers, however, these opportunities and risks extend across plant operations, supply chains and product lifecycles as well as understanding customer buying behaviour and loyalty with regard to the sustainability of their products.
Opportunities in sustainable manufacturing
Services opportunities can be provided based on scientific discovery, engineering work and technological innovation to manufacturing companies interested in incorporating sustainability in their business strategy and decision-making process.
For example, sustainable packaging industry will result in a direct demand for raw materials and indirectly see an increase in energy consumption in production and transportation in distribution of products.
Insurance organizations could offer a green insurance benefit to drivers who drive greener. Fleet owners could improve their profitability by evaluating the fuel consumptions and driving habits of their drivers. Automotive dealers and service centers could use this powerful information to set used-car prices and arrive at extended warranty costs. Governments could use this data to substantiate decision making on policy matters.
A $50 billion investment in retooling factories would generate up to $120 billion in revenue resulting from increased demand for products, according to a study by the Apollo Alliance, a business-labor coalition.
The European Union has already approved 1.2 billion Euros for a new “Factories of the Future” research program as part of their economic recovery plan. Their R&D initiatives and policies aim to “help EU manufacturers adapt to global competitive pressures by increasing the technological base of EU manufacturing through the development and integration of enabling technologies of the future.” The European Union is ahead of the U.S. in the race to re-industrialize their manufacturing base with smart, safe and sustainable manufacturing.
According to a source, it is estimated that Latin America shows sustainable manufacturing promise. Most industries in the region are feeding into a “virtuous cycle” that will eventually help make growth sustainable, though marginally decelerating.
In Europe, sustainability manufacturing practices has become a major competitive factor for many companies. However this path has posed a significant challenge for Small and Medium sized Enterprises which have no or little experiences and few resources to implement sustainability, much less understand its implications to their business continuity.
As more products are manufactured on a global scale, the need to produce packaging materials that are environmentally compatible with the destination market is becoming increasingly important.
Market size and growth
The sustainable packaging market is growing much faster than the overall packaging industry, and is expected to double in size from $88 million in 2009 to $170 billion in 2014, according to a report from Pike Research. Pike Research also expects that plastic-based packaging will be the fastest-growing segment of the sustainable packaging sector between now and 2014, and more eco-friendly plastic packaging will have a big impact because it accounts for more than one-third of the total packaging industry, second only to paper packaging.
Issues in packaging
Currently, meeting the strict definition of sustainable packaging would be virtually impossible for the majority of transportation, protective and display packaging systems where commingled materials and global manufacturing complicate the cycling of materials through collection and reuse. Products produced in Asia need packaging that is compliant with stringent recycling laws in Europe and other parts of the world. This is becoming more and more difficult as local authorities around the world enact well-intentioned but conflicting laws affecting the type of packaging materials allowed.
Additionally, many emerging producer nations such as China and India are enacting strict laws and regulations relating to packaging in an effort to curb the rising amount of waste and pollution that is resulting from their growing economies. It should be recognized that human impact on the environment is unavoidable.
Despite the growing requirements for more sustainable packaging technology, actual demand for sustainability has been slow to reach the packaging machinery industry. Many end-users have not integrated their corporate sustainability visions into their business operations.
Moreover, no definition, certifications, or standards currently exist for sustainability in packaging machinery. There is a widespread, if poorly documented, belief that packaging machinery consumes too little energy to be significant. But, as the ITA report notes, with demand for more sustainable packaging technology growing continuously, “it is not too soon for packaging machinery manufacturers to prepare for the day when their customers begin to demand machinery, services, and other products that can deliver cost-effective, sustainable packaging solutions.”
The key is to create packaging that has as little impact as practical while still providing the necessary safety, convenience, and marketing opportunities that modern consumers demand.
Status and opportunities
Sustainability-focused actions such as providing education and training are good business practices offering economic advantages as well as a positive public relations message.
Sustainability offers the greatest competitive advantage to packaging machinery manufacturers that focus on source reduction, specifically on technologies that reduce their customers’ consumption of packaging materials.
Packaging materials offer considerable scope for innovation. Opportunities exist across a broad range of materials and formats, from corrugated board and plastic films to inks, adhesives, and line lubricants. These opportunities are not limited to large companies. Indeed, firms with less than $1 billion in annual sales—in some cases, considerably less—generate some of the most innovative sustainable packaging solutions.
The bioplastics segment was likely to remain a niche market in the short-term. In 2010 the global market for bioplastics achieved estimated sales of $2.74 billion, according to the latest issue of EL Insights. This value is expected to grow by 32.4% a year from 2011 to 2015, reaching an estimated value of $11.14 billion in 2015.
Plant Bottle packaging is one of the sustainable packaging strategies being followed. It is designed to look, feel and function exactly like traditional PET plastic. Coca-Cola first launched Plant Bottle in 2009 on a range of brands including Coke, Sprite, Fresca and Dasani. Currently, Plant Bottle is made using sugarcane ethanol from Brazil. In a statement, Coca cola revealed that the use of Plant Bottle packaging provides a 12-19pc reduction in carbon impact. Use of this packaging also eliminated the equivalent of almost 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or approximately 60,000 barrels of oil, in 2010.
Opportunity and innovation drive a successful business strategy based on sustainability for packaging machinery Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEMs).
There is no appreciable demand at present for packaging machinery with sustainable characteristics, as such; end users’ procurement practices for packaging machinery do not yet reflect senior management’s emphasis on sustainability. OEMs are likely to begin encountering demand for packaging machinery with sustainable characteristics in the near future, as their customers aggressively seek to reduce energy and water use, GHG emissions, and waste throughout their manufacturing operations. European laws, regulations, and standards concerning packaging and machinery are shaping the world sustainable packaging market.
Automating packaging machinery and packaging lines offers a number of sustainability benefits and explores good business opportunities. Advanced automation systems collect and apply real-time data about the performance of individual machines and entire packaging lines. Programmable control devices, feedback circuits, and servo drives can adjust performance without interrupting packaging operations. For instance, Sensors and timers, can be used to power down energy-intensive subsystems.
Reengineering the application of ancillary products, such as adhesives, inks, and line lubricants, offers additional sustainability opportunities for packaging machinery manufacturers. Petroleum products—especially ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and metallocene resins—and water are two of the principal ingredients of most commercial adhesives.
New types of packaging systems can also open up new business opportunities for the OEM (Original equipment manufacturers), such as helping customers procure optimal materials for use with the new packaging system.
The total U.S. market for packaging machinery in 2008 was worth $6.3 billion, with domestic manufacturers posting $4.8 billion in sales. Nevertheless, the industry has lost ground in recent years to foreign competitors.
Exports worth $787.4 million represented 14 percent of total shipments in 2007, a slight decrease from 15.1 percent in 2002. Imports worth $2.2 billion accounted for 39 percent of the domestic market the same year, which was up from 26.2 percent in 2002.These seamlessly forced U.S. manufacturers to use sustainability as a strategy to remain competitive in the world market.