A green Earth or a comfortable life?
It’s clear we’re not about to give up our cushy lives, supported as they are by machine industries. But environmental awareness is rising, and over a third of consumers now prefer sustainable brands. Even machine industries face pressure to mitigate their impact on the world in which we live
The key lies in three acts: reuse, reduce, recycle. Let’s take a closer look at how these can make machine industries more Earth-friendly.
Manufacturing industries demand a large amount of specialized equipment. Each piece of equipment itself is the result of a long chain of manufacturing. So the purchase of each new piece of equipment has its own impact on the environment.
When industrial equipment goes to scrap, it may end up landfill due to the low demand for recycled goods. That’s true even where there’s a theoretical demand for second-hand equipment.
Manufacturing industries can combat both of these realities by purchasing used equipment. For a lower initial cost, they can reduce their environmental footprint.
You can learn more here about using recycled goods in industrial manufacturing. As environmental awareness grows, we can expect more companies to look to reuse of equipment as a solution.
Waste Not, Want Not
Manufacturing complex goods often results in large amounts of waste material, such as offcuts. Without recycling or reuse, much of this goes to landfill. Once there, it remains an environmental problem for decades.
But the reality is that many of these “waste” materials could form raw materials for other processes – or for other companies. Often, it’s a simple lack of communication that sends these materials to a landfill when they could find reuse elsewhere.
A company should examine its own processes to reduce and reuse manufacturing waste. Even selling so-called waste offers a better alternative than sending it to landfill.
Companies can also join hands with partners in the industry to stop treating surplus material as waste. Where there’s a will to save leftovers, there’s often a way.
The Future’s Bright
Cutting down on energy usage is one of the easiest and most effective ways to build eco-friendliness into a company.
Use of renewable energy sources is increasing around the globe. And most renewables are also cleaner than their alternatives. This creates a double-whammy of eco-friendliness for a company ready to embrace green energy.
Not all companies are ready to make that leap. But monitoring and efficiency technologies can still help them cut down on their energy usage. Even the act of switching to LED lights could offset their carbon footprint.
Building energy awareness into company culture can also cut down on energy usage in the manufacturing process.
The Vendor Diagram
Convoluted supply lines are a daily reality of the modern manufacturing world. Even the most humble manufacturing process often involves materials from around the globe. A long tail of producers, suppliers, and couriers form the supply chain.
Many businesses haven’t managed their vendors for years. Supply chain inefficiency builds up, causing waste. Material and energy inefficiencies impact the environment in turn.
It’s the business equivalent of buying foreign battery meat from the supermarket when the locally-sourced farmer’s market is right next door.
Businesses can reconcile their supply chains to save money and limit their impact on the environment. Combining vendors and active monitoring of supply levels can reduce long-term waste.
Pass On The Plastic
One of the chief ways manufacturing businesses can increase their Earth-friendliness is by revising the materials they use.
Pressure from consumers has already started to drive a switch to eco materials. The plastic epidemic has reached such a boiling point that it’s scarcely out of the headlines.
The answer to sustainable materials lies in looking back to pre-plastic times, or in looking forward to post-plastic materials. The latter is still in its infancy but has gained steam in recent years.
Working with alternative materials often involves a trade-off. It’s not the perfect solution for a majority of companies. But for a select few, it offers a chance to transition to an eco-friendly model.
A Wandering Business Eye
While it might seem a drastic move, more than a few machine companies have begun to shift their operations to more eco-friendly products.
Auto manufacturers are some of the clearest examples. The rise of electric cars has resulted in a shift by a few key players toward the manufacturer of electric or hybrid cars. Some even intend to shift away from combustion engines altogether.
Machine companies remain subject to market forces in this regard. But they also play a role in creating market forces through marketing. A forward-thinking company can pivot to an eco-friendly business focus while selling it as a positive move for the brand and the customer.
Improving green technologies will continue to drive this kind of evolution. Companies who can’t prepare themselves for change may struggle to compete. It could pay to be ahead of the curve.
Water, Water, Everywhere
Almost every major manufacturing process uses water at some point in its production cycle. Common uses of water include dilution, cooling, and cleaning.
The staggering amount of water usage throws a wet blanket on industrial attempts to manage environmental impact.
But machine industries can save water in many ways. The first is simply by monitoring usage. Much like tracking your financial records, the very act of tracking usage can help control its excesses.
Water recycling offers another chance to reduce environmental impact. Uncontaminated wastewater is often fit for use in other purposes, such as in fire suppression systems.
Companies can also reduce water usage by investing in more efficient systems. Modern cooling technologies may demand less coolant, for example.
Managers can also build water conservation into their company culture. Reducing water usage can be as simple as training employees to see it as a valuable commodity.
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle: The Three Big Processes
Reuse, reduce, recycle are the three chief weapons machine industries have against their environmental impact. In the best cases, these can even allow a business to save money in the long term.
Looking for more insight on the future of technology? Check out our technology section.