Manufacturers: Now’s the Time to Address Sustainability (and Where to Start)

Any way you look at it, manufacturing needs to go green.

Whether you are concerned about customers’ demand for more transparent and environmentally friendly practices, rising global temperatures, more stringent environmental regulation, or lowering your energy costs, now’s the time to start thinking about sustainable manufacturing. 

Green manufacturing has costs as well as benefits, but overall, it can only help your company become more competitive as well as increase its social value.

Aren’t you curious to know how sustainable your electronics manufacturer is?

What Does It Mean to Be Sustainable?

Green manufacturing is defined as “a systematic approach to eliminating waste by optimizing use and selection of resources and technologies, thereby lessening the impact on the environment.” 

When talking about sustainable manufacturing, you may come across the term the “Triple Bottom Line.” This concept communicates that in order to be truly sustainable, a company must focus not only on its economic performance, but also its environmental and social performances. 

By carefully selecting what technologies and products to use (and how to use them), a company can not only improve its bottom line, but minimize its impact on the environment and garner good will with the public.

When thinking about how to make manufacturing more sustainable, the company will need to focus on not only the attributes of a product, but how it’s made. This means the material(s) the product uses, its design, and the manufacturing process.

If You Want to Get Somewhere, Start With a Plan

Something like a deep dive into sustainable manufacturing can’t get going without a plan. First, you’ll need to take account of how things are being produced currently. What materials are you using? Are they recyclable? What designs are you using? Are they wasteful? What processes are you using to get them made? Are they energy efficient?

Next, waste management. How is your wastewater treatment? What about solid waste management? Does your facility recycle? 

And of course your energy usage. Where do you get your energy? Is it sustainable? Do you have any wind turbines or solar panels helping to power your facility? Clean technologies are vital to any green manufacturing endeavors.

One very useful step is to evaluate the technology used to run your factory. The correct use of digital technology can help set up your facility for sustainability. Digital technology can help trim down your processes leading to higher productivity, lower costs, and a safer workplace for your employees. It can also help you monitor production and the state of your machinery. 

Most importantly, digital technology can monitor your energy usage. Use this data to set goals as to how much energy you would like to (not) use in your more sustainable future.

It’s OK to Start Small …

We all have to start somewhere, and little tweaks here and there can make a relatively large difference, especially if it’s the catalyst for a larger change within a manufacturing facility.

When we think of sustainable clothing manufacturers, we think of large volumes of product. Tweaking the packaging to use less plastic can go a long way to lessen stress on landfills everywhere. And a more minimal package might inspire you to find what else you can make more efficient.

Simple Housekeeping Can (Literally) Save Thousands

Now you’re getting into your sustainability swing. What else can you do to become a more sustainable clothing manufacturer? Simply enough, begin to take charge of your facility’s housekeeping. It’s easy for things like inventory management and scheduling to get a little sloppy.

What’s more, little leaks and spills can be wasting otherwise usable materials or machinery, or wasting energy and money. Maybe there are some leaks in your air compressor. Fixing those leaks saved one Minnesota factory $21,400 and 390,000 kWh of energy yearly.

Take Advantage of Process Optimization

Your process is your holy grail. It’s how you get things done. Once you have this in place, it will run almost continually to produce your t-shirts and overalls. With this cycle repeating countless times, you’ll need to make sure it is the most efficient it can be. 

Process optimization includes minimizing waste and then saving what waste you do produce to use later. It includes conserving raw materials. It includes rearranging machines so there is less movement between steps.

It may include changing the mechanism by which your flame lights to use less natural gas. It includes whatever it takes to use the least energy and produce the least waste. Think skinny.

You May Also Substitute Raw Materials

Try finding more sustainable materials to use in place of those that are scarce, hazardous, or non-renewable. For example, you could use water-based solvents instead of chemical ones.

Try not to use materials in the production process that aren’t in the final product. In addition to lessening your environmental impact, these changes may help you save money in disposal and storage of hazardous waste.

Manufactured works with private label clothing manufacturers that use all sustainable materials

Try an All-New Product Design

You’ve already tweaked the packaging to use less plastic. But why stop there? Think about what your product is made of and how it’s used. What else can be changed to reduce energy use and waste?

Maybe you can make t-shirts using recycled material instead of cotton or a synthetic material. Maybe you can design your furniture box for easy disassembly and subsequent recycling. Now that you’re using less packaging, maybe you can replace that plastic with something recyclable or something that can be remanufactured.

A Few Extra, Quick-Fire Tips:

  • Go the extra mile to make sure the manufacturing goes smoothly and you aren’t producing defective products. These will not only cost you money, but further crowd our landfills.
  • Do your research to avoid overproduction. Especially if the product contains non-renewable or hazardous materials, lean away from excess. You can always make more if the need arises.
  • Avoid unnecessary transport. This costs you money and will most likely use non-renewable fuel to get your goods where they don’t even need to go.

Manufacturers, now is the time.

With the planet, the consumers, and the regulation agencies in the state that they are, we cannot wait longer for sustainable manufacturing. Remember, greener manufacturing not only improves your bottom line, but improves your environmental and social impact as well.

Go forth and go green.

Image Credit:

Featured Image, Pexels

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