Making Manufacturing More Sustainable
Sometimes zero is not zero.
Case in point: Manufacturer X sends no byproducts or waste to landfills or to incinerators. Manufacturer Y doesn't dump waste in landfills, yet it does opt to burn refuse for energy. Both claim they have "zero landfill" programs. Which one is correct?
Until recently, there were no standards under way to determine what zero actually was. Enter new ASTM International Subcommittee E60.13 on Sustainable Manufacturing, which is working on its initial standards that in part will be critical for firms that want to quantify the success of their sustainability initiatives. That is just one aspect of the work of the subcommittee, which focuses on advancing measurement science to promote improvements in resource efficiency - both energy and materials - and waste reduction across manufacturing processes and product assembly.
"Sustainable manufacturing is manufacturing that utilizes processes and materials and has outputs that optimize the triple bottom line," explains Michael Schmeida, a member of Subcommittee E60.13 as well as vice chairman of ASTM Committee E60 on Sustainability. Schmeida, director of compliance and sustainability for Tremco Commercial Sealants & Waterproofing, Cleveland, Ohio, says the triple bottom line encompasses social, economic and environmental attributes, and the focus of that triple bottom line is on reducing, reusing and recycling.
He uses his own firm as an example of the need for standards. Tremco is committed to the environment and employs a zero landfill program. In the case of his company, that means it does not send anything to landfills or directly to incinerators. In a "worst-case scenario," it refers some byproducts to waste-for-energy, i.e., material is burned to produce energy rather than burned to eliminate it via incineration.
"When we started this approach four to five years ago, we didn't know what counted as being diverted from landfills," Schmeida says. "We didn't know how to classify. We had to set our own scope and determine if we met it. My job would have been a lot easier to get everything going if I had a guide."
According to Amy Costello, Subcommittee E60.13 on Sustainable Manufacturing, organized in July 2012, will outline just that guide.
"This subcommittee creates a forum for the development of international standards for sustainable manufacturing," says Costello, the first chairman of E60.13, a member of the ASTM International board of directors and an environmental sustainability manager for Armstrong World Industries, Lancaster, Pa. "As companies develop sustainability goals and reports, it's important to have common international standards we can use to assess and measure our progress. For example, without a common way to classify waste from a facility, it is impossible to benchmark progress across a company or between industries."
The subcommittee, which first met in October 2012, has proposed four new standards:
Costello says the subcommittee, which has about 100 members from 13 countries, including Canada, Italy, Malaysia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States, brings many industries together to develop standards for sustainable manufacturing.
"It's a very diverse group. Name an industry and we have people in it," says Schmeida.
That's important because sustainable manufacturing crosses industry boundaries. To be successful and competitive, all industries have to operate efficiently and those efficiencies have to align with sustainable manufacturing, Costello says.
"That is why I think sustainability has grown the way it has," Costello adds. "It's a perfect win-win for everybody. It reduces costs and helps the environment."
Subcommittee E60.13 came about in part because of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which approached ASTM International about establishing standards for manufacturing sustainability.
Sudarsan Rachuri, Ph.D., computer scientist in the life cycle engineering group in the Systems Integration Division and program manager for sustainable manufacturing at NIST in Gaithersburg, Md., says, "We had a program at NIST four years ago on sustainable and life cycle impact-based manufacturing." That program evolved into sustainability initiatives, including NIST workshops on the topic.
In the course of developing those workshops, Rachuri and others in his division realized the need for standards that directly dealt with issues surrounding manufacturing.
The focus on sustainability in manufacturing is very important, which is why NIST has been investing significantly to develop a trusted system of metrics and the underlying measurement science to compute those metrics, according to Rachuri.
"ASTM is the right place for this as it is the largest producer of standards in this area that significantly help industries," Rachuri says.
NIST representatives, including Rachuri, presented about sustainable manufacturing at Committee E60's April 2012 meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., discussing the need for sustainable manufacturing standards and E60's potential role in developing them. That summer, ongoing discussions between NIST and E60 resulted in a scope and initial working documents for a new subcommittee.
"Product, process and supply network issues are critical for manufacturing," says Rachuri, who is vice chairman of the subcommittee. "Without focusing on the entire life cycle of manufacturing, we cannot understand the life cycle impact of a product."
"Very, very quickly we put the idea together," Schmeida notes. "Within a few months, it went from an idea to an actual subcommittee."
Schmeida adds, "This is the first we are aware of and the only consensus organization putting together standards that are going to be utilizing how we all, regardless of industry, could be potentially measured by consumers." He and other subcommittee members acknowledge that the concern about the environment goes well beyond manufacturing firms."We do get customers who ask what we're doing as far as our landfill footprint," Schmeida says.
It is important, Rachuri notes, for businesses to be able to compare such elements as energy, materials and water involved with the development of a product and the disposal of waste to fully understand the manufacturing and production processes involved.
Traditionally, manufacturing industries are concerned with quality, cost and productivity. The new dimension of sustainability is a business megatrend, according to the Harvard Business Review.1
Sustainable manufacturing is more proactive. "You're to be responsible for the efficiency from the extraction of raw materials and manufacturing to the use stage of the product, to the end of life of the product," Rachuri says.
Companies today want to be proactive, he adds, because of a sense of responsibility to the environment as well as consumer demand, innovation and global competition. "To do that they need to capture and exchange information," Rachuri says, and that need inspired the request for ASTM International to develop standards.
"Standards play a vital role in making sure all of your tools work together," he explains, noting that standards enable companies and consumers to compare and contrast products. "Firms can use standards to differentiate their products and to evaluate how efficient their manufacturing process is."
"The standards provide a system for the manufacturing industry to compute the total life cycle impact of the product," says Rachuri.
According to Rachuri and Kevin Lyons, group leader, life cycle engineering, Systems Integration Division, NIST, there is a heightened awareness of the economic and competitive importance of sustainable manufacturing technologies in U.S. manufacturing. Concurrently, a body of research results is emerging that will support incorporating sustainability considerations in manufacturing processes.
"Further, industrial organizations that predict and plan for a sustainable future are more likely to survive into the next generation," Rachuri says, citing information from the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge.2 In addition, awareness of the business benefits of sustainability is increasing. "There has also been an increased effort by the manufacturing sector to collect sustainable manufacturing information using energy management systems, data collection systems, material declaration systems and best practices," Rachuri says. According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, the research issues and challenges in transitioning from lean to sustainable manufacturing provide an excellent opportunity to address the measurement science needs for sustainable manufacturing.3
In essence, the future lies in measurement science and standards that will serve a significant role in determining sustainability performance. Through these methods, sustainability efforts will have a higher chance for success and reuse for subsequent analysis and decision-making, and impact, the NIST representatives indicate.
"Most companies have no way to track and compose sustainability-related data of processes, factories and supplier networks," Lyons says, "This subcommittee looks to develop the measurement science for sustainable manufacturing, which is often very complex and hard because it usually involves various scientific and technical disciplines, and the necessary expertise and competence may not be available in the company to deploy the standards."
1. Lubin, David A., and Esty, Daniel C., "The Sustainability Imperative," Harvard Business Review, May 2010.
2. Evans, Steve et al., "Towards a Sustainable Industrial System," University of Cambridge and Cranfield University, 2009.
3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Lean Manufacturing and the Environment: Research on Advanced Manufacturing Systems and the Environment and Recommendations for Leveraging Better Environmental Performance," Oct. 2003.Patricia Quigley is an award-winning journalist and public relations practitioner who has written for local, regional, national and international publications. She resides in southern New Jersey, where she earned a B.A. in communication and an M.A. in writing from Rowan University.