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Brian Lagas

Customer Care

Five Benefits of Sustainability and Green Manufacturing

And five success stories of U.S manufacturers

Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 11:41

Embracing sustainable and green principles is more than simply “a good thing to do.” Manufacturers are realizing the many practical short- and long-term financial benefits to implementing environmentally conscious improvements. Such practices helps organizations become more efficient, competitive, and profitable.

The difference between sustainability and ‘going green’

“Going green” is not the same thing as sustainability, although they are related. The terms are often used interchangeably, but “green” is more frequently associated with a singular product or process. Examples of green practices include improving a specific operation so that it doesn’t harm the environment, or creating a product made entirely of recycled materials.

“Sustainability” is typically associated with an organization’s holistic approach; it takes the entire production process and logistics into consideration. For example, you might purchase a green product made out of recycled goods. However, if that product was made overseas, and environmentally harmful methods were used to transport that product to the United States, this would not be adhering to sustainable principles.

In the manufacturing world, it’s advantageous to focus on both green and sustainability. Although targeted improvements can be beneficial to your company, looking at the “bigger picture” maximizes the perks of an environmental focus. Here are five critical ways to embrace sustainability and green to positively affect your organization.

1. Reduce energy-related costs

Energy and water costs are a prime concern for manufacturers. Focusing on improvements can reduce these expenses. Often, these improvements are realized as annual savings as opposed to quicker, short-term cost reductions.

Switching to energy-efficient lighting and adjusting lighting levels in accordance with your production schedule will reduce your long-term electrical costs. Regular equipment inspections will also prove beneficial. For example, air compressor leaks can be a waste of energy and increase expenses. Changing how you package your products and supplies can provide cost reductions and free up space at your facility. Solar and wind energy, along with energy-efficient equipment and machinery, will greatly reduce monthly utility bills. Implementing strategies such as recycling and going paperless will also save on supply costs. Sustainability can improve your bottom line.

2. Attract new customers and increase sales

Green and sustainable practices can make your company more marketable. Consumers are more conscious of the environment, and making improvements will strengthen your reputation. Whether you’re an OEM or a supplier, highlighting your initiatives to the public will help you attract a new base of customers, resulting in increased sales. This is important to manufacturers seeking government contracts, where green manufacturing standards are often a factor.

Technology and social media have enabled buyers to easily (and publicly) promote or criticize companies for their green practices, or lack thereof.

3. Tax incentives

There are a variety of tax credits and rebates on both the federal and state level for manufacturers that proactively implement more sustainable improvements. There may be incentives available to your business. Check out:
• U.S. Department of Energy’s website
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

4. Boost workforce morale and innovations

Sustainability improvements are a collaborative effort. When employees work together to identify and implement green and sustainable initiatives, it fosters a culture of teamwork and continuous improvement. Employees work harder when they are engaged and have a sense of pride in their company. By internally communicating the importance of changes and the effect they are having on the business and environment, manufacturers will positively influence their corporate culture.

Sustainability can also ignite innovation. For example, if you challenge your engineers and machinists to reduce material scraps or recycle more waste during the manufacturing process, it often leads to additional ideas for operational improvements.

5. Societal impact

In addition to helping your company’s profitability, your actions can make a real difference. By implementing changes, you will have a smaller carbon footprint and reduce the number of toxins released into the atmosphere. Future generations ultimately benefit from improved air and water quality, fewer landfills, and more renewable energy sources.

Sustainability and green manufacturing success stories

U.S. manufacturers are achieving quantifiable results by working with their local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers on sustainability and green initiatives. Read about some of the successes:
• E3 review strengthens Virginia company’s environmental commitment, resulting in over $200,000 in operational cost savings
Lean and clean programs help New Jersey manufacturer realize $3 million in new/retained sales, five new employees, and $500,000 in cost savings
• Profitable Sustainability Initiative (PSI) helps Wisconsin company reduce fuel and emissions, recognize $75,000 in costs related to shipping
• Energy savings project leads Kansas organization to more than $61,000 in overall equipment savings and $24,000 in annual energy savings
• Energy efficiency project helps New Hampshire manufacturer reduce energy consumption by 10 percent and save $25,000 annually

MEP is partnering on federal initiatives to help companies gain a competitive edge by reducing environmental costs and impact; and enter new markets by developing environmentally focused materials, products, and processes. For more information about MEP’s sustainability efforts, visit the MEP website or contact your local MEP center.

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About The Author

Brian Lagas’s picture

Brian Lagas

Brian Lagas is the program manager for continuous improvement, Economy, Energy and Environment (E3), lean, Toyota kata, and ExporTech at the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP).