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Sustainable Manufacturing

It’s Time to Make the Switch to Sustainable Manufacturing Practices

How and Why You Should Green Your Manufacturing Process

As environmental issues become more urgent, a growing number of consumers expect manufacturers to step up as part of the solution. But please don’t view these expectations as a burden. Almost any manufacturer, in any industry, can save on operating costs and enjoy increased revenue by joining the ranks of green manufacturers.  Use these tips to start your plant’s transition to sustainable manufacturing.

What Is Sustainable Manufacturing?

Sustainable manufacturing means creating products using methods that lessen the environmental impact of the process, while remaining commercially competitive. There’s no one way for a plant to be considered sustainable—instead, this term covers a range of practices, from general to industry-specific, that increase a plant’s eco-friendliness.

In the Words of a Sustainable Business…

We believe that like each individual, a business should assume responsibility for its action and impacts. If we use resources, we need to use them as efficiently as we can and if using them makes a mess or a negative impact, we need to be responsible for taking care of the mess, or avoiding it in the first place if possible.

-Bob Bechtold, President | HARBEC

Sustainable Practices Every Business Should Consider

While every business’s plan will differ based on the type of products they make, there are a few overarching concerns that nearly all manufacturers will need to address as they go green.

1. Energy Use

Up to 30 percent of a plant’s yearly energy use is wasted on inefficient equipment or processes. Of course, all of that wasted energy is also lost money. Regardless of what industry you’re in, you can increase energy efficiency—and save cash—by:

  • Conducting an energy audit to gather data for determining the best reduction strategies.
  • Staggering equipment start-up times to prevent spikes in energy demand for your plant. 
  • Shutting down machinery during off-shift times to lower overall energy use and costs.
  • Scheduling regular HVAC and air compressor maintenance to ensure they’re working at maximum efficiency.

2. Water Use 

Conserving water is more important than ever, as climate change, contamination and other factors make water shortages a growing threat. Fortunately, water conservation is a double-whammy for sustainability: when you reduce water use at your plant, you also reduce the amount of energy required to pump and heat it. You can save water by implementing these sustainable manufacturing practices:

  • Tracking water use within high-flow equipment to identify opportunities for reduction.
  • Re-circulating or reusing water within a particular process or sequence of processes.
  • Using nonpotable water in as many applications as possible.
  • Switching to less water-intensive processes or equipment wherever practical.

3. Carbon Emissions

Factories have a key role to play in fighting climate change, and using green manufacturing methods to lessen carbon emissions is one of our best weapons in that fight. This sector is responsible for 21 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., but your plant can help lower that percentage by:

  • Recycling as much of both your MSW and manufacturing waste as possible.
  • Using a combined heat and power (also called cogeneration) system if your plant deals with chemical synthesis, steel or paper production or other highly energy-intensive processes. 
  • Partnering with manufacturers in different industries to find uses for each other’s waste materials—either as raw materials or fuel.
  • Installing solar panels or other sources of on-site renewable energy, especially if your processes are less energy-intensive. 

Sustainable Manufacturing in Action…

Some of the things that HARBEC does are carbon neutrality, water neutrality, and waste-to-landfill minimization. By accomplishing these things we are using the necessary resources to manufacture our products and at the same time minimizing or eliminating the negative impact on the environment or on our future children’s opportunities to do the same things we enjoy.

-Bob Bechtold, President | HARBEC

So, What Are the Benefits of Sustainable Manufacturing?

Crafting a more sustainable manufacturing process requires investing money in new equipment, and investing time in analyzing data and implementing the new processes that data suggests. But those efforts can help your business as much as they benefit the environment:

  • The average plant saves about $100 for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy it saves.
  • More efficient equipment and processes will save many plants enough money to pay for themselves within just 2.5 years. These savings can translate to a competitive advantage over less efficient players in your industry.
  • Implementing sustainable practices will provide many valuable PR opportunities for improving the image of your brand and building good will with both current and potential new customers.
  • More legislation around sustainable manufacturing is written every year. Getting ahead of new regulations in your industry can help future-proof your operation and enable you to plan out improvements over time rather than all at once when a new law passes.

Real Benefits for a Real Business…

By controlling our energy consumption we are reducing our costs which improves our profitability and competitiveness. By taking the time to handle our waste stream with care and consideration (not just throwing it out) we realize economic opportunities by finding markets for our used materials and waste streams.

-Bob Bechtold, President | HARBEC

Have plans to green your manufacturing process? What will your first step be? Special thanks to the team at HARBEC for giving us a look at their approach to sustainability.

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