You already know that going green involves redesigning a single product or process at your facility to make it more environmentally-friendly. And that being sustainable is looking at a product’s entire life-cycle as a whole, like sourcing goods composed of recyclable materials, processed locally in wind-powered plants, and transporting them using electric vehicles (EVs).

So now you’re ready to go green and sustainable with your business. The problem is, you’re not exactly sure how to do so. Do you incentivize employees to bring their own mugs in lieu of disposable paper cups? Stop purchasing supplies from countries who use fossil-fuels to power their plants as well as transportation means like ships, rail, and trucks? Buy potted plants for every employee’s desk? 

To assist you, here are four broad eco-friendly practices you should consider in the manufacturing vertical.

Process the Process 

A good starting point is to review your company’s processes: 

  • What steps are involved in the manufacture of your products? 
  • How are they negatively impacting the environment both in the short- and long-term? 
  • What can be done to make them environmentally sound? 

When answering these questions, remember each industry has unique needs and requirements. Green and sustainable practices that apply to the manufacturing segment will not be the same for a hospital to go green

A very common green measure in manufacturing can be found in the packing process. Many companies use cardboard, paper, and paperboard as packing material. Many are now looking for recyclable alternatives. As Smithers Pira’s study on innovations in packaging points out: 

“Packaging materials are extremely visible to the consumer. There are intense and growing pressures from consumers, retailers, packaged product suppliers, governments, regulators, non-government organizations, and environmental groups for the development of environmentally-friendly or green materials, packaging designs and end-of-life processes to improve packaging sustainability by reducing its societal and environmental impacts.”

A not-so-common process to consider going green is the use of cleaning solutions. In an EPA paper on greener products, the EPA writes that many ingredients found in common cleaners have an adverse effect on wildlife. Alkylphenol ethoxylates, which is a common ingredient in them, has been found in untreated sewer water. Animals which drink from it can suffer disruption in their reproduction. The volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are also found in cleaning products, can worsen indoor and outdoor air quality. You should consider purchasing eco-friendly cleaning products for your facilities, and maybe even some industrial touch screen PCs with an IP65 rating so that an errant cleaner spray blast doesn’t find its way inside the computer and result in more headaches for your overworked IT department. 

Speaking of IT, get the department to pull all data of your manufacturing processes for you to review. A typical manufacturing plant is under intense scrutiny electronically, and the amount of information generated is staggering. It has to be. Raw material comes in, gets processed, and a finished product is the result. Mistakes at any of these steps can cost money and even lives. 

So scrutinize all the provided data of your manufacturing plant from inventory stock, water usage, to electric bills. What do the factory sensors say about power use in product assembly? Is it too high? If it is, what’s the source? Sending the sensor data and modeling it through a digital twin can narrow down the source of wasted power and even suggest solutions. If our example conclusively shows it’s the PCs on the factory floor, consider replacing them with PoE mini PCs. This can lead to a reduction in power drawn from the local power plants which can result in less fossil fuel use. 

Paperless Communication 

Businesses use a lot of paper in their everyday activities. The COVID-19 epidemic and the subsequent lockdown forced them to work remotely and look for other means to communicate, create and store files, issue memos, etc. Now as offices sputter to open their doors, consider bringing that paperless teaching / philosophy into the workplace. 

Steps you can take include:

  • Communicate primarily via telephone and emails instead of letters and fax. 
  • Think twice before printing out a document or spreadsheet. Can it be worked and stored online? If the answer’s yes, then do so. 
  • Replace bulletin boards with text messages. You not only save on paper but can communicate in real time.
  • Provide employee training through online learning with essential documents in the form of e-docs like PDFs. 
  • Use rugged industrial tablets instead of paper and clipboards. Again, no paper is used, and the information can be uploaded to the company’s databases with the press of a button.  

A robust, streamlined and effective communication systems between mobile devices, workstations, PCs, and networks will minimize paper use in the office thus preserving forests. And when you absolutely have to use paper, look for recycled pieces during your trip at the local office supply store. 

Sourcing the Viva Local 

If you’re a typical business, you order just enough raw material through your supply chain to manufacture enough products to meet demand (called just-in-time or lean manufacturing). 

Reconsider your company’s supply chain. The transportation of raw materials to your manufacturing plants depletes non-renewable resources like oil and gas while polluting the atmosphere with toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, etc.). This is especially true across great distances like from another state or country. 

To be more sustainable, shop locally. Find suppliers nearby. This cuts down fuel consumption and air pollution as they transport the raw material to your facilities. The same is true if you need to send the material back to them.

There’s also another advantage. Previously, we covered how the COVID-19 pandemic showed people that many businesses could function just fine paperless with a few modifications. The lockdown also uncovered the (lack of) supply chain preparedness as suppliers shut their doors across the globe. Businesses who shop locally will be far less vulnerable to such massive cut-offs, a trend we’re sure will pick up steam in 2021 and beyond. 

I’m Here! I’m Green! Get Used to It! 

Finally, inform visitors about your green and sustainable processes. So many companies say they’re “going green” these days that eco-conscious visitors to your website can get blase at such announcements. To stand out, create a webpage detailing your company’s efforts. Some items to include:

  • Your company’s mission statement to be environmentally conscious. It can be general (e.g., “We’re on a mission to transform the world into a healthy, sustainable & equitable place for the next seven generations.” – Seventh Generation) or specific (e.g., “As the personal computer continues to find a place in the homes and offices of people everywhere, there is a growing concern over what to do with old computers, parts, and other electronics.” – Cybernet Manufacturing.)
  • Short- and long-term sustainability goals. 
  • Green and sustainability accomplishments. 
  • Partnerships with like-minded companies. Same with any joint projects.  

Showcase any exclusive programs by your company. Detail them. Every industry is unique, and companies’ green and sustainable efforts will vary, too. Cybernet, as a manufacturer of medical equipment, discusses at length programs dealing with the trade-ins and recycling of its products

And don’t forget to display any certifications prominently. Again, this shows visitors to your site of your commitment to being eco-friendly. Having your products certified with Energy Star, for instance, means they meet the strict energy efficiency guidelines laid out by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. And having those same products be RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliant means their manufacture does not include ten materials deemed hazardous in the European Union

Green is Goal at Cybernet Manufacturing

Irvine-based Cybernet Manufacturing, as an example, hits many of the major points suggested by this blog post. Cybernet follows the highest levels of environmental practices in order to keep their products eco-friendly. 

  • A commitment statement covering the use of recyclable materials to environmentally-friendly practices in processing electronics.
  • Compliance with the previously discussed RoHS directive for EU customers.
  • How Cybernet products are Energy Star certified, i.e., meet EPA energy efficiency standards.
  • Details on trade-in and recycling programs of older Cybernet products. 

In many ways, deciding to go green for one’s business is but a first step to what can seem a daunting road. The four steps detailed in this post (reviewing your company’s processes, minimizing paper use, using local suppliers, and displaying your efforts online) hopefully will have you breathing easier in your company’s journey. Contact a Cybernet expert today for further ways about how to go green in the manufacturing vertical.