You can't turn around without hearing someone talking about the manufacturing industry. The current political climate has shined the economic spotlight back on manufacturers and their processes.

While manufacturing jobs may be the dominant talking point on the minds of the media, politicians and society, the topic of sustainability still dominates the talk in boardrooms and processing floors. Companies are looking for ways to make their operations more efficient while not hampering the quality of products. They also seek to lower their costs and risks without negatively impacting the environment.

Sustainability is still important in the manufacturing sector

What does sustainability mean? Often when the term is associated with manufacturing, it deals with having processes that cut down on wasted materials and energy resources.

It also involves adopting technologies and machinery that can better use energy resources. Yet the term can also encompass creating streamlined processes, systems and innovations that lead to better quality products while increasing profits.

There are several known benefits for sustainability in production processes.

More consumers today are concerned with their carbon footprint and adopting a green lifestyle, so manufacturers can promote their products and operations with an eco-friendly angle that allows them to further brand their companies, providing them with a competitive edge in their market niche.

Here are several other benefits, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • Build public trust by providing quality products that promote a green living
  • Address increasing regulatory requirements in seeking environmentally-friendly processes
  • Increase operational efficiency by adopting more innovate technologies and machinery
  • Improve overall production performance with a healthier and more viable business system

One of the greatest challenges in creating sustainable operations is balancing efficiency and innovation with manufacturing costs and financial performance.

Figuring out where in the production process they can cut costs, eliminate waste and improve performance are just a few of the stumbling blocks that manufacturers are encountering. To do this, a manufacturer must perform an evaluation and assessment of current operations, which can be difficult, time-consuming and costly.

New international standard helping manufacturers

To help manufacturers gather the required information they can use to assess their facilities to discover inefficiencies and create ways to become more sustainable, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a standard that can virtually map out processes. According to NIST, the ASTM E-3012-16 is a science-based systematic guide that makes it easier for manufacturers to evaluate their processes.

A manufacturer can input information and data about their company to create a computer model of how their production process works. Then, they can insert additional data information in regards to each step of the process to see what changes can be made that will increase the company's sustainability efforts.

Sustainable operations can be a long and involved process, especially when manufacturers want to establish long-term results that will not affect the stability of their operations. With the ASTM E-3012-16 standard, and other best practices being introduced, manufacturers have the tools so they can reach their company goals in sustainability in operations.