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Sustainable Manufacturing Practices Can Boost Your Bottom Line

It is becoming more evident every day that ‘going green’ benefits more than just the environment. In fact, implementing green initiatives can actually save a company money in the long run, boosting their bottom line. In the manufacturing industry, which consumes large quantities of raw materials among other products, there are ample opportunities to incorporate green practices into daily operations.  With the addition of just a few sustainable techniques, companies can create a sustainable operation benefiting the environment, as well as saving their company money.

The production of products and parts in the manufacturing industry inevitably produces lots of scrap and bi-product materials. One way manufacturers can recycle and reuse their scrap metal is to sell it to a foundry or recycler, where the materials are melted with other bits of metal and converted back into raw steel. Although this technique is perfectly suitable to achieve a zero-waste operation, there is a substitute method that has saved companies a fortune. General Motors was able to utilize a technique that entails selling their scrap steel to a local steel fabricator who was able to use the material during their operation of creating steel brackets. Not only did this sale create a beneficial business relationship as well as a zero-waste environment, but it also saved them money. How much money? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? General Motors was able to save one billion dollars by recycling their scrap material and selling it to local fabricators. This is a perfect example of how enacting sustainable manufacturing practices can boost the bottom line as well as aid in preserving the environment. 

The decision regarding cutting oil disposal is another area of manufacturing where recycling techniques can be incorporated to cut costs and potentially create a revenue stream. After the completion of producing parts during manufacturing operations, many gallons of contaminated oil are left to deal with. What’s the next step to disposing of this oil? Since paying an outside party to dispose of this oil can be costly, companies can use techniques such as rerefining and reclaiming to properly clean up their newly contaminated cutting oil. Rerefining consist of a separation process, followed by hydrotreating to destroy the remaining contaminants. If this techniques doesn’t best suit your specific situation, try reclaiming. Reclaiming can be used to produce cutting and grinding fluids, and involves physical processes to remove contaminants from oil. Some physical process examples include vacuum distillation, centrifuging, and clay filtration. Reprocessing often does not remove additives, which are the most expensive components of cutting fluids, and significant savings can be realized. Whichever cutting oil recycling technique a company practices, the benefits are undeniable. Carrying out any of these techniques successfully results in the ability to reuse the cutting oil, saving a company money, as well as benefiting the environment.

Another area rapidly gaining attention in the green manufacturing movement is the ideology of lean manufacturing.  Lean manufacturing is a systematic method for the elimination of waste within a manufacturing system. If lean manufacturing is applicable to a business, the benefits are abundant. From increased efficiency, improved quality, reduction in material and storage costs, to increased space availability, lean manufacturing is enticing to many manufacturers. Although lean manufacturing encompasses more benefits than these, these few paybacks should be enough to compel a company to adapt to lean manufacturing techniques.

Incorporating sustainable manufacturing practices into daily operations not only helps the environment through conserving energy and natural resources, reducing waste streams, and overall reduction of a company’s carbon footprint, but it can also save a company significant operational costs. It’s easy to write off these practices as too time consuming and high upfront costs, but the reality is that the payback is worth it.