The United Nations defines sustainable production as “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations”.
As manufacturing is on the cusp of a great comeback in Australia, what better time to assess your environmental impact and move towards sustainable production than when the eyes of the country are on you and the nation’s budget is at your disposal. This is, of course, far easier to say than to do and it raises many big questions, including:
- Where do I start?
- How can I make these changes without negatively impacting the business?
- What support is there for a business like mine trying to change?
As we mentioned, these are big questions and just a few of the many but we will do our best to provide some clarity on this small sample in the hope that it can help you get started on your sustainable journey.
Where do I start?
When considering environmental impact and policy in manufacturing many of us think about materials, bi-products, and waste but it is also important to think about the software behind the business and this is often the first place we should look.
Opportunity, savings, and cross-organisational efficiencies can be some of the key potential benefits of implementing new manufacturing software and they are a great way to start the journey towards sustainable production. As outlined in our recent blog post, ‘What is the IoT’, maintaining your systems more efficiently and therefore saving you considerable unnecessary downtime – both planned and unplanned –results in operating at a much more efficient level, is one small example of how manufacturing software can help you work towards sustainability.
Other steps that businesses can take on their path to sustainability can be found in the administration of the business. For example, moving to paperless work environments with tools such as Epicor DocStar which allows businesses, such as The Casino Food Co-op to find internal efficiencies whilst lowering their carbon footprint.
How can I move to sustainable production without negatively impacting the business?
This question is not uncommon, and it is a theme we often hear related to moving to more sustainable production. Ultimately, we all know that change is coming and whilst we may be wary of it we must embrace it or risk being left behind.
Like anything in business, you can plan for these changes and by acting sooner rather than later you can maintain control to ensure that the resulting impact is positive rather than a potential negative. Those businesses who do prepare will find themselves ahead of the pack with a considerable competitive advantage.
It is also important to look at what is happening in the rest of the world. The European Union, Japan and the United States are reportedly planning on implementing ‘carbon tariffs’ on imports and if this list expands to more of our trading partners then many Australian manufacturing businesses could find themselves with thinner margins on exports if they aren’t prepared, but those leading the way may find themselves with more market access than those who drag the chain.
With anything that implies changes, the most important thing is to research, plan and communicate these plans both internally and externally with your teams, clients, suppliers, industry partners and governmental organisations.
What support is there for a business like mine trying to change?
When working towards a major change like moving towards sustainable manufacturing it is important to know what resources and support exist to guide you along the journey. As you may have guessed, there is no shortage of information and support regarding this topic. This presents another challenge, how to find the right information.
Here are a few resources which can help you get started or at least might give you some inspiration:
- Government departments and organisations like The Clean Energy Regulator
- Business.gov.au provides a guide for becoming more environmentally friendly
- Partners and third-party suppliers such as Biscit who can help you understand the opportunities available to you via software solutions and how they can help you on the road to more sustainable production.
There will be many more and probably some which are relevant specifically to your organisation or local area.
There is no denying that shifting towards sustainable production is challenging but if seen as an opportunity and planned for it can be an incredibly positive future proofing change for any manufacturing business. With internal commitment, the right partners, quantifiable goals, and objectives there is no reason that sustainable production needs to be different to any other project within your organisation.
Photo credit: Petr Magera on Unsplash