Sustainability—Clearly Linked to Profitability

Saving energy saves money. This fact alone will sustain the effort to make manufacturing more sustainable.

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Life on earth is sustained by the water, air and raw materials that this planet holds. If these resources are used up or made unusable because of pollution, life is threatened. For this compelling reason, everyone must take steps to protect and preserve these resources. Our existence depends on them.

“Sustainable manufacturing” refers to policies and practices that place a minimal demand on natural resources or cause the least damage to the environment. Because energy represents the largest portion of the demand created by manufacturing on natural resources, reducing energy consumption has become the focus and priority of sustainability efforts by manufacturers.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, manufacturing consumes the equivalent of 3.6 billion barrels of crude oil every year (1/5 of all energy consumed in this country). Therefore, manufacturers have a responsibility to cut energy usage. Additionally, energy can encompass as much as 50 percent of the cost of production, although this figure varies widely from process to process. It follows then, that manufacturers also have an opportunity to cut costs by reducing the energy they use.

Attendees at the upcoming International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) will
see numerous examples of how suppliers of manufacturing technology are developing ways to help users sustain the environment as well as support the profitability of their operations. These examples will incorporate most or all of the following measures:

  1. Accurate, real-time measurement of energy consumed by each step of a process will be linked to a specific machine component or subsystem. This data will enable shops and plants to make more responsible decisions about energy usage by identifying wasteful elements.

  2. Process streamlining and optimization will significantly reduce energy usage. These savings will come from highly efficient material-removal capabilities, faster setup and reduced scrap.

  3. Automatic “standby management” will turn off or idle coolant pumps, generators, fans, chillers, lights, and other accessories or subsystems when not needed. Low-energy accessories and subsystems will be preferred by OEMs.

  4. OEMs will design machine components and structures that can be produced and assembled using less energy. They will have less mass, but retain strength and rigidity.

  5. Energy efficiency as a key factor in total-cost-of-ownership calculations will be emphasized.

Saving the planet and making a profit are not   in conflict or irreconcilable. They are, in fact, complementary impulses that can propel manufacturing into a safer, greener, more sustainable level of operation.

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