Efficient Plant July 2018 - 12
feature | operating strategies
Fig. 1. Sustainable
a balancing game.
enhancing the quality
of life for humans in an
economically viable way
that doesn't create an
environment where they
design drives the balance of the materials life cycle as
it determines what type and how much raw material, energy, water, chemical, and other resources are
required to deliver the demanded utility.
Sustainable product design involves two types of
considerations: demand-side and supply-side.
On the demand side of the equation, consumers
ultimately decide what and how much of a given
product they demand. For example, if consumers
demand large, gas-guzzling vehicles in lieu of more
fuel-efficient options or public transportation, manufacturers will deliver such products. The sustainable
manufacturer, in turn, must decide whether or not it
has a social responsibility to promote moresustainable types of options that can move the demand needle in favor of sustainability.
On the supply side, product designers must consider the raw materials, energy, water, and chemicals
required to produce the products they offer. Some
questions for the product designer include:
Can the utility to the customer be delivered by
products designed with fewer material inputs than
Can the product be manufactured using a higher
percentage of recycled materials?
Can the product be manufactured with less energy and other input materials?
If virgin materials are required to manufacture
the product, can they be readily and efficiently
Design decisions determine the vast majority of
environmental impacts across a product's life cycle.
While efficiencies can be found in the manufacturing
and logistics aspects of the life cycle, these are heavily
influenced by the product design decisions that are
made very early on in the lifecycle.
Once the product is designed to deliver the
required utility to the customer with the smallest
quantity of input materials and by maximizing the use
of recycled and/or recyclable materials, we must next
turn our attention to input materials, which raises the
Are we sourcing extracted, harvested, or otherwise-obtained raw materials from suppliers that
minimize environmental impact?
Are materials being extracted from areas that
minimize impact on, among other things, species,
their habitat, and water-drainage areas?
Are material-extraction methods used to minimize the impact on the environment?
Is energy sourced from sustainable providers?
Are chemicals, water, and other manufacturing inputs sourced from organizations that are
themselves sustainable in the production of these
Are measures taken to minimize material usage
required for input-material logistics?
Many questions must also be answered regarding
the manufacturing process. For example:
Is the manufacturing process designed to minimize the amount of materials, including energy,
water, chemicals, and other inputs?
Is the manufacturing process designed to
minimize the amount of material transfer and the
number of discrete processes required for conversion
to a product?
Have measures been taken to minimize frictional
losses and leaking and spills of process liquids and
Does the process assure a high degree of first-pass
quality goods to reduce waste associated with the
disposal of nonconforming production?
Has the selection of energy-efficient machines and