Sustainable development has become today’s buzzword, as an increasing number of manufacturing companies switch to environment-friendly practices for quality product development. Increasing global awareness of environmental degradation has led many countries and organization to sustainability initiatives in every sphere of our society. A global consciousness has been raised to highlight the environmental issues of planet contamination and limited natural resources for consumers to demand eco-friendly products and manufacturing companies to make optimum use of their consumed resources.
While product recycling and creation of eco-friendly products are necessary, the key to effective sustainability management involves a complete management of the entire product supply chain of the manufacturing company. This includes the adoption of advanced technology and skills that not only improve productivity, but also reduce internal costs through outsourcing of some company functions.
The future of sustainability thus lies in the system of Green Product Management.
Introduction to Green Product Management
Green Product Management is a complete system that looks at products right from the project planning stage, to its design, development, pilot production, and mass production, right up to the end of the product life.
The Green Product Management strategy is aimed at an industry mission to supply products that can fulfil customer needs, while taking advanced steps towards product innovation using technology and developing a sustainable production mechanism.
So, what are key elements of the Green Product Management that can help to achieve product sustainability?
- Sustainable design
Sustainable (or green) design of a product considers all the factors right from acquisition of the raw materials required for the product, to its final disposal. All these factors can have possible impacts on our environment. Sustainable design (or green product design) needs to be adopted from the early stages of the product designing and development, and must look at objectives, such as reduction of environmentally-harmful substances used in the product, the ease of assembling and disassembling the product, as well as the reduction of consumed energy to manufacture the product.
As an example, to check for the eco-friendliness of their products, companies have set plant laboratories to detect the use of any hazardous substance in the supplier’s products or raw materials.
- Green supply chain management
To implement this key element, all components for product assembly and other used materials, during the product manufacturing and maintenance are checked for containing any hazardous materials. A supply chain audit of the manufacturers and its suppliers is conducted to ensure that all the involved parties meet the necessary requirements of sustainable development. Research in collaboration with customers to develop more environment-friendly and halogen-free materials is also aimed to reduce the environment damages.
- Green manufacturing
The aim of this key element is to manufacture products using only those materials and processes that pose the least harmful impact on the environment. Additionally, green manufacturing is aimed at conserving energy used for manufacturing, and to ensure maximum safety for the employees and the society.
Additional aspects of green (or sustainable) manufacturing include the adoption of manufacturing technologies and plant design, that can contribute to this objective.
- Sustainable production and logistics
Key factors such as mass production and outsourcing can contribute to this objective. As detailed in the book titled, “Technology Management for Sustainable Production and Logistics,” innovative technologies provide opportunities to make manufacturing and logistics cleaner and more energy efficient.
Engineering tools, such as CAx, can quantify the carbon footprint or the energy consumption in any particular manufacturing process.
- Responsible use and maintenance
Customer service must include methods for sustainable maintenance and servicing systems that help when interacting with the customers.
- Ease of recovery and disassembly
Consideration of a green product life cycle extends to the final disposal of the product, including reduction in resource waste and the product recycling costs. Product materials with a higher proportion of recycled materials can be selected.
The practices for ease of recovery can include:
- The use of recycled paper for the product manual.
- Product packaging using recyclable corrugated paper.
- Product cartons bearing the recycle system mark.
The practices for ease of disassembly can include products:
- With modular design.
- With easy disassembling design, meaning products that can be broken down using normal tools such as screwdrivers.
- With reduced number of fastening bolts.
- With easy to separate design, particularly true for electronic products.
- Product disposal
This involves the final “6R” analysis for the product end of life, which include:
- Retire, in which case, the company must have a waste disposal management strategy.
- Reuse, which will involve the reintegration of product part back into the manufacturing cycle.
- Reduce and Redesign that involves the learned knowledge, which will help in the next product lifecycle.
- Renewal, which is the final stage of the Green product management process.