Five ways to make your manufacturing operations more eco-friendly

Eco-friendly manufacturing

Barry Crackett is the Product Designer at the brushware manufacturer Brushtec. Here, he shares his top tips for making your manufacturing operations more eco-friendly.

The manufacturing sector makes up a large section of the economy, with plenty of new product ranges being created everyday. But, given the scale of the industry, it’s no surprise that these types of businesses can have a detrimental impact to the environment.

Whether your factory churns out polluting smoke, or your energy bills are sky-rocketing every month, there are measures you can be taking to reduce this. Here, I’ll be sharing my top five tips for making your manufacturing operations more eco-friendly.

Carry out frequent energy audits

All manufacturing businesses need copious amounts of electrical energy to fuel their operations and produce the goods we use on a daily basis. But, with global energy management efforts in place, it’s important that we are all taking steps to reduce the amount of energy we use, to save our planet. So, while it’s necessary for all businesses to use energy in some capacity — such as lighting and your premises or powering machinery — there are ways you can minimise the amount you’re guzzling by frequently carrying out energy audits.

These audits are used to monitor how much energy you’re using from each workplace zone, or even a specific piece of equipment, so that you can collate this information into an action plan for becoming more energy-efficient. This can be done by you personally, or third-party auditors who will be able to highlight the changes you need to make and how to implement these. This could include switching out your light bulbs for energy-efficient ones, or installing programmable thermostats to reduce the amount of energy you’re expending.

Recycle and re-use your waste

While some waste, such as hazardous chemicals, can’t be reused, there are plenty of manufacturing industries where you can deal with your business’ waste more responsibly. For example, cardboard and paper can both be recycled, or reused to make packaging for your own goods. Additionally, any unwanted glass can also be recycled, to reduce the amount of waste your company is sending to landfill. If you have a large company that creates masses of waste, it might be a good idea to invest in a recycling machine. Although these can be expensive, they’ll reduce the amount of waste your company produces, which may even be a deciding factor for eco-conscious customers who are considering shopping with you.

You can also send your waste to external business owners. For example, sawdust from spare wood can be sent to farms to be used as animal bedding, while any faulty products can be sold to parts companies for reuse rather than being sent away with the rubbish.

Create green challenges for your employees
While implementing regulations to make operations greener are likely to reduce your business’ environmental impact, it could be good to encourage some healthy competition amongst your employees to really get them on board with your corporate social responsibility. Setting each team a challenge to see who can create the least amount of waste, or conserve the most energy over a given period will be a great way to get your employees engaged with these new changes. Plus, it will give you an opportunity to see what is realistic for your manufacturing company, while still remaining equally as productive.

These could even expand to include basic changes around the workplace. Things such as getting rid of plastic cutlery and disposable coffee cups can make a big difference to your overall waste, so try implementing these and watch your weekly rubbish pile deplete.

Choose eco-friendly partners

Most businesses will need to interact with other companies in order to source raw materials and parts, and this is no different for the manufacturing industry. Whether you partner with a packaging company, or you buy machinery and equipment from others, a key way to make your firm more eco-friendly is to use environmentally-responsible partners.

Although this can cause an operational reshuffle, it’s sure to be one of the most impactful decisions you can make towards building an eco-friendly company. This can be something as simple as switching your packaging supplier for one which uses recycled materials, or changing to a green energy supplier that puts a larger onus on the use of renewable energy.

Update your machinery and equipment

Although your old machinery may be doing the job it needs to, the outdated technology that went into making it probably means it’s using more energy than necessary. Updating the tools and equipment you use in your manufacturing processes makes it possible for reduced energy wastage as well as increased productivity levels. Installing an electric power management system (EPMS) will be a good way to visibly see the results these new technologies are having, which will hopefully result in more eco-friendly purchases for your company.

Automating a human production process by introducing new technology is also a way to increase energy-efficiency and reduce waste, as it can help to reduce the possibility human error leading to faulty products. However, this may not be possible for smaller manufacturing companies who don’t have the cash to invest in robotics right now.

Making your manufacturing business more eco-friendly can seem like a lot of work, but with my top five tips, you’ll soon be on your way to reducing your environmental impact and becoming more a responsible company.