Sustainable production – a new paradigm for a new millennium

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<ul><li><p>Int. J. Production Economics 6061 (1999) 17</p><p>Sustainable production a new paradigm for a new millennium</p><p>Christopher OBrien*</p><p>University of Nottingham, Manufacturing Engineering and Operations Management, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK</p><p>Abstract</p><p>In approaching the new millennium, industry is forced to recognise it has an obligation to society not only to createwealth but to develop sustainable production systems which minimise environmental consequences. Such objectives canonly be achieved if there is the political will backed up by a coordinated R&amp;D policy in clean and sustainabletechnologies. Three underlying questions need to be addressed:</p><p>f what does industry need to do to address sustainable production?f who are the key players involved and what must they do to ensure that sustainable production is achieved?f how do government policy and regulation need to evolve in order to support the shift to sustainable production?</p><p>( 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.</p><p>Keywords: Sustainable; Production; Environment; Re-cycling; Re-manufacture</p><p>1. Introduction</p><p>As society moves towards the millennium, oneissue above all others is likely to dominate thedevelopment of manufacturing industry well intothe 21st century the concept of sustainable pro-duction. As a driving force sustainability will be to21st century industry what automation was to the20th century, and steam was to the 19th century.</p><p>By sustainable production we mean the develop-ment of manufacturing industrys ability to under-pin societys need not only to create wealth but todo so in a way which will support sustainable</p><p>*Tel.: 115 951 4013; fax: 115 951 4140; e-mail: chris.ob-rien@nottingham.ac.uk.</p><p>economic development. Present industrial systemsare not sustainable into the long term because oftheir demands upon the worlds natural resources.Even the development of the present industrialisednations is unsustainable at current rates of con-sumption. Add to this the natural aspirations ofdeveloping countries to emulate the consumptionpatterns of the developed world, and the scale of theproblem becomes readily apparent. To cut the rateof economic development is infeasible. The stabilityof the economic systems of the developed nationsdepends upon growth and no developing nationwill accept externally imposed limits to their owneconomic improvement.</p><p>The industrial world was rst alerted to thedangers of unchecked industrial growth by theClub of Rome, founded in 1968, comprising a small</p><p>0925-5273/99/$ - see front matter ( 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.PII: S 0 9 2 5 - 5 2 7 3 ( 9 8 ) 0 0 1 2 6 - 1</p></li><li><p>group of researchers from a variety of dierentbackgrounds, who sought to simulate the inter-dependence and interaction of the following criticalfactors:</p><p>f increase in populationf production of foodf industrialisationf natural resources depletionf pollution</p><p>In its report published in a book by D.L. Meadows,The limits to growth: a report for the Club ofRomes project on the predicament of mankindthe Club reported If the actual line of developmentcontinues unchanged in these ve principal sectors,humanity is destined to reach the natural limits ofdevelopment within the next 100 years. The mostlikely result will be a sudden decline in the popula-tion level and in the industrial system. The applica-tion of technological solutions can extend theperiod of industrial development/growth and ofdemographic increase, but cannot eliminate thefundamental limits of development [1].</p><p>The report stimulated a major debate on theneed for new initiatives to balance the worlds de-mand for economic growth and its ability to sustainsuch growth. In 1984 the World Commission onEnvironment and Development (WCED) rst metand published its report, known as the BrundtlandReport, in April 1987 [2]. The report rst denedthe term sustainable development, stating thathumanity has the ability to make developmentsustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of thepresent without compromising the ability of futuregenerations to meet their own needs. Whereas theClub of Rome report had been somewhat alarmistand pessimistic, the Brundtland Report was rathermore optimistic and emphasised the need for newstrategies if sustainable development is to beachieved, including:</p><p>f establish environmental goals, regulations, in-centives and standards</p><p>f make more eective use of economic instrumentsf broaden environmental assessmentf encourage action by industryf increase capacity to deal with industrial hazards</p><p>f strengthen international eorts to help develop-ing countries</p><p>f strengthen the role of the technological systemswhich much search continuously for new solu-tions [3].</p><p>In 1992 the strategies put forward by the Brundt-land Report were further developed at the ocialUnited Nations conference on environment anddevelopment (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeirowhere representatives of 179 governments adoptedthe following acts in its nal session:</p><p>1. The Rio declaration on environment and devel-opment</p><p>2. A non-legally binding authoritative statement ofprinciples for a global consensus on the manage-ment, conservation and sustainable develop-ment of all types of forests</p><p>3. The United Nations framework convention onclimate change</p><p>4. Agenda 21.</p><p>The acts sought to underline the responsibilities ofconsumers and governments, to emphasise the roleof technology, and to lay down the strategies neces-sary to underpin sustainable production, including:</p><p>f more ecient production processes (in terms ofuse of energy and resources)</p><p>f preventive strategiesf cleaner production technologies and procedures</p><p>throughout the product life cyclef minimisation or avoidance of waste.</p><p>These concepts have been taken back by the vari-ous representative governments and built into theirown legislative and strategic frameworks. Forexample, the 1994 European Commission whitepaper entitled Growth, competitiveness, employ-ment. The challenges and ways forward into the21st century states that a policy for sustainableproduction should promote</p><p>f improved nature productivity of productsf a longer product lifetime, making repair and</p><p>control services more attractive (labour-intensiveactivities)</p><p>f more re-use and recyclingf improved process technologyf preventive strategies</p><p>2 C. O+Brien /Int. J. Production Economics 6061 (1999) 17</p></li><li><p>f environmental industriesf research and development in environmentally</p><p>sound technologiesf economic incentives for R&amp;Df scal incentives for R&amp;D (tax credit schemes for</p><p>research)f bio-technologyf common information areaf eciency in transport networks (as well as for</p><p>energy)f internalisation of external costsf redistribution of tax burden so as to lighten the</p><p>burden on labour and increase the burden on theuse of natural resources [3].</p><p>Whilst the need to address issues of sustainabledevelopment are now recognised by governmentsaround the world, the realisation of the objectivesof sustainability requires a fundamental shift in theattitudes of governments, industry and consumers.A number of underlying questions have to be ad-dressed:</p><p>f what does industry need to do to address sus-tainable production?</p><p>f who are the key players involved, and what mustthey do to ensure that sustainable production isachieved?</p><p>f how do government policy and regulation needto evolve in order to support the shift to sustain-able production?</p><p>2. Industrys challenge</p><p>In recent years, much of the attention of environ-mentally conscious industries has focussed aroundthe need for end-of-pipe solutions, particularly inrelation to the treatment of waste and the control ofemissions into the atmosphere, water courses orlandll sites. Such solutions however do not inthemselves promote eciency gains or improve-ments in productivity. If the concept of eco-ecien-cy (the achievement of economic and ecologicaleciency at the same time) put forward by theWBCSD is to be achieved, then companies mustdesign, produce, distribute, and dispose or recycleproducts in such a way that the associated environ-</p><p>mental impacts and resource use levels are at leastin line with the earths estimated carrying capacity.This requires a fundamental re-think in the designof a product to take account of all stages of a prod-uct life cycle, and a shift in manufacturing processesfrom cleaning technologies to clean technologieswhich reduce the actual level of emissions producedand the energy and other resources used duringprocessing. Nor should the scale of the problem beunderestimated. If the objectives of sustainable pro-duction are to be achieved on a global scale, reduc-tions in material throughput, energy use andenvironmental degradation of over 90% will berequired by the year 2040 to meet the needs ofa growing world population fairly within theplanets ecological means. This demand on industryto achieve current levels of industrial growth withonly one-tenth of the input of resources has beenlabelled the factor 10 approach.</p><p>The achievement of such ambitious objectivesrequires a radical re-think of many of industryspractices. Continuous improvement is not enoughand a step change in environmentally related per-formance is required. Environmental consider-ations must be integrated into the corporate cultureand business planning at all levels of design, manu-facturing, distribution, and disposal. In the past,product design and manufacturing processes havebeen developed to serve the needs to produce high-quality products at minimum cost to promote thecompetitiveness of the company. Although recycl-ing and recovery have always been considered, theyhave had to compete on purely economic termsagainst the use of virgin raw materials and disposal.Such economic decisions were biased against re-cycling and remanufacture as these concepts werenever built into the design of the products andprocesses from the beginning. The necessary reduc-tion in the demand for virgin raw materials andnon-renewable resources will only be achieved bydeveloping disassembly technologies, recycling andremanufacturing capabilities on a commercial scaleand by designing products with these concepts inmind, as an integral and fundamental requirementof product and process design. The results of suchthinking can be dramatic. Recovery and re-use ofmaterials can extend their useful life by severalhundred percent before eventual disposal to the</p><p>C. O+Brien /Int. J. Production Economics 6061 (1999) 17 3</p></li><li><p>Fig. 1. Role of recycling industries in future manufacturingsystems.</p><p>environment. For example, in automobile design,plastics may rst be used in the manufacture ofbumpers, then recycled as dashboards, then intoundercarpet insulation, then underbonnet sound-proong, etc.</p><p>There are already many examples of industrieswhich have changed manufacturing practices intheir attempt to respond to green issues. Notsurprisingly, given its economic importance, theautomotive industry has been setting a number ofexamples as indicated above, albeit prompted byincreasingly stringent legislation. German carmanufacturers have led the way in attacking theproblem of recycling and disposal at the designstage of the new generation of automobiles. InItaly, Fiat have set up over 100 recycling centreswhere customers may drive in and dispose of theircars. In Japan, the automobile companies have ledthe way in developing alternative power systems forthe automobiles of the future.</p><p>Despite such examples, a recent survey of 1500companies to assess the current extent of environ-mental management concluded that the process ofintegrating environmental management into thecore of the companys business strategy is a realityfor only a relatively small number of companies,most of which are multi-national or very largenational companies. Very few SMEs have any con-cept of sustainable production!</p><p>All too often companies reject the idea of chang-ing their practices from a fear that introducingenvironmentally friendly and sustainable processeswill be costly. The evidence is to the contrary, andthe widespread experience of companies movingtowards clean and energy-ecient processing is to-wards achieving payback periods of 13 years. Fur-thermore, the increasing momentum towards thedevelopment of sustainable manufacturing systemsopens up very substantial market opportunities forcompanies to supply the new technologies.</p><p>3. Characteristics of a sustainable productionsystem</p><p>The particular nature of sustainable productionsystems will vary according to the industry sector.Amongst the generic characteristics that one might</p><p>expect of any sustainable production system are thefollowing:</p><p>Environmental consciousness must pervade the cul-ture of the whole organisation: this requires clearcompany policies and statements of objectives.Awareness programmes must be introduced to thewhole organisation and appropriate training mustbe given in environmental competences to all cat-egories of employees. Clean processes and mater-ials must become the norm in all aspects of thecompanys operations.</p><p>Both product and process design must addresssustainable issues and incorporate them into basicdesign procedure: this has implications for the activ-ities of concurrent engineering design teams, theDFX which are incorporated into their design sys-tems, costing and decision support systems.</p><p>Make maximum use and re-use of recycled compo-nents and materials (Fig. 1): this requires funda-mental changes in the product design toincorporate re-processed and re-manufacturedcomponents and in the manufacturing processesand process capability to make recovery, disas-sembly and re-processing (i.e. the recycling indus-tries) as ecient as original manufacture.</p><p>Product life-cycle concepts must be applied to thewhole manufacturing system: just as product life-cycle design must become important in the designof products, such concepts must also be applied tothe whole manufacturing system. Factories must berecongurable to respond exibly to changes inproducts, volumes, process technologies, etc. with</p><p>4 C. O+Brien /Int. J. Production Economics 6061 (1999) 17</p></li><li><p>the minimum of reinvestment, and making max-imum use of modular design.</p><p>Organisations must be lean as well as clean: theparadigm of clean and sustainable production mustbuild on previous paradigms incorporating lean-ness, quality and eciency. Goods and servicesmust be produced with the minimum input of re-sources. Organisations must be re-engineered toachieve maximum eciency and extensive use mustbe made of distributed IT systems.</p><p>Re-engineering must address environmental andsustainable issues: the re-engineering of both inter-nal company structures and the structures of com-plete supply chains must include the concept ofsustainability amongst the criteria for re-design.</p><p>Kaizen must address environmental issues: just asKaizen has been successful in involving the max-imum number of people in recognising and elimin-ating waste in promoting manufacturing eciency,concepts of Kaizen in the future should addresssustainable issues in addition to cost reduction andelimination.</p><p>A companys metri...</p></li></ul>