With climate change and other environmental concerns becoming more urgent, companies have begun to include sustainability in the design and manufacture of their goods. And the way to manufacture sustainable products is driving a new wave of innovation in both products and business models.
One model being implemented across many industries is closed-loop manufacturing. In closed-loop manufacturing, production processes reuse waste materials in new or existing products during production to significantly reduce or eliminate the waste.
Some products are easy to make sustainably, while others are more difficult. A lot of innovation will be required to reach sustainability goals and achieve closed-loop manufacturing. But as these efforts bear fruit, they can impact sustainability not only for the company making the finished product but also for the design and supply chain components.
Sustainability is impacting product design in two ways. The design process itself is wasteful when multiple iterations are required. With 3D imaging and digital twin technology, many of the discarded “mistakes” can be avoided.
Products can be designed to be both sustainable and practical in a closed-loop production system. Designers can change production methods, part and component material composition, layout, and packaging requirements.
Aided by technology and software, designers can create bespoke solutions for niche industries or adaptable designs for entire industries. And as new products are designed to be sustainable, reusable, or recyclable, closed-loop manufacturing comes closer to reality.
Supply Chain Impacts
As companies dedicate themselves to sustainability, many owners and executives looking at closed-loop processes are reaching beyond their own walls. By requiring vendors to comply with design and material composition for products used to make finished goods, manufacturers can reduce the equipment and labor needed to reuse materials and waste in their facility.
This broader view makes sense and increases the likelihood of closed-loop production. With each vendor operating with the same goals, the final manufacture of products requires less “after the fact” manipulation.
The concept becomes easier to implement because components and materials will come ready to use in a closed-loop environment. It may only be possible to achieve closed-loop manufacturing in many industries if the entire supply chain participates.
Space is best dedicated to production within factories to maximize profit and ROI. Additional equipment will need to be designed to increase sustainability and reuse materials. This requirement may mean new standalone equipment, new processing equipment, or additions to existing machines to allow them to capture and use waste.
It’s unlikely that manufacturers will have the resources to create and build this generation of equipment themselves. As a result, new support industries focused entirely on becoming the OEM for this new equipment will spring up to respond.
This growth creates jobs while building an entire industry that exists for the benefit of sustainable production. And as these new equipment builders scale, the cost of implementing closed-loop will drop and become attainable for more industries.
Innovating to Closed Loop Sustainability
The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian College believes that sustainability in manufacturing is achievable and benefits business owners. But new entrepreneurs and business owners aren’t always aware of how they can build sustainability and grow their companies.
We provide research, training, mentorship, and networking to provide you with the tools you need to build sustainability into your business model. And these same resources can be utilized by the next wave of entrepreneurs who want to innovate to build and create businesses that support and foster closed-loop manufacturing. Contact us to learn how we can help.