A significant shift is underway for manufacturing industries as they embrace sustainable manufacturing to reduce carbon footprints and reuse resources.
Many businesses are moving toward closed-loop manufacturing to recoup all waste products for use in existing or new products, leaving no waste trail. They’ll need to undertake extensive R&D – both within their companies and their industry – to realize these benefits.
The case for R&D in sustainable manufacturing consists of practical and cultural considerations; both must be included to successfully integrate R&D into the process and create more sustainable solutions.
The most relevant practical case for R&D as part of sustainable manufacturing is the design process. Companies already expend enormous sums of money to conduct R&D. Sustainability R&D means taking it one step beyond modifying old products or creating new ones.
This path has numerous precedents as companies utilize plant-based inks and naturally compostable materials for packaging all products. The practice has also led to safer water-based paints, environmentally friendly coatings, and other product changes for the end of life for existing product lines. Most companies have already incorporated recyclable materials and components into the structure of products.
Sustainability R&D is now regularly considered when building new products as well. Advanced scanning, 3D, and additive manufacturing practices mean simulations are done on parts to extend their lifecycle, reduce consumables, or allow for a recyclable post-life.
Including sustainability in the product development and design phase is more appealing to consumers, eases compliance and regulatory burdens, and helps design teams build it into the lower cost on the front end by reducing waste cost on the backend.
The best way to integrate a process within manufacturing is to make it part of the company culture.
Rather than look at sustainability "after the fact" to avoid waste and pollution, making it part of the culture of the R&D efforts means fewer "bolt-on" remedial solutions down the line. As design and manufacturing teams become more accustomed to conducting R&D for sustainability and product iteration, managers' and manufacturing associates' feedback help identify other areas for change.
As the culture gels around sustainable R&D, company development begins to focus on creating sustainable solutions rather than mitigating them. From there, the drive toward closed-loop manufacturing is much more realistic and achievable.
Coatings, paints, packaging, new plastic formulations, and reusable electronic configurations mean that suppliers benefit from companies who implement sustainability into their R&D. This may be as simple as an existing paint supplier or plastic extruder adding sustainable materials to their product line.
It may also spawn further innovation and new vendors with expertise aimed at sustainable solutions. In this way, sustainable R&D at the manufacturing level generates innovation in other industries and multiplies sustainable solutions.
Accelerate Your Sustainable R&D With Training and Mentorship
For entrepreneurs, time and resources are limited. But the challenge and commitment to building sustainable products for the future is an imperative brought on by social responsibility and increasing regulation.
The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian College helps train new and existing entrepreneurs in innovation and R&D. With training, connections, mentorship, and assistance from academic and business leaders who have walked the walk, we can help you build sustainable R&D into your business' culture to be part of more sustainable manufacturing.
Contact us to learn more about how we can help.