Environmentally friendly manufacturing processes help protect our planet and reduce operational and material costs. Many of the raw materials used in the manufacturing process are finite. As resources become scarcer, the demand for the remaining supply will rise, and in turn, drive up prices. Additionally, wasteful operational practices translate to wasted money. Here’s how factories can make their manufacturing processes more environmentally conscious.
Investigate Energy Usage
Hire a qualified energy consultant to perform an energy audit on your facility. They’ll help you identify trouble areas in your factory where you can conserve energy, such as failing seals, cracks or poor lighting. Leaky seals and poor ventilation can easily drive up heating and cooling costs. Improving air circulation and repairing cracks or gaps near warehouse doors can decrease the amount of energy lost to the ambient environment.
An energy consultant may find quick fixes as well, such as replacing incandescent lights with LEDs or adding extra insulation to help maintain temperatures. Check in with employees in your facility to see if they have noticed any areas for improvement or have any suggestions.
Reduce Fuel Consumption
Chances are, you’ve already taken every measure to optimize your factory layout, so materials and operations are in the ideal locations. The next step is to evaluate the machinery you’re using for routine tasks. Smaller, equally powerful conveyors may function just as well as their larger counterparts while using less energy. Additionally, driverless machinery will help optimize tasks, since it isn’t subject to bouts of fatigue or human-error.
Another technology worth considering is hydrogen-powered forklifts. Instead of using petroleum-based fuel, hydrogen-powered forklifts run off electricity created by hydrogen fuel cells. The batteries rapidly recharge and use hydrogen, an abundant, sustainable resource.
Invest in Sustainable Materials
Using sustainable materials in your manufacturing process demonstrates your commitment to reducing your environmental impact. Consumers with similar values will be more inclined to purchase your products. Additionally, eco-conscious materials usually use less packaging, which translates to lower volumes of waste. Your facility will save money on waste transportation and disposal costs over time, which will help your bottom line.
Consider taking your sustainable practices one step further and invest in plastic pallets. While plastic itself may not seem like a likely choice, plastic pallets have a significantly longer lifespan when compared to conventional wood pallets. Furthermore, plastic pallets are more hygienic and easier to clean, which is especially important for sensitive industries such as food and pharmaceuticals. Certain brands are also 100 percent recyclable, which makes them a sustainable option.
Recycle or Repurpose Waste
Instead of tossing excess materials from the manufacturing process into the trash, evaluate whether you can reuse or recycle them. Many papers, plastics and metals are easy to recycle or repurpose for use in other portions of the manufacturing process. If your factory can’t use waste materials, consider sharing them with an organization that can.
Local colleges or high schools may be interested in collecting waste materials for reuse in lab experiments or educational studies. Farmers or other agriculturalists might show interest in sawdust or other manufacturing byproducts. By donating waste materials to the local community, your facility will bolster your reputation, reduce your costs for waste disposal and develop positive relationships while helping the environment.
Maximize Warehouse and Inventory Space
Excess stock and materials can quickly result in wasted energy from material re-handling. Evaluate your facility layout to determine the optimum locations for material storage, which will reduce the need to move material multiple times. Additionally, check your delivery schedule to determine whether you can shift the volume of product or time of day to optimize operations.
Perform Regular Maintenance
Factory equipment needs regular maintenance to function at optimal performance. Stay ahead of the curve by regularly checking your equipment to ensure all components are in good working condition. Over time, parts in machinery will wear down, which will reduce manufacturing efficiency. On a larger scale, wear and tear can cause bottlenecks in the supply chain process and hurt overall operations.
When purchasing new equipment, consider investing in extended warranty or protection plans to protect your facility in the event of equipment failure or breakdown. The original manufacturer will then be responsible for timely repairs. If you have an onsite mechanic, have them develop a regular equipment maintenance schedule based on the original manufacturer’s recommendations.
With a little bit of effort, your material handling facility can begin engaging in more environmentally conscious practices.