August Blog - Quality Management & Sustainability

24 August, 2021

What has quality management got to do with sustainability?

Sustainability is a word on everyone’s minds these days. It’s a regular topic of discussion on social and traditional media, and businesses worldwide are increasing their focus on sustainability.

But what does it mean? Very often, it’s used interchangeably with environmentalism. However, there’s more to sustainability than simply going green.

Sustainability is nothing new. It dates back to 1983 when the United Nations created the World Commission on Environment and Development to bring together the concepts of increasing economic prosperity without damaging ecological health and social equity.

The subsequent report by the Brundtland Commission, “Our Common Future”, defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

So, sustainability combines the three pillars of economic, social, and ecological factors.

How can manufacturers operate sustainably?

Sustainable manufacturing incorporates various tools and methods to operate in an environmentally and socially responsible way. While those words may sound like a trite mission statement from twenty years ago, (i.e. a nice bit of PR but not something to embrace properly), they are now critical to a business’s success.

Interestingly, out of all the industrial sectors, manufacturing is probably in the best place to adopt sustainability, as reducing waste and improving efficiency are ingrained into most modern organisations.

Due to the historic economic pressures on manufacturers to continually reduce costs, they’ve become experts in removing waste from their processes. Now the focus is on doing it to improve their environmental and social impact as well.

What is Sustainable Manufacturing?

In recent years, the most successful manufacturing companies have found that adopting an approach to minimise their environmental impact brings enormous benefits to their bottom line. Working in an environmentally beneficial way has a positive, tangible impact on their business, employees, and local economy.

Historically, the manufacturing industry has created a lot of waste. This waste has been defined by Taiichi Ohno from Toyota as the Seven Wastes, i.e.:

• Transportation of materials and WIP around the facility
• Excess raw material, WIP, and finished goods inventory
• Unnecessary motion of the operator
• Waiting time of parts to be processed
• Making more parts than required
• Carrying out unnecessary processes on parts
• Producing defective components

Sustainable manufacturing takes those seven wastes into account and adds the physical wastes created by the manufacturing process, e.g. waste handling, categorising, storage, treatment, and disposal.

Then the overall life cycle of the product is factored in, e.g. transportation, packaging, the user cost of the product, maintenance of the finished assembly.

Organisations use a tool known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to determine the environmental impact of their products at every stage of their life cycle, not just the manufacturing stage.

For example, when you consider the overall environmental impact of a car, there is a small percentage involved in the extraction of the raw materials, then the production of the finished vehicle, the user impact during its lifetime, then the scrapping impact at the end of its life. Out of all those sections, the user impact (i.e. running, fuelling, and maintaining) is the largest, pushing manufacturers to design cars with lower running emissions, less frequent service intervals, and longer lifespans.


The benefits of sustainable manufacturing

Sustainable manufacturing isn’t a fad. Instead, it’s the only way businesses will have to operate as the days of manufacturing products without any thought of their environmental impact are long gone.

But businesses who’ve adopted a sustainable approach have realised significant benefits:

• Reducing waste (in all forms, as explained earlier) reduces cost. It’s no massive surprise, but it is amazing how much waste exists in all businesses. Of course, waste always means cost, but when manufacturing companies have looked at waste in the past, they’ve always focused on the waste within the process rather than including the waste created by the process.

• Increasing their competitive advantage with customers as more businesses are building sustainability into their supply chain. As a result, companies are introducing policies of preferring suppliers who can demonstrate their sustainable approach when considering a new supplier.

• Improving brand reputation as consumers are demanding their products are manufactured sustainably. 

• Providing stability and security for the long-term success of their businesses by establishing a culture of sustainability, which makes them an attractive option for attracting new talent.

• Having sustainable processes means they are compliant with current legislation and will find it easier to adopt future changes in requirements.


How can QIS help you achieve sustainable manufacturing?

QIS is quality management software that provides manufacturers with accurate process data in real-time. Live data allows for instant decision-making, enabling operators to correct processes before they run out of specification and create scrap parts. However, as we explored earlier in this article, the environmental impact of poor quality is enormous. 

Creating scrap products wastes the resources invested in obtaining the raw materials, the money the company spends on those materials, and the energy spent on processing them through to the scrap bin.

But it isn’t only the manufacturing process data we collect. Our software can be used for laboratory analysis of the physical waste produced in a plant. For example, if your process uses water then treats and expels it back into the environment, QIS allows you to measure, analyse and report back to the environmental agencies.

For more information on how QIS can help you develop your sustainable manufacturing programme, please contact our sales team by following this link https://qisoft.com/contact

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