In my first blog about closing the sustainability gap in manufacturing, I wrote about the fact that manufactures in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) still maintain a profit advantage. However, we do see that advantage narrowing, presumably because most manufacturers are moving forward with sustainability (not just those in the DJSI) and as a result benefiting financially from their sustainability investments.
Manufacturers are building sustainability into the business, whether it's an energy-efficiency project or a new way to evaluate product or packaging design. These projects (and many others) are driving manufacturers to add or modify processes to benefit their overall environmental footprint. But we also know that lasting change requires a people, process, and technology approach. So I'd like to take a closer look at some of the people and process impacts we already see or those we expect in the future within the manufacturing organization and the IT portfolio.
Sustainability in the Organization
Sustainability improvements require contributions from every corner of the business; it's a company effort to create lasting change in how the business operates. We've taken a look across the organization, and our Figure provides abbreviated examples from Engineering/R&D, Supply Chain/ Procurement, Operations/ Manufacturing, just to keep this brief. Of course, we also expect contributions from IT, Finance, HR, Sales and marketing, and C-level executives as well.
By thinking both about how the business operates (business processes) and how it's organized (by departments), we can make sure we're connecting the sustainability requirements to the right IT components.
We firmly believe that an IT-based approach to greening products and processes is essential. IT provides a means of supporting lasting business process change and capturing information that enables a new way of thinking and a new set of decisions. It's IT that can make environmental sustainability second nature.
IT Applications of All Shapes and Sizes Support Sustainability
Here are just a handful of examples of IT applications and how we expect them to contribute positively to a manufacturer's sustainability footprint:
- Reporting and analytics: Knowledge center of company policies and applicable regulations, performance measurements against company's sustainability metrics, and aggregation of data available in multiple sources; specialty sustainability software may support sustainability decisions, reporting, and project evaluation
- Procurement and supplier relationship management: In-depth details on recycling-friendly materials, processes, or packaging, as well as supplier environmental scorecards
- Product life-cycle management: Guidelines for "design for compliance and the environment" to understand and manage trade-offs in the product life cycle; design of green products
- Supply chain management: For planning and execution, including redesigning a supply network or more efficient transportation
- Manufacturing execution systems: Emphasizing production line efficiencies, including energy efficiencies in conveying and sorting, and a transition to fulfillment execution to manage operations
- Enterprise Asset Management: Incorporate green criteria into optimizing assets, tracking energy consumption, and adding alerts for preventative maintenance when energy use increases
In some cases, manufacturers are turning to specialty applications but either way - specialty application or not, it's about using IT to better support their sustainability decisions (including compliance) and incorporate sustainability into business processes.