Eco-friendliness and sustainability are sweeping the manufacturing industry as consumers scrutinize products they purchase more heavily, seeking environmental responsibility behind their production. Industry 4.0 has efficiency and sustainability at its core. Manufacturers that make greener, more sustainable choices now position themselves to stay competitive in the future.
But how can you make your manufacturing or assembly production greener? How can you reduce resources, waste or improve your production cycle to be more environmentally conscious with your bottom-line in mind? We have a few ideas on steps you can take now that will benefit you well into the future.
Steps You Can Make Now Towards Greener Production
1. Consider the Future When Purchasing New Equipment
The tools and technology available for greater efficiency in press systems is changing rapidly. Monitoring devices and integrated controls that were once only a concept are becoming more and more accessible to both large and small manufacturers.
When upgrading your press equipment, consider the potential to integrate with advanced technologies and process monitoring as new options become available. What is optional now may become essential in the near future and systems that are designed for greater flexibility will offer better potential for greener operations down the road.
2. Choose More Environmentally Friendly Machines and Equipment
Pneumatic and electric powered machinery are not only more efficient and lower maintenance compared to hydraulic in terms of production, but are far more environmentally friendly than hydraulic counterparts. Although hydraulic systems are still widely considered to be the go-to for many manufacturing and assembly applications, there are a variety of options that require a fraction of the energy consumption and can provide long-term energy savings with equal or in most cases, higher production efficiency.
Pneumatic Compared to Servo Electric
When comparing alternatives to hydraulic it can sometimes be difficult to determine when to choose a servo press over pneumatic or hydropneumatic options. In perhaps an oversimplification of the choices, servo electric is the best option when you have very high cost materials and will rely heavily on data driven performance to limit any production errors or inefficiencies. In most other cases, pneumatic or hydropneumatic may be a more affordable option with quicker response times for high efficiency production.
Changing Power Sources
If your operation is not set up with factory air, it may seem like quite an undertaking to switch power systems, but it will quickly pay off in terms of cost-savings, efficiency, and sustainability down the road. When designing your factory air system, aim for the shortest and most direct pathways between air sources and equipment. Paying close attention to the design of your air delivery system will pay off in terms of overall efficiency.
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If you do continue to use hydraulic powered presses, selecting from the more advanced, more energy-efficient models with optimized oil storage and delivery is a key move toward greener hydraulic use.
3. Reduce Waste and Inefficiencies
Another aspect to focus on when trying to green your operation is any waste or inefficiency that may exist in your current setup. The main areas for improvement are often to your power source systems with leak management, ensuring optimal performance and shortening maintenance cost and downtime.
Whether you are dealing with a fluid-powered hydraulic system or factory air, leaks in your power source can greatly diminish efficiency, which is the number one key to sustainability at its very core. When dealing with hydraulic oil, leaks can also be extremely hazardous to the environment. Getting a handle on any leaks as quickly as possible and implementing safe and responsible collection and disposal of any oil spills are essential for greening your hydraulic production.
- Keep a tight maintenance schedule to check for any weak spots or excessive wear to seals or fittings that may cause leaks in the near future.
- If oil has leaked onto the factory floor, follow best practices for cleanup that do not include throwing oil or oil-soaked materials into the garbage or down any drains.
- Resist the urge to change out your hydraulic oil when it’s unnecessary. The manufacturer will provide guidelines for changing hydraulic fluid, and unnecessary changes are costly for both your budget and the environment.
Process monitoring is key to an optimally run assembly or manufacturing production. The collection of data and analysis of operations is becoming increasingly important to maintaining efficiency. In terms of a greener, more sustainable operation, any effort to conserve energy and therefore natural resources is a step in the right direction. There are many devices and systems available today for process monitoring at any scale of operation. Implementing data collection and monitoring of your press operation is a relatively affordable and accessible step you can take toward production efficiency and overall sustainability.
Systems designed for interconnected data collection and process monitoring can eliminate an upcoming failure to a system before it even occurs. That should be a no-brainer in terms of efficiency and sustainability. Not only does predictive maintenance severely reduce downtime in operations, but also decreases costs like replacement parts by preventing larger issues and breakdowns. This also maintains efficient energy consumption by preventing inefficient energy losses from the potential performance issues.
4. Consider Raw Material Options and Sourcing
Making the choice for non-toxic or more efficiently-produced raw materials is another choice you can begin integrating for a greener production. When it comes to metals, look for recycled metal options when you can. The heat and energy required to produce virgin metals is significantly greater than the energy needed for the recycling process. Aluminum, for instance, is one of the easiest metals to recycle and this process takes 90% less energy than its primary production. Recycling steel also takes roughly a quarter of the energy needed for production, though it may be harder to come by in the forms needed for manufacturing and assembly, like sheet metal.
Aim for Logistical Efficiency
Another area to consider when you’re looking to green up your material use is the logistics chain. Nearshoring has become increasingly important to battle supply chain disruptions and difficulties, but it’s also a much better option for the environment. The general rule is: the closer the better. If you can, source raw materials domestically or even locally for the lowest environmental impact from logistics.
5. Design for Flexibility
Designing products for easier disassembly in case of a product defect, or to be more easily maintained and repaired, is becoming more and more relevant. Customer demand for products is changing rapidly, fueling a mass customization phenomenon, and this appears to be growing toward the way of the future, so designing for flexibility will likely become even more necessary in the future. Products designed to be easily reused or recycled will give you a competitive edge now and will likely become expected in the future.
6. Balance Replacement and Refurbishment
The goal towards long-term use and even reuse of products should not just apply to smaller items. Large equipment also comes with large waste potential when it’s discarded for newer machinery. Though sometimes replacing your equipment is necessary, especially in the age of sweeping advances to machine technology, maintaining, repairing and even refurbishing factory equipment when possible is often a greener choice. There are, of course, balances when considering the potential efficiencies of newer equipment, especially at scale, but working with a reliable equipment supplier who can help you determine the best options and whether to maintain or replace your equipment for cost and efficiency savings over time is essential to making the best choices for a greener production.
Environmental concerns, energy reduction, net-zero carbon goals and sustainability are important topics across all sectors. These topics will only gain importance over time, and it’s especially important in manufacturing, as consumers are increasingly aware and concerned with sustainability at a product’s root. The decisions you make for your operation today will ultimately affect your future viability. Taking steps towards greener manufacturing and assembly may require an uncomfortable adjustment period, but they are often proven to increase overall efficiency, reduce costs, and give companies a competitive edge in the long run.
Do you have an older hydraulic press that you’d like to swap out for a better option? Or, are you looking to overhaul your entire floor for efficiency? Contact our experts to explore your best options.