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Green manufacturing: Lean methodologies and the impact of consumer-driven manufacturing

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Today’s rapidly changing business landscape has increased the sense of urgency for manufacturers to adopt more sustainable practices. The rise of smart manufacturing has put a spotlight on the importance of more energy-efficient and agile processes that drive productivity while reducing waste. This is especially crucial with stakeholders, consumers, and financiers placing closer scrutiny over environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics in recent years due to its close correlation with business risks and long-term value creation.

The effect is clear: global leaders are quickly realising that sustainable practices not only benefit the environment, but also bolster cost savings, enhance reputation, and improve customer loyalty. As a result, there has been growing imperative for manufacturers to prioritise green manufacturing to align their operations with sustainable principles and thrive in an ever-evolving market.

Lean methodologies such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Total Productive/Preventive Maintenance (TPM) and Just-In-Time (JIT) production support agile practices that mitigate risks related to environmental turbulence and market unpredictability. More importantly, these methodologies help reduce wastage of materials, minimise energy consumption, and curtail carbon emissions beyond just the production phase.

What does consumer-driven manufacturing have to do with it?

Success in the future of manufacturing relies on one key thing: agility. To fully align their products with ever-changing consumer preferences and market demands, manufacturers need to take on a more customer-centric model with stronger focus on flexibility, agility, and cost-optimisation.

Among consumers’ top priorities? More environmentally responsible practices and greater transparency on the part of manufacturers. More than one in three consumers already pay more for sustainably produced products, while 73% are even willing to change their current consumption habits if it supports a reduced environmental impact.

This increased demand for transparency and accountability has amplified the need for clearer measurement and reporting of carbon emissions. Meeting these expectations requires closer collaboration within the manufacturing ecosystem to ensure that Scope 1-4 emissions are measured across the end-to-end supply chain, from raw material sourcing to end product delivery.

A framework like the Consumer Sustainability Industry Readiness Index (COSIRI) can support manufacturers in these efforts by providing a robust, reliable and globally benchmarked system to measure, track and report their carbon emissions for better identification of improvement areas. This allows manufacturers to not just adopt consumer-driven green practices, but to also communicate their efforts transparently and continually drive innovation.

How lean methodologies support green manufacturing and business goals

An ideal green manufacturing process should be able to:

  • Reduce pollution and waste;
  • Use fewer natural resources;
  • Recycle and reuse materials;
  • And moderate emissions in the process.

This is why lean methodologies play such a crucial role in the transition to green. Lean practices such as TQM, TPM and JIT can help manufacturers achieve significant improvements in environmental performance.

TQM focuses on improving product quality and processes to cut down on variations and eliminate defects. Higher-quality products not only improve customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, but also reduce the need for manufacturers to dispose of and rework their products, thereby reducing resource consumption and environmental impact.

TQM is closely related to TPM, which is needed to provide reliable equipment for reduced occurrence of defects. TPM places emphasis on proactive maintenance of machinery for optimised performance, minimal breakdowns, and reduced energy consumption, so products can be manufactured more efficiently and with reduced emissions.

As for the issue of resource waste, TPM has also been shown to support JIT production, which is based on the “zero inventory policy”. By enabling manufacturers to produce and deliver products only in response to customer demand, JIT streamlines production processes and supply chains to reduce not just material waste, but also transportation emissions and excess energy consumption to produce unwanted products. JIT has the added benefit of allowing manufacturers to enhance business agility by empowering them to respond quickly to changes in consumer and market preferences.

Proper lean manufacturing frameworks can eliminate up to 90% of manufacturing waste while simultaneously delivering business benefits. And with carbon taxes continually increasing, prioritising green practices also offers significant cost reductions related to the financial impact of these taxes and other related punitive measures.

Collaborating for enhanced long-term agility and sustainability

For manufacturers that are keen to transition to lean and green but unsure of where to start, the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) is designed to provide clear, measurable strategies that take the guesswork out of building scalable and sustainable digital transformation, which forms the backbone of sustainable practices. Multiple global consultancies and governments have adopted SIRI to help manufacturers build smarter practices that drive greater sustainability, agility and resilience.

Similarly, ManuVate is a collaborative platform for manufacturers to engage with an ecosystem of innovators, R&D scientists, engineers and other industry players to address challenges related to industrial transformation and sustainable growth.

As market demands for ESG continue to grow, integrating lean methodologies has become essential for manufacturers – not just to reduce their environmental footprint, but also to achieve cost savings, increased productivity and improved business agility. Embracing lean practices is a critical and pivotal opportunity for manufacturers to meet customer expectations, comply with current and future regulations, and establish themselves as market leaders for long-term business success.

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