Term Limits

Machine Builders Have a Growing Need to Include Energy-Efficiency and Material-Conservation Initiatives in Their Designs

Joe FeeleyBy Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

There's little argument that machine builders have a growing need to include energy-efficiency and material-conservation initiatives in their designs.

Customers demand it more often now, and for a variety of reasons beyond the lifecycle cost-saving aspects.
If you don't find these issues becoming an important part of your customers' machine requirements, I wouldn't count on it staying that way.  This is a rising tide that will float—and in some cases  sink—all boats.

We've certainly been giving the topics more coverage. April includes another cover story in which Jim Montague identifies more machine builders who are knee-deep in the process with their customers. You'll also find Jim in our most recent Focus On video (www.ControlDesign.com/greenmanufacturing) that previews his cover story.

Katherine Bonfante aims her column ("Technology Goes Green") at a review of our coverage of these subjects in the recent past and where to find it at ControlDesign.com.

When we discuss issues that include terms such as "green" and "sustainable," we're trying to keep the terminology consistent. "Sustainable," in particular, is the "it" word right now.

Sustainability in manufacturing seems to be this overly deep bucket that contains just about everything. Many companies include machine safety, environmental responsibility and employee well-being. Many also include initiatives and programs such as lean manufacturing, Six Sigma and quality management.

So, we end up with something that seems better described as an attempt at smart manufacturing or responsible manufacturing.

This is an altogether really good thing. I just don't like finding that sustainability has been co-opted to be another commercialized buzzword that means different things to different people.

Sustainability in simplest terms is a zero-sum game. It means producing power from renewable or inexhaustible fuel, products from renewable precursors or recyclable materials. It probably implies not screwing up the surroundings in the process.

The trouble with using the term "sustainable" correctly is that it's largely unachievable. At least today that's the case. So we've seen its meaning change to better suit initiatives that industry is willing to try.

I only make the point so that we can better understand each other when a retailer talks about sustainable manufacturing with the consumer products manufacturer that, in turn, talks to machine builder that, in turn, talks to suppliers.

Maybe we can more uniformly recognize the value in having goals to relentlessly, albeit slowly, approach a genuinely sustainable manufacturing universe by doing all these good things. And then let's keep score that way.