Manufacturing and Engineering Magazine Volume 425 - January 2016 - Page 70

THE LAST WORD... thinking ahead renewed pressure on sustainability targets Concerns for the environment have never been more pressing, and the government has placed renewed pressure on meeting sustainability targets. The consumption of fossil fuels, and the harmful by-products of their use, is considered the most problematic contributor to global warming and is thus the first targeted when government and businesses look to reduce environmental impact. Because the manufacturing and engineering sector rests on high-energy production and operation, related industries face increased pressure to find alternative processes with which to reduce their carbon footprint and lessen their environmental impact. Though complex manufacture comprises many stages, each of which requiring and emitting high levels of energy, it is often the use and disposal phases that can have the greatest impact and which are most difficult for a company to control and monitor. When a product is released to the wider world and made use of by society, manufacturers and engineers are limited as to what contribution they can make, and it becomes the task of operatives to use equipment effectively and manage waste efficiently. The emphasis of the sector then needs to be on quality design which takes into account a product's life cycle and the effect it will go on to have post-production. At the point of design and development, there are a range of considerations that can be incorporated within a product's specification. Improving service life has to be the primary aim, whether that be reducing consumable parts so as a to minimise necessary repairs, or including alternative energy storage or generation technology. At the optimisation of product robustness, one then has to factor in its the energy required for its use, and management of resultant waste. Improving efficiency is the minimum aim and, by far, the biggest gains in environmentalism are to be had with the use of renewable resources alongside effective waste management procedures. Sustainability has climbed the agenda over the last decade, and the efforts of manufacturing and engineering businesses is to be applauded. The next stage of that process is inspire responsibility in operatives by enhancing the efficiency of products, and making equipment that can do more with less, and is not as susceptible to wear and damage.