With sustainability increasing in popularity and the carbon footprints of end-to-end supply chains evaluated, innovation and manufacturing will skyrocket.

Top manufacturers are prioritizing common-sense sustainability solutions to drive triple-bottom-line results. In fact, there is a significant opportunity for U.S. manufacturers to expand capacity and gain business with a significant advantage in sustainability over China and other manufacturing options. As sustainability continues to increase in popularity and end-to-end supply chain carbon footprints are evaluated, U.S. manufacturing will skyrocket. Technological advances and innovation drive sustainable manufacturing, and, according to the WIPO Index, the United States is one of the top countries in innovation.

Manufacturers are making significant strides in sustainability. There is a focus on sustainability in materials, manufacturing, product life cycle, and logistics. There are countless ideas for improving performance. For example, manufacturers are building sustainability into product design and partnering with suppliers to reduce materials, minimize waste, design for low-impact materials, and transport with a sustainable supply chain. In manufacturing, they can optimize processes to consume less materials and conserve energy and natural resources. There are a host of logistics programs rolling out across the board as well. For example, as regional manufacturing occurs, the distances travelled will be reduced, and as cleaner, energy-efficient modes and options are pursued, sustainability improves.

Pertinent Examples

According to GE, it launched the CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) Program as a part of its commitment to achieve aggressive goals for a sustainable future, including reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by more than 20%. P&G is focused on water usage. Its goal is to increase water efficiency by 35% per unit of production and to recycle five billion liters in its facilities worldwide. Tesla is continually focused on sustainable manufacturing. For example, Tesla recently announced its goal to reduce the use of silicon carbide by 75%, significantly reducing its use of rare earth metals. Instead, the use of a permanent magnet motor will allow the company to scale production more efficiently.

Similarly, a healthcare products manufacturer put together a program to partner with suppliers to redesign materials to decrease usage without impacting product quality and manufacturability. Additionally, the manufacturer brought in the equipment supplier and raw-material supplier to assess how to best utilize its machine to minimize usage and waste, and installed visual inspection equipment to minimize waste due to quality defects. And finally, the manufacturer also brought its customers into the process to assess packaging to minimize plastic and packaging materials while ensuring that the product met the customer requirements, which positively impacted the sustainability of transportation as well.

Regional Manufacturing and Logistics Examples

For a multitude of reasons stemming from the pandemic, including supply chain risk and political risk, the transition to regional manufacturing clusters and reshoring/nearshoring of manufacturing is rapidly increasing in the United States and Europe. China is far less sustainable. For example, China is using the least efficient energy source that emits twice the amount of greenhouse gas than natural gas. According to NPR, China permitted two coal plants a week in the last year, which is six times more than the rest of the world combined. On the other hand, the United States uses mainly natural gas and has advanced manufacturing practices, frequently producing with the lowest emissions in the world.

The logistics arena has also made vast improvements. For example, according to PMSA, the San Pedro Bay Ports together saw steep and dramatic emissions reductions in 2022. The combined numbers reveal drops of 90% for diesel particulate matter (DPM), 97% for sulfur oxides (SOx), 63% for nitrogen oxides (NOx), and equally remarkable declines for other emission categories, compared to the baseline year of 2005. Cleaner, smarter transportation is also a high priority with a multitude of sustainability initiatives being pursued across all modes of transportation including rail, truck, pipeline, and air.

Innovative organizations are partnering with their end-to-end supply chain to create sustainable supply chains. The best-in-class companies are driving the triple bottom line with benefits to people, profit, and the planet. As sustainability gains momentum and end-to-end supply chain visibility is achieved, a manufacturing resurgence will follow.


If you are interested in reading more on this topic:
Sustainability Gains but the Technology Isn’t Always Ready


Originally published in Adhesives & Sealants Industry, November 2023