Supply Chain Strategies

Common Sense Manufacturing Practices Driving Sustainability Improvements

Successful companies are increasing efforts in sustainability with environment-friendly manufacturing processes that minimize waste and maximize efficiency.  

By Lisa Anderson, Founder and President, LMA Consulting Group

Common Sense Manufacturing Practices Driving Sustainability Improvements

Successful companies are increasing efforts in sustainability with environment-friendly manufacturing processes that minimize waster and maximize efficiency.

With the increase in interest in sustainable materials and manufacturing, there will be a significant opportunity for U.S. manufacturers that use common sense, good manufacturing practices. In fact, because manufacturers have realized that it is far less environmentally friendly and energy efficient to produce in Asia, India, and the like, as sustainability increases in popularity and end-to-end supply chain carbon footprints are evaluated, U.S. manufacturing will soar. Technological advances and innovation drive successful sustainability in manufacturing, and, according to the World Economic Forum, the United States is one of the top countries in innovation.

Are you focusing on sustainable manufacturing? Successful companies are stepping up their efforts in sustainability. There are countless ways to improve sustainability while following common sense manufacturing practices. For example, manufacturers have rolled out lean initiatives, maintenance improvements, and machinery and equipment upgrades that have reduced the waste of materials. There has also been significant focus on rolling out improvements to reduce energy, material, and water waste. Additionally, companies have started using cleaner energy such as natural gas and renewable sources.

Pertinent Examples

According to Siemens, Coca-Cola HBC Australia has a priority to be as environmentally friendly and carbon efficient as possible in manufacturing. It has invested in a high-speed line that is not only one of the fastest in the world, but also energy efficient and water efficient. Additionally, 100% of the electricity comes from renewable sources, and Coca-Cola HBC Australia has put metrics and reporting in place to measure energy and water consumption.

Similarly, an absorbent products manufacturer focused on how to reduce materials, packaging, waste, and transportation costs to achieve the win-win of margin improvement and carbon-footprint reduction. Since pulp is one of the most water-intensive manufacturing processes, the manufacturer focused attention on updating and maintaining equipment, waste reduction and recycling, and auditing water usage. In the converting process, there was an intense focus on reducing waste and scrap by working with equipment suppliers, engineering, and operations resources, and by partnering with suppliers on material development. The company partnered with several suppliers to adjust material compositions and to jointly develop materials to run more efficiently on the lines with 20%+ less scrap and to reduce material composition without impacting product quality.

From a transportation standpoint, the R&D engineers and the packaging engineers redesigned the products, packaging, and manufacturing process to compress the product as much as possible without impacting quality. They also reduced the packaging materials and designed the product to maximize the pallets that would fit on a truck. Additionally, the logistics professionals implemented a transportation management system (TMS) to analyze transportation routes, carriers, and how to maximize the number of boxes on a truck. The system put together multiple-stop truckloads for shipping lanes to minimize transportation expenses as well as the carbon footprint. The bottom line equated to a 20-40% advantage.

A building products manufacturer focused attention on electricity costs and usage. It pursued several improvements to become more energy efficient. In addition to partnering with the local electric company and hiring an energy expert, the company conducted an energy audit and put together energy plans. It incented its people to work in non-peak hours to strategically schedule downtime during peak hours. The company also retrofitted and upgraded equipment, optimized air compressors, and improved its industrial furnace energy efficiency.

Resilient and successful organizations are partnering with suppliers on material formulation and adjustments, partnering with equipment manufacturers to optimize the use of the equipment to minimize waste and maximize efficiency, and are innovating within their organization to find ways to reduce energy, water, and material usage. Sustainability will not occur without internal and external focus. The most successful companies are focusing on win-win-win strategies to impact people, profit, and the planet. As sustainability gains momentum and end-to-end supply chain visibility is achieved, there is an opportunity for a U.S. manufacturing renaissance to follow.

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