The Triple Win of Sustainable Manufacturing

By Johan Salenstedt, CEO, Configit

When it comes to climate change, consumers are increasingly using their purchasing power to make more environmentally friendly choices. A recent global report by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Wildlife found that online searches for sustainable goods have risen 71% in the past five years.

This focus of decision-making extends across sectors, and manufacturers need to take note. Manufacturing and industrial firms contributed 23% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, according to EPA data. This includes burning fossil fuels for energy to emissions as well as emissions from certain chemical reactions to produce goods from raw materials.

With this backdrop, an emerging topic within the manufacturing sector is “green configuration,” a concept in which a configurator can show the user the environmental consequences of a configuration choice. The result is offering options that best suit the sustainability goals of the customer. It’s more about the transparency with which companies are “guiding” their customers to fully understand the environmental consequences of their specific configuration.

What does this mean for manufacturing organizations, and how can they implement this new approach?

Sustainable manufacturing is gaining traction

At its core, the concept of sustainable manufacturing – according to the EPA – is “the creation of manufactured products through economically sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources. Sustainable manufacturing also enhances employee, community and product safety.” This includes all the processes, from the gathering of the raw materials to the eventual recycling of the product itself.

As sustainability gains in importance for customers, more companies are treating it as an important part of their strategy and operations to increase growth and global competitiveness. Not only does this meet customer desire but it can also help improve operational efficiency (by reducing costs and waste), reach new customers and strengthen brand reputation, among other benefits.

Introducing green configuration into the process

More and more products are now configurable – where there’s a single product with multiple options for each variation. We’re seeing more and more products with these sort of customized options – everything from cars to elevators to lighting systems, to name just a very few. And for each of these products, there are different options that customers – whether it’s on the B2B or B2C side – can choose based on their specific needs and wants. Complex configuration is increasing in response to customer needs.

What if sustainability could also be one of these options? This is a subset of sustainable manufacturing – the concept of “green configuration,” in which a configurator can be used to show the customer the environmental consequences of their configuration choices. By doing so, a company can offer options that best suit the sustainability goals of the customer.

Green configuration is still a very new concept, but it’s on the rise. Demand is rising across sectors, and within a few years, this approach will be absolutely necessary. You could try to manually guide customers through the process, but you’ll never be able to keep up. In this era of digitalization, customer self-service and guided selling are much more efficient and effective methods. For business leaders, it’s key to understand that green configuration can truly be built into the process.

Typically, complex configuration takes place behind the scenes, where customers don’t see it. But what if you could increase the transparency about configuration and show customers whether the choices available to them are environmentally friendlier or not? This can be built right into the configuration process so that customers can choose, for instance, only options that meet a certain sustainability threshold.

Configuration lifecycle management technology can play a key role here, aligning every business function that touches configured products with people, profit and the planet – from engineering and sales to manufacturing and service to one single source of configuration truth including sustainable configurations.

Green for the win

Earth and its inhabitants exist within a web of interdependence. It’s been easy for much of human history to ignore that or be ignorant of it, as most people were not aware of the environmental impact of manufacturing and industrial processes. But awareness has been rising for decades, along with regulations to protect the environment as much as possible.

However, regulations alone are not enough. Consumers have begun to make “greener” decisions, understanding that the choices they make produce a chain of consequences that may affect future generations. Configuration Lifecycle Management technology helps customers make better choices, which not only lessen the impact on our environment but contributes to a healthy triple bottom line: the economy, society and the environment.

And as mentioned above, not only does this meet customer demand and contribute to staying competitive in the global economy, but it also can help you optimize your own resources. Seen in this light, green configuration is nothing but an all-around win.

About the author

Johan Salenstedt is the CEO of Configit, the global leader in Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions and a supplier of business-critical software for the configuration of complex products. He joined Configit in 2019 and has over three decades of experience in executive leadership positions with high growth software companies including IBM, Adobe and Qlik. 

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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