Edited by Mangey Ram and J. Paulo Davim
The manufacturing industry has been one of the basic drivers for modern rapid global economic development. This development has consequence in many economic benefits to and enhancement of quality of life for many people all over the world. This rapid development also creates many opportunities and challenges for both industrialists and academics, and have completely changed in this global design and manufacture environment.
More of the designs and manufacturing tasks can now be undertaken within a computer environment using simulation and virtual reality technologies. Manufacturing engineering is the processes for new products, improving manufacturing yield, implementing automated manufacturing and production facilities, and establishing quality and safety programs. The goal of the manufacturing engineering is to provide manufacturing engineers for problem solving, for establishing manufacturing processes, and for improving existing production lines in a bold or complex one. This holds both conventional and emerging manufacturing tools and processes used in the automotive, aerospace, and defense industries and their supply chain industries. Both industry and the academic have an urgent need to equip themselves with the latest knowledge, in technology for engineering design and manufacture. Through this book Advanced Applications in Manufacturing Engineering the engineers and academician have to gain a great knowledge and help them in the manufacturing engineering. The book is meant for those who wish to take manufacturing engineering as a subject of study. The material is intended for an audience at the level of postgraduate or senior undergraduate students. That’s why manufacturing engineering is now as well recognized and rapidly developing branch of engineering.
MOTIVATIONS AND BRIEF CHAPTER OVERVIEW
In this chapter, a methodology for the selection and communication of eco-efficiency indicators for products is proposed, and its application in the mold manufacturing and plastic injection molding sector is demonstrated. The proposed methodology aims to contribute to the extension of the use of the eco-efficiency concept to products—for decision-making processes on the one hand and as a metrics for intracompany and intercompany communication and reporting on the other hand. Respecting the existing standards and guidelines [1,2], the methodology strengthens accuracy and comprehensiveness in the set of indicators proposed and simultaneously provides to the user (company, organization, etc.) a shorter and better manageable list of adequate indicators compared to the large lists of indicators suggested by the normative documents.
So, the understanding of “what an eco-efficiency is about” is fundamental as well as to point out why the authors of this chapter find this concept and the corresponding metrics highly useful for product/system design decisions. As one of the most important barriers for its use at the product level seems to be the indicators selection which can be very time consuming and very tangling, the authors suggest a methodology for selecting and applying these indicators. In addition, not all the indicators proposed by the normative documents are useful and/or applicable for product decisions and some pertinent indicators to assess product performance are not proposed by those documents (mainly the ones related with economic performance).
Eco-efficiency is a commonly referred metrics to assess the environmental impact and the value of the overall activities of a company simultaneously. This concept belongs to the sustainable development assessment realm and guides companies to decrease the environmental impact of the resources consumed and emissions of the production system and/or increase the value of the activities’ output. It should also be used to support the decision-making on new products development and on products improvement, as proclaimed by the normative documents that define eco-efficiency [1,2] and to constitute a coherent system of indicators for decision-making and reporting in companies including the company as a whole as well as its products. Nevertheless, for the application of eco-efficiency at product level, there are several inhibiting factors, despite the significant research and normative work published. Some of these limiting factors are presented as follows: (1) co-existence of different normative documents with different definitions and scopes of eco-efficiency, (2) existence of large lists of possible eco-efficiency indicators, (3) not-clear and fuzzy classifications of those indicators, (4) nonexistence of uniform and clearly defined rules for calculating the final eco-efficiency ratio, (5) difficulty of applying indicators in the early life cycle phases of innovative and not completely defined products, (6) the value indicators suggested are usually related to a fixed and relatively short period of time (e.g., 1 year) that for the product level is insufficient because a lot of product decisions affect the products’ life cycle, and (7) the application at product level requires the consideration of a wide range of factors and a lot of details in information gathering and calculation. Contrarily, when eco-efficiency is applied to a whole production system, the information required is usually available: on the one hand total energy consumed, aggregate materials consumed, etc. for the environmental impact, financial indicators being suggested namely gross value-added, economic value-added, etc. that are already regularly calculated in the frame of financial accounting by a lot of companies on the other hand.
Besides hindering a more frequent use of eco-efficiency at product level due to unclear guidance and being highly time consuming, these facts also cause indecision concerning the data to be retrieved from the production system. Thus, this inhibits an accurate as well as comprehensive use of eco-efficiency indicators for intracompanies and intercompanies comparison of the same or similar products.
The methodology proposed in this chapter aims to tackle these barriers by facilitating the identification and selection of the most adequate set of indicators. Yet, the proposed methodology considers and respects the normative documents because they are a good and a widely acceptable starting basis. The methodology comprises two main steps: Step (1) the creation of a short list of indicators relevant for the type of product and Step (2) the selection and application of a small set of indicators especially important for the company specific decision-making process and reporting, using organized, and summarized profiles displaying the relevant information.
The simplification rationale of the first step is based on the elimination of a large number of indicators suggested by normative documents that are not useful for the type of product under study. Nevertheless, the referred shorter list of indicators is even composed by 2–3 dozens of possible indicators. The rationale of the second step is to organize a shorter list in a language commonly used by the company: by type of processes, consumables, materials, and emissions (for the environment related indicators) and by those as well as type of cost drivers, product costs, product sales return etc. (for the value related indicators). The company should choose an appropriate small set of indicators for the specific decision-making and reporting tasks under analysis; this small set of indicators is not necessarily static, meaning that different small sets can/should be selected depending on the issue to be analyzed for decision-making and on the aim of reporting.
The methodology is applied to molds for plastic parts injection molding. The result of the first step is a (shorter) list of eco-efficiency related indicators that can be used by any company of the mold making and injection molding sector. The result of the second step is demonstrated by comparing the performance of two types of molds on a life cycle perspective, from the mold manufacturing to the mold end-of-life, including the use phase of the mold (the injection molding process), namely the plastic material used, wasted and recycled in that phase.
The methodology is applicable for other products as well by the replication of the first step, creating a shorter list adequate to the product of interest and then conducting the second step. By making easier the selection and handling of eco-efficiency indicators, the proposed methodology contributes to the use of this metrics in intracompany comparison and communication of sustainability related performance (e.g., comparing different products performance, assessing evolution of performance along time) and also intercompany communication (e.g., by including some of these indicators in products data sheets, benchmarking with other companies of the same activity sector). In addition, the structure and logics of indicators selection and reporting proposed in the methodology can be further extended to company level, being only necessary to adapt the level of detail of the indicators (toward a more macro level) and the type of the economic performance indicators (using other financial related indicators.