Perspectives on Going Green, Part I
Wed, 09/10/2008 - 8:33am
Everyone everywhere seems to be "going green" but is there real value in doing so or is it just a cliché term that gets thrown around far too often? In this month's Perspectives feature, industry leaders weigh in on how they perceive the value of the green movement and discuss the potential benefits and downside to device manufacturers considering it for their business.
Is “Going Green” the latest cliché buzz term or is it a truly valuable effort to be made by companies looking to stay competitive and environmentally friendly?
Vice President, Sales & Marketing, MEGA Electronics Inc.
Going Green is not just a catch word or phrase. Not only do we need to Go Green to meet national and state standards, we need to do this to improve our bottom line both financially and environmentally. Just as corporations that compete in a globalized business environment have limited resources, the world has limited resources as well.
As the world gets smaller, I think all responsible businesses realize that what we do in our own corner of the world has global impacts. One cell phone charger drawing power when not in use may not have much of an impact on the world economy, but according to the Washington Post’s estimate in July of 2006, there are more than 2.4 billion cell phone users - and more than 1,000 new customers are added every minute. It also projected that there would be three billion mobile phone subscribers by the end of 2007. How much energy can we save if each of those phones had a green power supply?
Founder and President, Amoebic Inc.
“Green” is most certainly a buzz word and people are capitalizing on that, but unless quantifiable benefits or cost savings are produced, it’s just a cliché, a marketing gimmick. On the other hand, “green” has crept into development where it makes sense from a cost and value perspective to the customer. This has driven innovations in, for example, extended battery life, extended life spans, and energy savings that are both “green” and make for better products from a cost and benefit perspective. An increased focus on “green” has produced technology that can make more efficiencies and, in turn, more competitive, environmentally friendly products.
Because of the cliché though, there is some skepticism out there about “green” because people are aware of products that have been marketed as such but haven’t delivered what they promised. I think it is valuable for companies to “go green” if they produce cost savings and additional benefits to the customer. I don’t think that “green” will give a company an advantage unless it delivers cost savings or some other quantifiable, high value benefit, such as safety, for example.
“Environmentally friendly” is a vague term that is tossed around a lot. I believe that energy efficiency, water conservation, and limiting your impact on the environment are all things that are ethically right to strive for in any company. Depending on what kind of company you are, being known for being “environmentally friendly” certainly won’t hurt you. But in competition and product development, delivering quantifiable cost savings and benefits are what will be valued. If they happen to be truly “green,” then so much the better.
President, Pregis Corp.
“Going Green”—or what the industry refers to as sustainability—is here to stay. Both corporations and consumers have realized that proactive steps need to be taken to enhance our environment and preserve our planet.
However, merely waving a green flag is not sufficient. Having a well thought out environmental strategy is the first step to making a positive impact. Real action must be taken in the areas of energy control, waste management, process improvement, and product development to create a sustainable program that has significant impact.
Examples of making meaningful changes include:
• Reclaiming up to 99% of manufacturing scrap and reintroducing it back into the manufacturing process
• Density reduction programs across all product lines to limit material entering the waste stream
• Products engineered to maximize packaging efficiency and minimize application-specific waste
• Completed energy audits with improvements implemented in all facilities
• Striving to go beyond environmental regulation compliance with state-of-the-art pollution abatement equipment
• Promoting environmental knowledge and awareness to employees and customers
For the “green” or the sustainability movement to continue to gain momentum, companies should make it a priority to solve day-to-day manufacturing issues in an environmentally responsible manner. In turn, this will provide targeted products to the marketplace that connect with the desired consumer values.
Product Line Manager, Portescap, A Danaher Motion Co.
With the effects and implications of global warming, green, environmentally friendly products are being sought out in every segment of our lives, and the medical industry is no exception. The advantages of “Going Green” with motion solutions in the medical industry are multifaceted, ranging from energy efficient motors to reduction in disposable non-biodegradable waste. The medical industry as a whole can benefit by using “green” energy-efficient motors in applications ranging from portable ambulatory pumps to floor mounted automated laboratory analyzers. As an example, a medical analyzer that is designed for 24/7 assay analysis and uses five 100 W brush DC iron core motors with a total energy usage of 500 W can gain 100 W of energy savings by using an ironless brush DC technology.
The other benefit of “going green” in the medical industry could also be recognized with motion solutions that reduce non-biodegradable waste. In certain segments of the medical industry, there is a migration from non-motorized single-use disposable hand tools to environment friendly motorized solutions. Autoclavable motor solutions are a positive impact to the industry as they facilitate multiple uses of power surgical tools, thus reducing waste output by a factor of 100 to 1,000 based upon the application.
Portable medical devices that run on battery power benefit from “going green” both in terms of improved efficiency and less disposables. Hence, there are a multitude of advantages and benefits that companies can bring to the customers by designing and producing environmentally friendly products and such efforts would definitely be a competitive edge for those product companies that choose to play in the medical arena.
Product Manager, Fluids, Videojet Technologies Inc.
“Going green” is most definitely worthwhile if it means a company is reducing waste, energy consumption, or the amount of materials used to perform a task. These reductions benefit companies by lowering operational costs and costs generated by the disposal of excess materials. In these cases, the green objective of a company directly benefits the environment while also providing an economic benefit.
The path to green may seem straightforward, but it often results in diverse approaches by companies, even those within the same industry. A major key to being successful is identifying the opportunities for environmental improvement that have the best overall benefit to the company itself. Pursuing this path helps make being green an ongoing, self-funding, and sustainable process. For example, a company could reduce materials used for labeling by printing directly on products or packaging substrates, rather than using print-and-apply labels, which may even save the company a step in its production process. Green initiatives that offer a company benefit can help the company stay competitive in its industry by reducing costs or streamlining processes.
Successful green initiatives are developed with clear, realistic goals in mind. Metrics should be set to measure progress toward achieving these goals, such as a percentage amount of waste that a company is striving to reduce. Both internal staff and suppliers or vendors should be involved in helping a company realize its goals—suppliers can help a company by recommending greener alternatives, such as assessing opportunities to use variable data inks with fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or those that are water-based, for example.
Ultimately, if a “green” solution doesn’t work, environmental and company benefits are likely to be lost. Time spent researching and planning realistic green objectives is more effective than ongoing replacement, correction, downtime, returns, etc., which cost time and resources, and are decidedly not green.
President, Advanced Biomedical Consulting LLC
While “going green” is a recent cliché, it is also a key factor to consider when developing a product or modifying a process. In today’s economic climate, the regulated product manufacturer needs to perform a thorough cost-benefits analysis before considering such a change.
The obvious benefit of going green is the environmental aspect. However, the potential competitive benefits need to be examined as the first step in this process. The following are potential competitive benefits by going green that should be assessed:
• Increased vendor ratings (e.g., retailer preference for environmentally focused vendors)
• Differentiation from competitors
• Decreased waste/scrap
• Government incentives
• Decreased material costs
The regulated product manufacturer has to be especially cognizant of all the potential costs of going green as well. Besides a potential increase due to a new environmentally friendly component, the following hidden factors need to be assessed for the regulated product manufacturer:
• Biocompatability testing (i.e. patient contact materials)
• Process validation/equipment qualification
• New vendor qualification
• Procedural and other document revisions
COOL PET, a manufacturer of FDA regulated products, very recently went green after it discovered that by using its own recycled (i.e. shredded) documentation for dunnage in its shippers (versus packaging peanuts and bubble wrap), its production costs decreased significantly. This change not only saved money, but also increased its vendor rating (and subsequently sales) from a major retailer that has focused on environmentally friendly suppliers.
While going green is the way to go for the environment, in the current economic climate, regulated companies need to perform a thorough assessment (e.g. using internal systems such as risk assessments and/or change control programs) of the proposed changes before moving forward. Companies that simply focus on the environmental benefits may find themselves going from the green into the red.