Clean Manufacturing: A New Industrial Revolution

Understand what is meant by clean manufacturing. Find out what are the important concepts in tackling sustainability, how to implement clean manufacturing, its economic benefits, and how to achieve it in simple ways.

la fabricación limpia en la práctica

Clean Manufacturing Initiative

The industrial sector contributed to 23% of total US greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), ranking third after the transportation and electricity sectors. To address this problem, the US government announced new actions and initiatives across different government agencies on February 15, 2022. They launched America’s leadership on clean manufacturing, which involves low-carbon production of materials such as aluminum and steel in heavy industries.

The announcement also included the following:

A few years ago, clean manufacturing, as well as sustainability and green design, were foreign to many industries. But today, different organizations are realizing now the economic and environmental benefits of investing in sustainable production processes and innovations like clean manufacturing.

What is Clean Manufacturing?

Clean manufacturing is a production system composed of entire creation cycles that use eco-friendly practices—minimizing the negative environmental impacts (i.e., reduction in waste, energy usage, and carbon footprint), while conserving energy and natural resources.

The Green Suppliers Network defined clean manufacturing as, “a systematic approach to eliminating waste by optimizing use and selection of resources and technologies, thereby lessening the impact on the environment.”

Environment and Manufacturing: 3 Common Concepts

Manufacturing has now become more environmentally-responsible than ever before. Organizations are starting to understand how environment and manufacturing are correlated. The Gujarat Cleaner Production Centre (GCPC) explained 3 common concepts in one of its resources about the introduction to sustainable manufacturing:

Sustainable Manufacturing

Sustainable manufacturing is also a term used when relating to clean manufacturing, sustainable design, or green manufacturing. The US Department of Commerce (DOC) in its Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative (SMI) defined sustainable manufacturing as, “manufacturing processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities and consumers and are economically sound.”

The elements of sustainable manufacturing focus on the process of how a product is made and the system of the process. See the illustration below:
Integrated Elements of Sustainable Manufacturing or clean manufacturingExample: HP, one of the largest manufacturers of printers in the world, has been leading closed-loop plastic recycling for decades or using circular economy in their products. HP’s recycling method is able to recycle 1M plastic bottles everyday into new products.

Clean Technologies

As global emissions rise rapidly, cities and businesses are transitioning to cleaner resources, fuels, and technology. Clean technology, called cleantech, is a general term used to describe products, processes, or services that minimize waste and the use of non-renewable resources.

The Clean Technology Trade Alliance (CTTA), a global non-profit organization leading the initiative of bridging businesses to green technologies, defines cleantech as:

“A broad base of processes, practices and tools, in any industry that supports a sustainable business approach, including but not limited to: pollution control, resource reduction and management, end of life strategy, waste reduction, energy efficiency, carbon mitigation and profitability.”

Cleantech is reshaping industries such as mobility, construction and manufacturing by replacing energy-intensive processes and products with cleaner solutions.

Example: uses video analytics to protect vehicles and drivers. This German solution analyzes real-time device traffic data. Peregrine’s technology reduces GHG emissions by preventing accidents and optimizing routes for drivers.

Green Design

Green design is the process of designing products, services, structures, or experiences to have less environmental impact and use less energy and materials.

Example: Mycelium packaging, made by the company Ecovative, is a better alternative to styrofoam in packaging. Mycelium comes from the roots of mushrooms—it’s a biodegradable material and has a low carbon footprint.

Sustainable manufacturing, clean technologies, and green design are often used interchangeably because of their similarities. At their core, these three concepts are all about sustainability.

Economic Benefits 

“Sustainability is not only central to business strategy, but will increasingly become a critical driver of business growth. How well and how quickly businesses respond to this agenda will determine which companies succeed and which will fail.”—Patrick Cescau, CEO of Unilever

Sustainability is becoming an objective of different organizations and companies nowadays. They have recognized it as a viable strategy to implement in their operations to increase their growth and global competitiveness. Sustainability is a concept wherein water, material, and resource availability for future generations, as well as fulfillment of social and economic demands, are all dependent on the condition that human impact on the environment is sufficiently mitigated. 

According to United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • 95% of the world’s largest companies currently use environmental and sustainability measures.
  • 70% of businesses say sustainability is on their management agenda.
  • 70% of businesses say sustainability is required to compete today.
  • 70% of organizations improved their environmental efforts in 2011.
  • 50% of organizations say sustainability will boost profits and drive down expenses.

There are a number of reasons why companies are pursuing clean manufacturing:

  • Reduced manufacturing costs—the use of natural resources is minimized, the expenses on raw materials are reduced, and the wastes in production are lessened.
  • Increased competitive advantage in the business—strengthened brand, reputation, and public trust. Customers are now seeking goods that are both good for them and good for the environment.
  • Compliance with new regulations—new laws and regulations are starting to be implemented to make businesses, organizations, or industries conform and contribute to a carbon-neutral economy.

How to Achieve Clean Manufacturing

  • Recycle and reuse materials in ways that do not harm the natural environment.
  • Reduce the amount of raw material used and use materials that are non-hazardous or recyclable.
  • Reduce packaging to allow for the shipping of more products, as orders only take up the necessary space and weight.
  • Produce reusable, remanufacturable, recyclable, or biodegradable products.
  • Extend the shelf life of products by making them easier to repair or designing them to use less resources.
  • Collaborate with customers and retailers to reduce the environmental impact of sales and distribution.

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Contributing to Net-zero Economy using SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor)

Countries and organizations who pledge to achieve Net Zero by 2050 are continuously increasing. The world is becoming more environmentally conscious than ever due to the impact of climate change. Clean manufacturing and green products will become increasingly more common in the coming years, resulting in benefits for both businesses and the community at large. Businesses can contribute to Net Zero by using SafetyCulture!

SafetyCulture is one of the best tools used by different industries, especially in the construction, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, transport and logistics industries, providing a more convenient, efficient, and eco-friendly solution for conducting inspections, assessments, and audits.

With SafetyCulture, you can:

  • Prevent missing documents by becoming paperless—saving more trees from becoming paper.
  • Create customizable templates for conducting assessments to identify and evaluate cleaner manufacturing practices and facilitate their implementation on mobile, even in remote areas.
  • Reduce your business’s carbon emissions by minimizing travels among your team through inspections, audits, and inventory done remotely.
  • Get help with evaluating compliance with Environmental Management System (EMS)  standards through the ISO 14001:2015 Audit Checklist.

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SafetyCulture Content Team
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SafetyCulture Content Team
The SafetyCulture content team is dedicated to providing high-quality, easy-to-understand information to help readers understand complex topics and improve workplace safety and quality. Our team of writers have extensive experience at producing articles for different fields such as safety, quality, health, and compliance.