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NEWS
Environmental Mandate Embraced by Manufacturers
February 2, 2009

From basic measures like composting cafeteria waste to large-scale technology programs such as recovering metal from used computers, manufacturers around the world are incorporating environmental sustainability in day-to-day operations. In addition to winning over regulators and other key constituents, some “green” manufacturers are even cutting costs through their environmental initiatives, according to Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

In a recent edition, the magazine profiles the environmental programs of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., IBM Corp., and carpet maker Bentley Prince Street Inc., among other firms. These manufacturers, according to Mechanical Engineering, have realized measurable efficiencies and cost savings through recycling, waste reduction, and energy conservation and reuse. “Sustainable practices focus on reducing inputs per unit of output,” says Mechanical Engineering. “The difference between inputs and outputs is waste, and if a manufacturer can reduce waste, it can save money.”

Green manufacturers reconfigure processes, use environmentally benign substances in their products, re-engineer products for easy disassembly, and incorporate other innovations in the quest to meet environmental goals. For example, auto maker Subaru returns used metal packaging to parts suppliers so that the material can be used for other shipments. IBM takes in 40,000 pieces of pre-owned electronic equipment each week to recover silicon wafers and various metals, selling the materials on the open market as part of a $2 billion recycling business.

ASME in early 2008 convened the Global Summit on the Future of Mechanical Engineering, in which experts in the field indicated that engineers must take the lead in developing solutions that foster a cleaner, healthier, safer and sustainable world. One avenue to meeting that challenge is to focus on process. “The whole idea behind resource utilization is to optimize processes,” says Mechanical Engineering. “That’s a skill engineers have.”


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