Sustainable Productivity Production turnaround needed to achieve sustainability goals
Germany — A production turnaround could represent an enormous opportunity for a sustainable orientation of the industry, a new study states. On the one hand, this includes the socially perceived as well as the real shaping of the holistic change. On the other hand, it creates a competitive advantage over competing locations, the authors claim.
The achievements of the industrial revolutions have led to enormous efficiency in production: Everyday products in the fields of electronics, consumption and transport are produced so cheaply that they can be made available to everybody. At the same time, this prosperity makes it possible to afford a sometimes shockingly low level of utilization of the items used. For example, the average utilization rate of a car is just four percent. A large proportion of consumer and electronic goods are disposed of after a short period of use - efficient production makes this possible.
The continuous pursuit of cost optimization and increased efficiency has led to a capital- and resource-intensive productivity mindset. This can be seen in the increased CO2 emissions, which have almost doubled since 1990. The social and ecological effects of this development have become increasingly apparent in recent years. In particular, the worsening climate crisis has led to a shift in capital- and resource-intensive productivity thinking away from the future image of a more ecologically aware society.
In the course of this, the concept of productivity must be fundamentally rethought to include a holistic view of sustainability, the the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering (WZL) at RWTH Aachen University argues. This is where the study “Sustainable Productivity — A new Understanding of Production for a Sustainable Production Turnaround” by the Chair of Production Engineering at the WZL comes in. The aim of the study was to develop the new understanding of the concept of productivity that is needed to initiate the production turnaround.
Whereas financial targets have been the main focus so far, these have to be complemented by environmental, social and regulatory targets. These new types of goals have an impact on the design of products in the phases of product development, production and use. This new type of design is made possible by digitisation and, in particular, by the “Internet of Production”, which provides the transparency needed to holistically increase sustainability, the authors state.
This study provides companies with concrete recommendations on how to shape their production in the direction of sustainable production. In addition to key figures for evaluating the current situation and progress, existing success stories of manufacturing companies are presented.