In view of climate change and the increasing scarcity and rising prices of natural resources, improving resource efficiency is becoming an increasingly significant factor in manufacturing sector.
Eco-manufacturing (resource-efficient manufacturing) is not only essential to achieve sustainable green growth, but is also economically sensible. By using fewer resources and optimising their use, businesses can become more environmentally friendly, competitive and profitable. Materials and energy are by far the most critical cost factors in a medium-sized manufacturing company, where material consumption accounts for 35-40%, and energy costs for up to 15% of total expenditure, compared to an average of 20% for personnel costs. 
In the manufacturing industry major gains can be achieved tackling recycling and resource efficiency at the three key levels of innovation: process efficiency, product design and value chain optimisation. 

Process Efficiency

Manufacturing processes transform raw materials and other inputs into finished products. Although multiple processes often run concurrently in complex systems, efficiency gains can easily be achieved in a number of areas including:

  • Minimisation of tool wear by improving geometry or materials used;
  • Optimisation of operating fluids and supplies (water and lubricants);
  • Reducing rejects and cutting waste with process optimisation;
  • Improvement of cleaning and conditioning processes;
  • Advanced manufacturing and recycling processes.


Product Design

The design of a product determines its life cycle starting with the choice of materials and finishing with the recyclability at end-of-life. Design decisions such as dimensions, weight, number of components or packaging can have a huge impact on resource consumption and profits. More complex solutions can also be thought-out to engineer products with improved eco-efficient design specifications increasing product life-time or recyclability. 

Value Chain Optimisation

The largest savings can be made when the entire value chain is optimised. This requires cooperation between the different layers of the value chain. Value chain optimisation can be addressed through an integrated approach to resource consumption dealing with inputs of raw materials and other semi-finished goods, output of finished products, by-products and waste, transport and storage, packaging resources and recyclability of packaging wastes.