The Power of Industrial Ecology
The power of Industrial Ecology (IE) is the various practical applications and gained efficiencies that can be employed from the beginning to the end of any manufacturing process. Industrial Ecology – better known as Circularity and Circular Production – allows for better use of environmental resources, supports innovations in product design and packaging, and can radically transform a company’s manufacturing processes for the better.
A Production Efficiency Model that Drives Profit
The steps taken to implement a closed-loop manufacturing system are actionable, performance-driven, and allow for the quantifiable measurement of both cost reductions and analysis of process efficiencies within a business supply chain.
Industrial Ecology measures are manifold and are applied at almost every stage of a manufacturing supply chain. Some of the most effective tools TripleWin Advisory recommends an organization to utilize include:
- End-of-Life Product Design
- Life-cycle Analysis (LCA)
- Reverse Supply Chain
- Material Revalorization
- Industrial Symbiosis
- Eco-Effectiveness including Dematerialization and Material Substitution
- Service-model of manufacturing
These transformative manufacturing processes support a production cycle where material throughput is greatly reduced with no decline in product quality or quantity as well as the possible conversion of cost centers to new revenue streams. For any manufacturing business, circularity is worth taking a deeper look into its possibilities to amplify market opportunities that are not yet captured currently.
The Thinking Behind Industrial Ecology: “Closing the Loop”
Industrial Ecology (IE) is the study of materials through a manufacturing system and energy flows within that system. One of the most effective ways of improving a company’s sustainability metrics is to optimize the material flow of production as it moves raw materials through a manufacturing system to a finished product.
IE asks us to think about the Earth and its resources as a closed system, one that recognizes that resources are not unlimited. IE is a conceptual framework that seeks to maximize material use and reuse by improving the embodied energy of those goods, delivering production efficiencies along the way. Industrial Ecology asks us to rethink the linear flow of manufacturing goods into a circular flow transforming “take” into “remake,” and “waste” into “resource.”
“TAKE-MAKES-WASTE” Linear Manufacturing Model
The Archaic Linear Production Model
This way of manufacturing is a straight-line (a.k.a. forward) production model, where raw (virgin) materials make their way through a supply chain process from sourcing, manufacturing and distribution to final sale. Ultimately, these products, once used, end life in a trash bin. Although we have historically thought differently, raw materials on this planet are finite. We need to think about waste and its base form, “carbon”, as a source material that is infinitely abundant and a resource to be utilized.
“CIRCULAR MANUFACTURING FLOW” Model
Within a circular manufacturing system, new products are designed to be recycled into other goods of same or lesser quality and/or revalorized back into new virgin-like products to be sold. In this system, optimized with the application of industrial ecology measures, when products reach their end-of-use period, they skip the trash bin and are funneled back into the same supply chain but in reverse. This forward and reverse supply chain allows for a circular flow of goods within product manufacturing, supporting more efficient material flow, sustainable material extraction, and improved product design, packaging, and material sourcing.