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Intelligent manufacture and environmental management standards cut energy and waste

06/01/2009

  • Europe
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Researchers in Ireland urge industry chiefs to incorporate intelligent manufacturing processes and international environmental management standards to guarantee sustainability.

A research paper from the University of Limerick in Ireland urges manufacturers to factor sustainability into their production practices to reduce environmental impacts. According to the researchers in the Department of Manufacturing and Operations Engineering, implementation of environmental audits can lower costs for industry. Companies evaluating their supply chains and manufacturing systems can reduce both energy expenditure and waste.

In practical terms, such audits will not only reduce waste, but will lead to coherent strategies that will ultimately ensure sustainable use of the planet’s resources. The study highlights that such measures can result in businesses being more competitive, while also enabling them to practice corporate responsibility.

Manufacturers must be prepared to play their part in the development of an economy that considers the issue of climate change, particularly when large energy and resource appetites are taken into account. Not only must they help to shape this form of economy, but they have a responsibility to ensure they use energy and commodities in a sustainable manner. The study also highlights the impact of public attitudes towards sustainability on industrial decisions in this area.

In order to ensure environmental sustainability, manufacturers should implement the ISO 14001 International Environmental Management Standard to incorporate necessary strategies. In addition, the researchers urge industries to use the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The adoption of this initiative demonstrates a commitment beyond the main legal required environmentally friendly standards.

More information: william.gaughran@ul.ie

Intelligent manufacturing and environmental sustainability; Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing; William F. Gaughran, Stephen Burke and Patrick Phelan, University of Limerick http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1283063&jmp=cit&coll=GUIDE&dl=GUIDE

Environmental management standards

The ISO 14001 International Environmental Management Standard can be applied by any organisation wanting to: implement, maintain and improve an environmental management system; assure conformance with its own stated environmental policy; demonstrate conformance and ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations; and seek certification of its environmental management system by an external third party. The EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a management tool for companies and other organisations to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance. EMAS has been available for companies since 1995. Since 2001, it has been open to all economic sectors including public and private services.

More information:

ISO 14001 International Environmental Management Standard:

http://www.iso14000-iso14001-environmental-management.com/iso14001.htm

EMAS: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/emas/index_en.htm

External and internal systems

In 2007, 3 908 organisations in the EU-27 had registered with EMAS. This is an increase of 11.5% compared with 2006. Some 98% of the registered organisations are located in the EU-15 countries. The total number of ISO 14001 certifications has increased dramatically in recent years – from 14 106 applications at the end of 1999, to 90 569 at the end of 2004, with registered certifications in 127 different countries. In an OECD survey, 39% of the responding firms reported having an environmental management system and 25% were ISO 14001 certified. Smaller facilities are less likely than larger ones to have environmental management systems in place. They are considered as organisational innovations and indicate a shift in business practice focus to environmentally sound management. In combination with EMAS and ISO 14001, internal environmental accounting/reporting systems usually using process flow or activity-based accounting also help to identify cost savings and allow businesses to track these savings.

Sources:

Eurostat 2008: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/

Europe INNOVA 2008: http://www.europe-innova.eu/web/guest;jsessionid=ECEECFC6A0F7870905D9FC4A9E427220