What is sustainability?
Sustainability… a common topic of debate over the last decade, but what does it really mean? Type “sustainability” into a search engine and you’ll be bombarded with buzzwords such as eco-friendly, economy and carbon footprint. The definition many use is that Sustainability refers to a system and process that can be maintained and used in many areas; within community and society; business responsibility and also, our theme for this article, Environmental Sustainability.
Environmental sustainability means making of responsible decisions that in turn reduce the negative impact on the environment. This includes but is not exclusively:
– The extraction of fossil fuels and minerals from the planet
– Damage to the environment as a result of extraction and refining
– Carbon foot-print of the overall process or system
– Contamination (and treatment!) when returning elements back into the environment
Being an environmentally friendly business has a great resonance and through the positive message could increase perceived view of the companies standing and indeed sales. The most common item that comes to mind is probably recyclability. Recycling has been positively adopted by many businesses and society, where there is a common perception that recycling equals good for the environment. iDi Pac believes that in addition to recycling that there are many alternative methods of becoming a sustainable company. As well as attracting customers and boosting sales, sustainability is great for businesses and manufacturers; driving cost down in areas you may not have thought of when talking about sustainability.
Light weighting –
going on the metaphorical product diet is the “popular” solution. Shedding a few grammes, which may be a small % saving, may mean you’re saving many tonnes of material each year; material costs, logistics savings… the multipliers of volume are key rather than that fraction of a %, the percentage “not to bother with”!! With easy access to CAD and rapid-prototyping, testing, novel design and adding “hidden” structural strength to your product is entirely possible.
Optimised storage –
significant wasted ‘space’ can be created in transport and Supply Chains, poor storage and stacking can damage products and packaging and will reduce sales – who picks up the damaged can in the supermarket unless its marked down and the damaged PC or TV screen… scrap!! Optimised layouts show considerable benefits in the supply chain and address all these aspects.
Going mono –
no, not the latest sound system!! Multiple materials and use of laminates make the recycling and reuse profiles less interesting. Minimising material counts in product derives much benefit; common processes and bonding systems, material holdings etc… don’t forget the latest coating technologies also. Nano coatings are showing great promise and make the barrier properties equivalent or better than laminates and in conjunction add super slippery surfaces for excellent drain and emptying properties which further reduces the cleaning load downstream.
Extending the product life cycle –
with customers demanding greater varieties of product; premiumisation, mass personalisation, cultural diversity, seasonality etc etc etc the retail space is under huge pressure and needs to offer ever greater selection. The macro trend in reduced batch sizes and the ability to produce more efficiently is increasingly important. Extending the product life cycle using packaging and manufacturing solutions can make significant revenue increases and reduce waste at the same time… Extend the lifecycle makes excellent and cost effective business sense.
Late Stage Customisation
as batch sizes decline, the use of late stage customisation (LSC) or mass personailsation technologies can resolve many historical issues. Bringing in an LSC ethos creates a cost effective mechanism that reduces operating costs, minimises stock holdings and maximises flexibility. LSC generates the opportunity to maintain multiple SKUs across many languages, growing sales in smaller market segments, all whilst improving production efficiency and reducing waste… cost effectively!
pallet shipment (especially by air) can be hugely expensive. When it comes to optimising pallet shipments, reviewing stacking patterns, structural pack designs and tertiary packaging materials (e.g. interlayer sheets/dunnage) will ensure damage in transportation is reduced. Less damage = less waste = sustainable operations! Improvements in container/pallet utilisation increases the volumetric efficiency and thus fewer journeys to distribute product. Optimising at the primary pack level with full understanding of the SC will do much to enhance the sustainability profile of the business.
Are you checking your packaging? How often do you audit? –
Is the packaging over spec? Will new approaches allow material downgrades… is there a secondary use? Is this the most cost effective manufacturing route? In many cases a refreshment programme can improve its sustainability profile whilst providing that heaven sent opportunity to deliver functional improvement, added value and something for the Sales Force to get excited about.
So the next time you’re given an Eco-sustainability project, by following some of the not-so obvious points, you can do a little bit more! There are many methods to reduce negative impact on the environment; a holistic view will always reveal those little nuggets of opportunity… And you are also doing you and your companies bit for the Environment!!
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