Looking for Ways for Your Manufacturing to Become More Sustainable? Start with ASTM Standards!

Manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to use their resources more efficiently, which, in turn, can minimize their environmental impacts. In recent years, many manufacturers and others, including the three of us, came to the table through a standards development organization called ASTM International to create a series of guidance documents that could support sustainable manufacturing overall.

One of the most important results of this is the “Standard Guide on Definition, Selection, and Organization of Key Performance Indicators for Environmental Aspects of Manufacturing Processes” (E3096-17), which provides guidance for how to pull the collective wisdom of an organization and decide on the right things to start measuring and improving on.

ASTM International’s Sustainability Committee (E60) develops sustainability and sustainable development standards to help industries address environmental, social, economic and other issues relating to sustainability. Subcommittee E60.13 focuses specifically on sustainable manufacturing. Sustainable manufacturing is an ongoing topic of discussion across a wide range of manufacturing enterprises. Consisting of processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and other natural resources, sustainable manufacturing also incorporates economically sound processes that are safe for employees, communities and consumers. According to Amy Costello, sustainability manager, Armstrong Flooring and chair of the subcommittee, standards are vital as manufacturers embark on the journey of benchmarking and developing sustainability metrics. Costello notes that the subcommittee develops standards that manufacturers can use to benchmark, assess, implement and communicate sustainability metrics, including standards for evaluating, improving and measuring gate-to-gate processes in the production of finished goods.

Shaw C. Feng, mechanical engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, led the development of E3096-17, which provides guidance to help manufacturers set reasonable, realistic operational objectives for reducing the environmental impact of their manufacturing processes. The quantifiable measures of environmental impact reductions are called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). A KPI is used to measure how well an objective for self-improvement is being met. Rather than dictating goals, this standard helps people to set their own goals. You know your business better than anyone!

Using the new standard, manufacturers can develop KPIs to assess the sustainability performance of their manufacturing processes.

Manufacturing industry practitioners will find the standard most useful. The standard calls for a team of people from multiple viewpoints, such as process engineers, production line managers, site managers, factory management teams and business stakeholders, to collaborate in selecting KPIs. It applies established techniques from decision-making theory to systematically focus on the most effective KPIs for that organization. Manufacturers will use the standard to help themselves set measurement priorities for tracking and reducing environmental impacts, such as the intake of energy, raw materials and water, energy/material inefficiencies, (toxic) wastes (in both solid and liquid forms) emitted from manufacturing processes, greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful substances generated from the manufacturing processes. Regulatory bodies and laboratories may use E3096 to specify industry KPIs through a multi-stakeholder consensus process and based on standard terminology and procedures.

Prototype software developed by the Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center at Old Dominion University shows the application of ASTM E3096 to follow a step-by-step process from definition and selection to organization of effective KPIs in a set.

In addition to the above standard, the ASTM Sustainable Manufacturing Subcommittee has developed several other consensus-based standards and continues to champion standards to further help manufacturers on their sustainability journey. Standards committees such as E60.13 provide a forum for a community to come together to share best practices and work toward common goals that can improve the practices for everyone. Just as improving sustainable performance in an organization needs many viewpoints, standards making does, too. While the standards from E60.13 provide guidance for manufacturers to look for sustainability improvements, they can serve different purposes for different participants. Consultants should find them useful for working with their clients. Educators can incorporate them into their curriculum. Tool vendors will find them an excellent source of requirements for the next generation of their systems.

To meet all these needs, many voices must be heard. To learn more about how you can get involved in the ASTM Sustainability Committee or any ASTM technical committee, please visit www.astm.org.

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