Survey Reveals Growing Interest in Green Manufacturing

Manufacturers go green to lower energy costs and promote environmental responsibility.

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The spreading influence of sustainable practices is evident in the results from a special Automation World survey on green manufacturing trends, conducted in February 2010.

More than 230 respondents, of whom 73 percent identified themselves as buyers of equipment, answered more than a dozen queries that involved multiple facets of sustainable manufacturing.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents say that “green” manufacturing is important to their organization, and this is demonstrated by close to 60 percent of surveyed companies with formal green initiatives already in place.
The majority of these programs (about 60 percent) are funded using current operational budgets, but almost 11 percent are accessing publicly provided funds, such as government incentives to their respective state and federal stimulus money.

About one-fourth of respondents also indicated that they have turned to renewable energy resources, including wind, solar and energy scavenging resources.  Another one-fourth plan to implement programs that use renewable energy sources.

Not surprisingly, when ranking green technologies, respondents rated as Most Important energy-efficient equipment, as well as power management, but there is also broad-based interest in cogeneration, energy-scavenging technologies and recyclable resources.

When asked what the number-one reason is that a manufacturer should be concerned about green manufacturing, the option “to lower energy usage costs” led with more than 37 percent. The benefit of “being more competitive” ranked highest with 16 percent of respondents. And being a better corporate citizen was the choice of 20 percent of those surveyed. Another 12 percent were concerned about reducing their company’s carbon footprint, while almost 9 percent would choose to reduce greenhouse gases. (See chart for details.)

Regarding environmental metrics, a very positive response indicates that nearly 70 percent of organizations have an established environmental metrics system, are implementing one, have an environmental metrics program, or would like to implement one. (See chart for details.)

When asked if it is possible to make conventional business goals work along with green and environmental ones, more than three-quarters of respondents believe that it is.

Another affirmation of what came forth while interviewing the North American companies that use Italian machinery (mentioned in this issue), is that the majority of buyers (47 percent) expect their latest machinery purchase to have a lifespan of ten years or even more. About a quarter of the respondents expected equipment to last from 6 to 10 years, and 20 percent could foresee a 4-to-6 year lifespan. Only 9 percent had expectations of a 1-to-3-year life cycle. (See chart for details.)

The query “How important are the following qualifications for your current or potential machinery suppliers,” asked respondents to rate the importance of certain attributes on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most important. In first place, with an average rating of 3.14 was “Those who support local community organizations with donations, services, or products.” Next was “Those who provide adequate wages and benefits for their employees” with an average rating of 2.87, followed by “Those whose green machinery and technology are created with green manufacturing processes” at an average rating of 2.82. The least support, with an average of 2.81, was for “Those who have formal recycling policies, energy reduction plans and waste reduction plans in place themselves.”

The manufacturing sectors sampled in this study held few surprises. Metalworking (machine tools) led the sectors with 41 percent, followed by Packaging (35 percent), Plastics and Rubber (20 percent), Food Technology (Processing) at 18 percent, Printing, Graphic and Converting (17 percent), and Foundry and Metallurgical Machinery (16 percent).
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