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Change tools realise sustainable ideas

If Sweden and the rest of the world are to succeed in transitioning their economies to meet the challenges of climate change on time, industry must also change from being a part of the problem to a part of the solution. In many companies, employees have their own ideas about how to make various processes more sustainable. RISE supports industries in their efforts to turn those ideas into reality.

At present, the manufacturing industry accounts for at least one-fifth of the EU’s climate emissions. It is also one of the main driving forces behind emissions from traffic and energy production. Initiatives aimed at reducing climate emissions need to be done in a way that does not worsen other environmental problems. With this in mind, it can be helpful to investigate methods used in research when studying overall production.

– “The potential for reducing waste and thereby environmental impact is enormous. Just ten percent of the energy used in manufacturing processes is for the value-adding component of production. And, just seven percent of the material we extract from the ecosystem actually winds up in a product,” explains Martin Kurdve, Researcher in Sustainable Development of Production Systems at Rise. “The figures are a bit better for the process industry, but there is huge potential for improvement here as well. By putting on our “green” eyeglasses, we really can make great progress in reducing the waste of raw materials and energy. We can also discover opportunities in line with circularity or longer product lifetime, along with seeing where we need to change the requirements in various parts of supply chains,” he says.

Existing methods useful in sustainability work

The methods that many industries are already using today include Operational Excellence, Lean and similar methodologies aimed at achieving sustainability targets. For quite some time, RISE has been an important partner to many small and medium-sized companies, helping them make their processes more efficient via, for example, the nationwide Production Leap Development Programme. Together with its partners, RISE is developing a change programme to offer additional support to industry with their sustainability efforts. The goal is twofold, namely to achieve direct results and build up the long-term competencies at companies.

– “In the early days of the Production Leap Development Programme, companies tended to regard their sustainability issues as a third-hand priority. Today, however, these are some of their highest priority issues. And as such, it becomes natural to base sustainability change initiatives on the Lean concept. Lean efforts focus on operations, i.e. the central processes that involve everyone in the company. Too often, environmental and sustainability work has been a secondary concern at companies. But by applying the Lean methodology, we can succeed in making environmental efforts operational,” says Martin Kurdve.

When employees themselves are involved in identifying where there is waste, they tend to find more and greater development opportunities than what the experts and consultants tend to find

Easy-to-use tools that support innovation

Requirements on the various tools that RISE uses, like Green Kaizen and Green Performance Map, are that they must be easy to use for employees at various levels in the organization and they must support the ability to innovate at all levels in industry.

– “It can be beneficial to use external energy consultants, who can help identify where there is waste in such things as buildings, ventilation and infrastructure. Still though, those working in production are the ones who really know the most about what can be made more efficient there. My experience is clear. When employees themselves are involved in identifying where there is waste, they tend to find more and greater development opportunities than what the experts and consultants tend to find. Typically, you need both however,” he says.

But Marin Kurdve says that this type of development work is not beyond the scope of what is possible for smaller companies. In fact, the opposite is sometimes true.

– “As Astra Zeneca currently develops and implements its Green Lean programme, it is applying methodologies based on how smaller companies work. This is where you are really in touch with the business and can get the best assurance that everyone is aware of the role they play and how their own contribution and ideas can make things more efficient. At RISE we are working with our partners to have an even wider influence and are working with even more companies and even further away from production. We are even extending our efforts to the public sector. We are convinced that many of the tools we have developed can benefit many in their work with sustainability,” concludes Martin Kurdve.

Published: 2021-11-22
Martin Kurdve

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