Shifting to green manufacturing is not only economically profitable but also ecologically beneficial

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Going green seems to be the trend once again. Consumer electronics biggies such as LG, BenQ, Samsung, Philips, Godrej and many others are all smitten by the green bug. They are realising the importance of becoming more responsible towards the environment and finding that green manufacturing initiatives offer market advantages and an edge over competitors. “Manufacturers can actually save money by manufacturing greener products and adopting greener manufacturing processes,” says Amitabh Tiwari, business group marketing head, home entertainment, LG Electronics.

By Srabani Sen

Wednesday, March 17, 2010: Green manufacturing and management is all about designing products using green technologies, that is eco-friendly technologies, and also making the manufacturing process environmental friendly. The green manufacturing movement emerged in the 1970s but the craze declined only to surface again in the 1990s and decline again. Industry analysts believe that this time the green manufacturing movement is here to stay. “There is very serious interest within the industry to make manufacturing and gadgets green,” says Vivek Tyagi, country manager, Sales, Freescale Semiconductor India. “We are currently witnessing a shift in philosophy, with an acceptance and emphasis towards going green,” he adds.

Manufacturers are being motivated to go green by spiralling energy costs, growing concerns about the future of non-renewable resources, surging consumer demand for eco-friendly products and processes and environmental sustainability. As more and more manufacturers incorporate sustainable manufacturing processes and churn out green products, they see measurable energy savings, reduced carbon emissions and the emergence of a wide range of green technologies and products. “Green manufacturing, no doubt, reduces costs, improves process efficiency and encourages development of new eco-friendly products,” confirms a BenQ spokesperson.

What it actually means

Many people think that green production simply entails instituting pollution controls, meeting quality standards or recycling products. The reality, however, is that green manufacturing aims to minimise the negative impact of manufacturing on the environment, at every stage. Green production also means that companies transform their input and output processes—from processing raw material to producing the end product. “The main purpose of green production is to minimise emissions and e-wastes; minimise the use of virgin material and non-renewable forms of energy; and reduce the lifecycle cost of products or services,” says Tiwari.

The Indian government is taking the initiative to market Indian manufacturing as green to make it popular and have an edge over Chinese or US products which are typically energy-intensive. According to the government, Indian manufacturers in most sectors are far more energy efficient than their counterparts abroad. Their manufacturing processes and products are more environmentally compatible.

India’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions is slated to increase threefold by 2030 and is set to reach up to 7.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2031. This alarming trend is partly due to the Indian IT industry. According to IDC, the energy emitted by desktops and laptops alone contributes to enormous levels of greenhouse gas emissions as a large amount of the power in desktop PCs is wasted as heat. “Next to the US, Russia and China, India is proclaimed as the world’s fourth-largest polluter. Hence the need of the hour is to invest in green and clean technologies in our country. India must start looking at developing technologies that will abet the green movement and the government is willing to invest in driving this mission,” states Tyagi. “While there is support from the government, the industry too needs to collaborate by not just developing green technologies but also ensuring its implementation,” he adds.

Green gadgets

Indian biggies have started taking the initiative, though in baby steps. Many firms are going in for ‘green technologies’—from techniques to generate energy to non-toxic cleaning products. Some companies are interested in technologies that eliminate lead; some others go in for those that recover material from the product during processing. In the automotive industry, the focus is on technology that can reduce emissions and recover materials that improve conservation efforts.

To comply with social responsibility and profitability factors, companies are also developing electronics components and systems that are very low on electricity consumption and are aptly called energy-saving gadgets. This is despite the fact that the production of energy-efficient appliances is nearly 5-15 per cent costlier.

Encouraged by the success of energy-efficient ACs and refrigerators, consumer electronics companies are now making TVs, washing machines and microwave ovens green as well. “LG’s star-rated colour televisions comply with the guidelines issued by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) for annual power consumption. LG’s five-star rated televisions have an APC of 147 kWh/year in the 53cm models and 204 kWh/year in the 74cm model (considering a daily usage pattern of six hours in ‘on’ mode and 12 hours in ‘standby’ mode). These star-rated TVs result in energy savings of up to 50 per cent on an annual basis,” says Tiwari. “LG’s star-rated air-conditioners and refrigerators have also received the coveted star-rating from BEE. The secret lies in our extra powerful compressor and our design for the evaporator/condenser coils. These optimise every bit of power to give maximum efficiency and cooling and cuts down the electricity bill,” he adds.

“LG’s LCD and plasma TVs can be considered green due to the use of different permutations and combinations of energy-saving modules, intelligent sensors, video mute and zero wattage used in standby mode, all of which help in saving energy. LG has provided a one-touch remote key for activating the energy-saving mode in all its recent LCD and plasma models. Our CRT TVs are also green as they use energy-efficient power supply circuits and less than 1W used in standby mode that saves energy,” adds Tiwari.

LG plans to launch more energy-saving gadgets in the future as well. “We would like to introduce the energy-saving mode to all our product lines. For example, we have recently introduced star-rating in our new range of CTVs. Globally, LG runs a ‘green product’ campaign for LCD and PDP TVs which not only focuses on energy-efficient products but also products complying with RoHS norms,” he says.

BenQ also claims to produce green products. Each of BenQ’s products have at least three eco-labels. “The green factors are taken care of at the design stage—BenQ products use 28 per cent recycled plastic material and 70 per cent recycled paper. Its products save electricity by 30-40 per cent,” says the BenQ spokesperson. “Some of our green gadgets are LED monitors—V2400 and V2200—followed by products in Joybook, the LCD TV VK3211, the projector MP772ST, the all-in-one PC i221Eco, etc,” he adds.

Freescale Semiconductor India provides chips that play a big role in saving energy in customers’ end products, claims the company. “We work with our customers and business partners on developing new techniques for next-generation products that are more energy efficient. Whether the application requires a longer battery life or needs to reduce heat dissipation, the system designers have to rely on semiconductors that meet their performance requirements without exceeding a limited energy budget,” explains Tyagi.

Freescale works closely with its customers to clearly define the performance and energy parameters they require. “Through close cooperation, we can optimise our solutions to help them make energy-efficient designs that are easy to develop, speed up the time to market and are more attractive to customers,” he adds.

Remanufacturing and recycling

Green manufacturing also involves product recovery activities and reverse logistics. Product recovery activities are undertaken to convert a returned product into a usable one through various activities like remanufacturing, recycling, refurbishing, etc. Reverse logistics focuses on the inbound supply and distribution of used products and inventory management.

While recycling is done to recover useful material, remanufacturing is done for the recovery of parts, components and modules. “These recovered parts or components are cleaned, inspected, sometimes tested and, if necessary, repaired and replaced with new ones and then reassembled to build up a product with quality that is as good as new. A remanufactured product is often cheaper than a new one as the reprocessing and manufacturing expenditures (time, energy, cost) are much less. For example, a used machine can be remanufactured for 50-60 per cent of the cost of a new machine,” says Tiwari.

Green manufacturing has been successfully operating in Europe and the US. There are about 73,000 firms engaged in remanufacturing in the US. In India, unfortunately, product recovery is still not well known in the business sector. Although Indian manufacturers have realised the seriousness of the clean environment issue, no organised effort has yet been made in this field. Though there is a strong second-hand market and an unorganised sector for product recovery practices exist in India, the country has enough potential for an organised sector for remanufactured and recovered products and components.

Tyagi believes it is increasingly becoming mandatory for more and more products to meet the strict emission regulations. For instance, small engines, especially carburetted two-stroke engines, are major sources of air pollution. “To help small engine makers meet stringent new emission regulations, Freescale designers have created a chip to control all analogue functions and reduce emissions from small petrol engines,” says Tyagi.

Going green is profitable

Companies that take proactive steps towards a clean and green environment through green manufacturing processes have advantages in business, says Tiwari. “They not only gain a ‘greener’ image in the public eye but also get more time to develop methods to reduce e-waste and can do so on their own schedule. Companies that wait until they are forced to change and switch to green operations often find themselves in an expensive, last-minute scramble to meet the requirements. As a result, they end up investing more money for a less effective solution,” he says.

Green manufacturing has become not just a more responsible way of producing goods but a more profitable one as well. Green production is a business strategy that focuses on profitability through environment-friendly operating processes. Proponents of this management philosophy believe that green production is a sensible course to follow not only because of the benefits it bestows on the environment but also because of its fundamental strategic soundness.

“The only problem that hinders green products from becoming popular is the fact that they are more expensive than the traditional products, so it is difficult to create a market for them,” says BenQ spokesperson. “But ultimately, manufacturers who have invested money in greener production processes have been able to cut the cost of their green products,” concludes Tyagi.

How green are the firms

While companies claim to provide customers with green gadgets, how can we be sure exactly where our favourite companies stand in their overall switch to green practices? Let’s find out.

Motorola’s manufacturing facility at Sriperumbudur near Chennai was honoured with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDR) certification by the Indian Green Buildings Council. The award recognises Motorola’s factory as the first green manufacturing site in India, which manages storm water run-off and has a rainwater harvesting pond. The facility also has a water-recycling facility by which it is able to reduce municipal water consumption.

Samsung Electronics announced a green management initiative that, the company claims, would establish it as a leading eco-friendly company by 2013. Focused on achieving low-carbon economic growth, the company laid out four core green management objectives as part of its ‘Eco-Management 2013’ plan. The objectives included reducing greenhouse gas emissions by cutting total indirect greenhouse gas emissions from all products by 84 million tons over a five year period; ensuring all Samsung products are eco-friendly enough to meet global eco-mark standards; investing 5.4 trillion Korean Won in various eco-management initiatives; and enhancing green partnerships with suppliers and partners.

Wipro Infotech has been rated India’s number one green brand and among the top five global green brands by Greenpeace. Wipro claims to have made sustainable efforts on energy-efficiency and effective e-waste management programmes. It not only uses eco-friendly technologies but practices all green manufacturing processes.

Epson makes its packaging from trees grown specifically for that purpose and plants 20 per cent more trees than it cuts down.

Lenovo’s energy-efficient monitors contain 25 per cent recycled material, and the company recovers gold, silver and other precious metals from products at the end of their lives.

Nokia has reduced the amount of no-load energy (the electricity that cellphone chargers consume when they are left plugged in after a phone is charged) sucked up by its phone chargers by 90 per cent, and now its phones alert users to unplug chargers.

Panasonic’s plasma TVs consume 96 per cent less energy than its plasma TVs did in 2000.

Kodak has recycled 1.2 billion single-use cameras since 1990, recycling 120 million last year. Almost all the new single-use cameras of the company contain recycled parts.

Intel runs a capital funding programme for conservation and efficiency efforts, approving more than 200 projects since 2001 that have saved more than 400 million kW hours of electricity.

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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