Supply Chain

Your guide to sustainable supply chain best practices

By April 18, 2022
birdeye view of depot

Making the manufacturing industry greener requires implementing sustainability best practices from end to end, and the importance of supply chain sustainability can’t be understated. Manufacturing and transporting goods are energy-intensive processes, and the majority of most companies’ environmental impact can be attributed to their supply chain.

However, supply chains are complex, and making them sustainable isn’t an easy task. This article in our sustainability series will give you a place to start. Here are three ways product teams and manufacturers can carry sustainability through the final leg of the production process.

How to increase sustainability across your supply chain

1. Work with sustainable suppliers

To start building a more sustainable supply chain, prioritize working with sustainable suppliers that are making concrete efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. Ask questions like:

You’ll also want to inquire about any prospective supplier’s green business certifications. These certifications are awarded to companies with principles, policies, and practices that improve quality of life and benefit the planet. There are several general green business certifications, and each has its own standards. Some popular certifications include:

2. Switch to a distributed manufacturing approach

Adopting a distributed manufacturing strategy is one way to make manufacturing more sustainable. Traditional manufacturing strategies involve producing large quantities of goods at a single production facility and then sending them to warehouses for storage and future distribution. Unfortunately, this approach to manufacturing contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, freight is responsible for 40% of the U.S. transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A distributed manufacturing model, on the other hand, spreads production across multiple geographically dispersed manufacturing facilities. This allows for greater flexibility and scalability, faster turnaround times, and shorter supply chains. By producing products closer to your customers, you can reduce transportation distances, get products to customers faster, and lower your carbon footprint. Shorter supply chains with distributed production also reduces the need for air freight. Transporting parts by truck or train instead of air can greatly reduce products’ environmental impact because air transport releases 11x more emissions than truck transport and 31x more emissions than train transport per km/per ton.

By using additive manufacturing technologies in these local production facilities, you can further maximize your resource usage and lower production costs. Additive produces less excess material waste than subtractive manufacturing processes like CNC machining. Plus, you’ll be able to manufacture goods on demand, eliminating waste from obsolete parts and reducing the water and electricity consumption associated with maintaining warehouse space. In fact, you can pair traditional high-volume manufacturing technologies like injection molding with lower-volume technologies like 3D printing to dynamically respond to changes in demand. For example, you can validate a part on additive technologies while your volumes are ramping up, use injection molding at peak production, and return to additive as your volumes ramp down at the end of its lifecycle and for ongoing spare parts production.

3. Make shipping and transporting goods eco-friendly

To make shipping and transporting goods more eco-friendly, try these tips:

Eco-friendly packaging

Creating more sustainable supply chains with Fast Radius

Improving sustainability in the manufacturing industry means taking a closer look at your supply chain. Paying attention to who you’re working with, shifting to a distributed manufacturing model, consolidating shipments, and using less packaging can increase sustainability. If you need some help, partner with an experienced manufacturer.

Fast Radius is passionate about building more sustainable manufacturing and supply chain strategies. Contact us today to start building a more sustainable supply chain.

Visit our resource center to learn about using additive for end-use parts, sustainable manufacturing practices, and more.

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