Assessing attitudes on sustainability | machine design

Officials at Protolabs, a company that offers manufacturing services such as 3D printing, CNC machining, and injection molding to designers and manufacturing companies, were curious to find out what the companies were doing with their design initiatives. sustainable development.

To find out, the company commissioned EGL ACE Research to conduct an online survey of executives, sustainability managers and product developers in the medical, automotive and aerospace industries. The goal was to find out what they and their companies are doing to achieve sustainability success, how product design is affected, and how manufacturing can help achieve sustainability goals.

They received responses from 200 people, including 50 corporate executives, 50 sustainability managers and professionals, and 100 product designers and engineers. 75% of respondents are between 36 and 55 years old, including 60% at least 46 years old. 90% worked in companies with at least 100 employees and 30% worked in companies with 1,000 or more employees.

Most respondents had significant exposure to the concept of sustainability. 68% had been involved in the concept for at least six years and 21% had been working on it for 11 years or more.

Defining sustainability

It would seem that most engineers include several aspects of sustainability in the performance of their duties. They look for the least expensive methods and materials to accomplish a task or make a product. They strive to reduce scrap and not waste energy. They also comply with environmental regulations.

“Engineers are focused on efficiency in their work,” says Paige Marie-Morse, sustainability manager at AspenTech, a company that helps businesses monitor and manage their assets. Its asset management software helps organizations streamline engineering and maintenance to reduce downtime and increase operational efficiency. “But at AspenTech, we align our definition of sustainability with the United Nations Brundtland Commission. She defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs”.

“What has changed for engineers are the parameters used to evaluate projects and designs. Industry organizations have broadened their performance metrics beyond just financial performance and return on investment in product design to increasingly consider environmental metrics such as emissions and waste reduction, and environmental impact. manufacturing processes on local communities. It is the balance between these factors, as well as the tracking of less obvious measures, that makes efforts towards sustainability more difficult.

The results

For the most part, their organization’s commitment to sustainability was based more on the bottom line and improving the company’s reputation than on a commitment to idealistic goals.

Whatever their reason for supporting sustainability, most companies have made product design changes in response.

According to the survey, respondents say that 88% of companies have made changes to product design and durability in the past two years. So it seems that companies are doing a lot to achieve sustainability in product design.

Current and future emphasis appears to be on mission-driven efforts such as corporate social responsibility (CSR). For this survey, CSR is the way companies adapt product development so that it has a positive effect on society and is not limited to economic consequences alone. We know that more than 60% of respondents say they favor this approach in product design, and more than half plan to increase CSR initiatives in the coming years.

The survey also indicates that sustainability initiatives have positive momentum among product design and engineering companies.

Respondents were then asked which areas of product design/development in their company would benefit the most from implementing sustainability initiatives. 51% mentioned materials engineering and 50% mentioned sourcing and procurement.

They were also asked how confident they were that employees understood and could explain how the company’s sustainability initiatives align with the company’s overall strategy. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very confident, executives and sustainability professionals gave 8. Product designers and engineers scored just under 7.

When asked how confident they were that the company’s investments in sustainability would result in significant value, revenue gains, cost savings and business value, the responses were similar. Executives and sustainability professionals gave their confidence an 8, while engineers and product development designers gave their confidence a 7.

Here are some comments on this survey question from respondents ranked by their ratings.

Thus, according to the results of the survey, those responsible for developing sustainable development strategies are more confident about the success of its implementation than those responsible for its implementation.

Those who define and execute the sustainability strategy also have a list of priorities.

Respondents indicate that the sustainable management of materials should be the main challenge now and in the future. Overall, companies expect to be working towards these same goals in two years.

Sustainability seems to be such a broad umbrella that it takes up a lot of employees’ time. As shown in the table below, respondents report working on a variety of sustainability initiatives.

Many initiatives compete for the organization’s time and resources, which could distract the company’s attention from more profitable activities.

For a copy of the report, click here.

Comments are closed.