With the increase of the human population and a proportional demand for products, manufacturing will continue to grow. Companies that thrive are those that are efficient in operations management by utilizing resources economically. By reducing production waste, good operations management improves operations' efficiency and effectiveness and maximizes its competitiveness. Waste minimization involves minimizing the amounts of inputs, work in progress, and outputs wasted in a business's production process. Working to minimize waste products has a direct impact not only on the company but also has a domino effect on numerous aspects.
Why is Waste Minimization Important?
It costs companies money to buy inputs, and if those inputs are used to produce defective goods that have to be thrown out, then the business is wasting money. In the case of toxic or bio-hazardous waste, it costs businesses money to treat and dispose of waste. The company is forced to make room for waste storage, which means more money is channeled into storage space. Waste material needs to be transported from the facility to the dumping ground and in return, transportation and logistics cost the business money.
Minimizing waste is also important for the environment. Each year, 40% of all industrial waste ends up in landfills - which is a problem for many reasons. For example, runoff waste from landfills ends up in surrounding water supplies, affecting the nearby communities. The EPA also determined that landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions caused by humans. Methane is much more potent than carbon dioxide, and it’s a huge contributor to the current climate crisis.
Production waste is clearly a problem, but there are all kinds of ways that businesses can turn waste into something beneficial. One benefit is that companies can save money by reusing waste or recovering materials from waste. A business can use those recovered materials instead of paying for new inputs. An excellent example of this point is when sugar mills reuse the sugarcane biomass as a fuel source for steam-powered electricity generators within the factory. Another example is when coconut oil producers reuse the coconut shells to fuel the production process. In this case, the waste material is transformed into raw material, thus killing two birds with one stone.
Industrial solid waste includes different kinds of materials like paper, plastic, wood, cardboard, packaging materials, scrap metal, and every other solid waste that can no longer fulfill its intended purpose. However, what may be considered waste in one industry can be used as raw materials in another, and some industrial waste is sent to recycling plants to be recycled for reuse. This semi-closed loop ensures that there is value addition in waste products.
Businesses can also earn revenue by selling products that are made from waste. With the world being encouraged to buy recycled goods, companies can make extra revenue by selling recycled products. Some companies end up forming smaller companies to recycle and sell their waste products. An example is when beer companies utilize the unwanted beer and brand it as a keg. The beer might not have reached premium quality, but instead of discarding it, the company sells it at a lower price and avoids getting losses. Revenue is thus generated from something that would have otherwise been discarded.
There may be laws that restrict the disposal of waste. If a business breaches those laws, they might be fined. In addition, it will often cost the business money to comply with those laws. Some laws require all factories to treat their waste before dumping it into the ocean. Sometimes the company can fail to meet all these regulatory hurdles and inspectors may deem the company as being complacent, closing the factory indefinitely. It takes money to satisfy the regulation committee once they have shut down a facility, so finding other ways that are more environmentally-friendly can help save costs in the long run.
Keep the Environment Safe
Most chemical waste generated by industries, including laboratories, hospitals, chemical plants, and garages, is toxic and hazardous. If not properly treated or disposed of, poisonous waste can lead to severe health and environmental risks, which is why standards dictate that it is to be handled only by government authorized and specialized facilities. Many industrialized areas do not yet have the resources or technology to dispose of the waste with lesser effects on the environment - so it is important for companies to keep striving for better resources.
Large amounts of water are needed in most industrial processes, which may contract harmful substances like radioactive materials, dirty water, organic liquids, rinse water, or waste detergents. Industrial liquid waste that flows into oceans, rivers, or lakes pose many environmental risks. Businesses and factories must install wastewater treatment facilities to stop the polluted water from flowing into large bodies of water. If the wastewater is untreated, it could harm the surrounding environment and even the surrounding human population in severe cases.
Objectives such as sustainable techniques to protect the environment can be consistent with financial business objectives such as increasing its profit. For example, General Mills took steps to shrink the amount of waste that goes into their products. By reducing the size of cereal boxes and re-engineering the noodles in their Hamburger Helper packages, they were able to save over 400 metric tons of paper fiber a year. It also allowed more packages to fit in each truckload, cutting down on transportation costs. This is an example of how protecting the environment with waste minimization is consistent with increasing profits by reducing the costs of replacing broken or lost materials.
How Can Businesses Minimize Waste?
There are many ways a business can work to minimize waste, such as reducing the use of inputs. For example, a business might use less plastic packaging for its products. It means that there will be less waste of plastic packaging when customers discard that packaging as they unwrap their products. Toyota is a great example of a company that is trying to reduce the use of inputs. Paint robots at the Toyota motor manufacturing plant in Kentucky have been programmed to paint along the cars' contours and use a cartridge and water-based system. Not only are they minimizing production costs, they may also boost sales by appealing to customers interested in saving the environment - and setting a good example for other companies.
Moving Towards Closed-Loop Manufacturing
Businesses can also minimize waste by recycling it. For example, discarded glass jars can be melted and remolded again into useful products, thus reducing production waste and avoiding making losses. This process is referred to as a semi-closed loop production process, otherwise known as up-cycling. Toyota is using recycling as a means of reducing waste products. Metal trimmed from parts during stamping is collected on a conveyor belt and recycled to make other products. Some companies are even using recycled plastics to make athletic wear or shoes. Many companies embrace the idea of a semi-closed production process, but the ultimate goal is to have many businesses using a closed-loop method.
One of the most significant advancements in the management of solid waste is that plastic waste can now be turned into a high-quality resin. It is ecologically and economically efficient, as the process produces less greenhouse gas than is produced when making prime resin.
Automated techniques will also continue to expand in order to aid with and enforce the division of waste from recycled materials. This includes utilizing robots at recycling facilities to sort the waste, GPS operated compactors that optimize compaction rates, and other techniques. Researchers will continue to formulate new technologies, such as the ability to locate unconventional recyclables like wasted food on site.
Regular Maintenance Schedule
Regular machine maintenance goes a long way in minimizing industrial waste. Faulty machinery tends to operate below its capacity. For an efficient production process, machinery should be subjected to regular check-ups and maintenance by qualified personnel. Faulty systems could contaminate the product or produce defective end products that end up being discarded. To have a smooth-running business, regular tune-ups are mandatory. Some policies have been put in place to ensure that factories have efficient mechanisms; regular visits by safety and energy regulators are a few measures the government takes.
Proper Metrology Tools
The use of proper metrology tools can drastically reduce industrial waste. By using exact measurements of raw materials, businesses can minimize waste by ensuring that only what is needed during production is being used. Overproduction and over-processing result in wastefulness, and it often results from a lack of proper metrology tools; not using adequate instrumentation in the production process could result in defective products being produced. Faulty goods that must be discarded produce unnecessary waste.
Using proper metrology tools also ensures final standardized products. Uniformity is essential, especially when a company is trying to minimize waste and calculate its commodities' exact values. Many government organizations are charged with ensuring that all industries are using the correct instrumentation in the production cycle. These policies are geared to ensure that involved parties produce quality goods, safeguard the environment, and save resources. Using the proper tools ensures that raw materials are used sparingly, and ratios are correctly determined. For example, using metrological tools in pharmaceutical industries is mandatory because the chemicals used in medicine have to be exact.
Metrology tools are also utilized in measuring the exact amount that industries are impacting the environment. Using proper metrology tools in assessing environmental degradation will help give a clear picture about important environmental aspects by measuring toxicity, salinity, pH, and heat. Environmental surveys should always be carried out using modern and well-calibrated metrology tools.
Every manufacturer produces waste, but it’s vital for each of these companies to continually work to reduce that amount of waste. By moving towards closed-loop manufacturing and utilizing processes that take advantage of recycling, companies can help cut down pollutants and litter that are detrimental to surrounding communities and the environment. Reducing production waste will result in a healthier planet while providing massive benefits to companies.