Metal fabrication is essential to the green energy industry’s production of solar panels, natural gas lines, and wind turbines. How can we make the metalworking industry more environmentally friendly?
If you’re familiar with the metal fabrication industry, you know that it’s a world steeped in tradition, forging fires, and the clanging of metal on metal. There are sparks and smoke, and sometimes risks from fumes or open flame.
No matter how you slice it, the creation of metal can be a messy business.
But now, it doesn’t have to be. With the invention of new technologies that help with the “greening” of the metal fabrication industry—along with a worldwide shift towards sustainable products and production—welding is moving more towards becoming what’s known as a “green collar job.”
It’s a pursuit that’s considered to be more ecologically friendly than ever before, plus it’s a trade with a bright future for those thinking about a career in welding.
Combine that with the fact that the green movement can actually save metal fabricators money in the long run, and there’s little reason not to embrace a sustainable initiative.
This is no small thing for an industry that’s been around for centuries.
There are actually two ways for a job to be green: either it can produce eco-friendly products, or it can use manufacturing that’s environmentally sustainable, even if the final product itself can’t be considered green.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that the former is referred to as the output approach—which “identifies establishments that produce green goods and services and counts the associated jobs”— and the latter is the process approach—which “identifies establishments that use environmentally friendly production processes and practices and counts the associated jobs”.
The process approach can be used in any industry, which makes it much easier to implement. Yet when it comes to metal fabrication, companies can have the best of both worlds.
A welding business can use the process approach if it incorporates environmentally friendly welding techniques, which could include vacuum soldering, friction welding, and diffusive welding. These may be cutting-edge techniques now, but in the future they could become more commonplace.
Still, you’re more likely to find metal fabrication companies utilizing the output approach: as the world moves towards more eco-friendly initiatives, there’s going to be more demand for metal that can help support green technology. We’ll touch on that more in the next section.
It’s also beneficial for metal fabrication companies to consider switching to green initiatives (e.g. change the process approach). There are numerous government agencies looking to provide support through assistance programs to help move more fabrication and manufacturers towards eco-friendly production.
For example, Fabricating & Metalworking mentions the Green Suppliers Network, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency along with the U.S. Department of Commerce, which has a mission “to help small and medium-sized manufacturers stay competitive and profitable while reducing their impact on the environment.”
The Industrial Technologies Program—Save Energy Now—has a goal to reduce 25 percent or more industrial energy intensity over a period of ten years.
There’s also the Industrial Technologies Program—Save Energy Now—which has a goal to reduce 25 percent or more industrial energy intensity over a period of ten years. There are even more programs set up through the Department of Energy, including the Better Plants Initiative and Superior Energy Performance certification.
The greening of the metal fabrication andwelding industry can go a long way towards attracting new and young talent as well. A blog post at Welding School citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics points out that the metal fabrication industry is expected to grow at a rate of 15 to 22 percent, which is much faster than other industries.
So while some trades may be a tough sell for students and individuals looking to get into a new line of work, there’s a strong future in metal and welding, and the potential to grow one’s income substantially year over year.
The green collar status of metal fabrication could even be a selling point for millennials and Generation Z who are more ecologically conscious than previous generations and would prefer to work in an industry that helps the planet.
A More Sustainable Future
When you discuss the movement towards creating a more environmentally friendly future, green inventions such as solar energy and wind turbines tend to take the forefront — anything that can help power our population without adding more carbon emissions. Look a little closer and you’ll realize that metal is the backbone of these eco-friendly creations.
Metal fabrication is already a necessity for markets like solar panels or pipelines, and Welding School adds that “the uptick in construction of clean energy structures like natural gas pipelines or solar panels will probably see a wave of welders and metal fabricators spilling over from less prosperous industries like the automotive industry.”
Given the rise of more compact electric cars, it’s a safe bet to say that as the future looks to the green movement, it’s wise to also pivot your welding career path in the same direction.
It’s not looking to be a passing fad. According to Fabricating & Metalworking, there are plenty of new magazines and trade publications that have a green outlook on the fabrication industry, offering stories on sustainable practices, ecologically friendly equipment, and case studies of businesses that found success by implementing greener ventures.
As more and more companies and branches of the government champion green business practices for manufacturing, the focus on eco-friendly technology will become the norm.
It’s likely that it will become just as profitable to use the process approach as it will be to have the output approach as well. It would be somewhat counterproductive for the metal in this sustainable technology to have been produced using methods that cause emissions, which is why fabricators could have even more success if they incorporate the process approach. It’s the logical next step towards the complete greening of the metal fabrication industry.
Greener Products, Greener Production
Since so many are concerned about saving our planet, it’s only natural that manufacturing industries ought to consider taking on green initiatives. Fortunately for metal fabricators, their industry is well structured to be a leader in the green collar sector, and it looks like there won’t be any shortage of jobs as more people will be needed to help craft metal for sustainable technology.
Whether it’s integrating new welding methods, setting up manufacturing and production to be more efficient, or pledging to work with the government’s sustainable business programs, the ways that metal fabrication can support a greener future for the planet are limitless.
Aaron Continelli, President of Cre8tive Technology and Design, started things small in 2005. What began as a one-person consulting firm has now become a staff of 58 with three office locations. Specializing in ERP system sales and services, Cre8tive Technology and Design became an EPICOR Partner (Value Added Reseller) in 2007. Since then, Cre8tive Technology and Design has emerged as one of EPICOR’s ELITE and won the 2013 and 2015 Americas Partner of the Year as the Top Revenue Producer.