Environmentally sound manufacturing looks good on paper, but is not practical according to some industrialists. In reality, sustainable manufacturing makes more sense than any process used in the past. Here are a few points raised by proponents that point to why manufacturing in general must continue to adapt to a sustainable model.
Putting Waste to Good Use
Manufacturing does involve the production of waste materials. What happens when the waste is put to good use? New products are born. Take the example of Ecovative, a Vermont-based company. The business is the result of a project to create plastics from oyster mushrooms. What founders Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer found is that using a combination of mushroom roots and discarded corn stalks produced a material that works great for filler in packages.
The fact that the packing materials are biodegradable means they pose no threat to the environment. Bayer sums up the case for this example of sustainable manufacturing using terms anyone can grasp. In a video shared at a Forbes conference, he stated “When this organism grows in situ right now it binds things together, but with biology you can tell these organisms to do extra things; to make a compound while you’re growing. That’s our long range vision for biofabrication.”
The Next Big Thing
Running away or minimizing the importance of sustainable manufacturing will mean failure to get in on what many consider the next big thing. Take the example of what is referred to as synthetic biology. While the idea has been around for decades, it is only now beginning to come into its own. Part of that is due to the increased use of something that only a short time ago was considered the next big thing: computer technology.
Entrepreneurs like Bryan Johnson get the connection. Through Ginkgo Bioworks, a company operating under the auspices of Johnson’s OS Fund, a marriage between technology and biology is taking place. The business uses a combination of traditional manual strategies with an expanding range of technological approaches to produce a wide range of projects using organic matter.
Why does this matter? Using organic matter in manufacturing means using renewable resources along with reducing waste. Given that synthetic biology in manufacturing is projected to account for $5.6 billion by 2018 that should be reason enough for industrialists to see the potential to increase their bottom lines.
Need another reason? Ginkgo is also working on collaborative projects aimed at treating medical conditions and also counteracting the effects of greenhouse emissions on the quality of air. The methods currently used to make usable and affordable products using synthetic biology are at the forefront of these projects.
The Left Behind Syndrome
If the history of manufacturing has taught entrepreneurs nothing else, it demonstrates what happens when people become so married to older methods that they cannot see potential in new ways of doing things. Think of what auto manufacturing would be like without the improvements made by Ford’s assembly line process. How many products would not exist today if someone had not set out to come up with a newer and better way to get things done?
As newer approaches gain a toehold, those who cling to less efficient and outmoded processes lose their market share. Some recover by jumping on the bandwagon late while others fade into oblivion. For any industrialist who wants to still be around a decade or so from now, paying close attention to sustainable manufacturing is not just a good idea, it is essential for survival.
The bottom line is synthetic biology and other approaches to sustainable manufacturing are here and they are not going away. While there is still work to be done, they are changing and maybe even saving industry. Stop running from success and start adapting. In the long run, the effort is worth it.