Ympäristönäkökulmien huomioiminen tuotekehityksessä

The environmental perspectives in product development

Ilmastonmuutos, mikromuovien päätyminen meriin ja ravintoketjuumme, kaivostoiminnan vastuullisuus ovat hallinneet uutisia viime aikoina. Julkisen keskustelun ansiosta kuluttajien tietoisuus omien valintojensa ympäristövaikutuksista on kasvanut. Tämä on ohjannut niin yksittäisten kuluttajien, kuin yritystenkin ostopäätöksiä entistä ympäristöystävällisempään suuntaan.

Tuotekehityksen on aika ottaa ympäristö paremmin huomioon

Pörssinoteerattujen ja muiden suurempien yritysten on jo vuosia pitänyt julkaista toimintansa ympäristöystävällisyyttä käsitteleviä raportteja. Mutta miten yritykset voivat pelkän jälkijättöisen raportoinnin sijaan etsiä aktiivisesti ympäristöystävällisiä ratkaisuja kehittäessään tuotteitaan ja toimintaansa? Blogikirjoituksessa käsitellään menetelmiä, joita kehityksen eturintamassa olevat yritykset käyttävät, ja joiden käytöstä hyötyvät yritykset itse, niiden asiakkaat sekä tietysti ympäristö. Blogikirjoitus on luettavissa kokonaisuudessaan englanniksi.

It’s Time to Design for Environment

Climate change, microplastics ending up in the seas and in the food chain, and other similar environmental issues have dominated the news lately. As a result, increasing number of consumers have become aware of the impact of their own behavior on the environment. This has also changed the buying behavior of individual consumers, as well as corporations, towards more eco-friendly choices.

Stock listed companies, and other large companies have for several years had the requirement to publish sustainability reports outlining their carbon footprint, use of water, and other increasingly scarce natural resources. But rather than just compiling a report, how do you proactively secure that your products, and your operations are sustainable? Let’s look at some practices that can help you.

Practices that make your products and operations sustainable

Using energy consumption simulations

Energy consumption simulations have been around for some time but are still not widely used as means to optimize products or production processes, with maybe the exception of automotive and aerospace industries. There are however excellent examples of companies using tools like Tecnomatix Plant Simulation to analyze and reduce energy consumption of their manufacturing operations. BMW for example has reported saving 3 million kWh of electricity per year at its largest engine manufacturing facility by using energy simulation capabilities of Plant Simulation to find an optimal manufacturing process. This translates to reducing the auto manufacturer’s carbon footprint by 550 tons of CO2 per year.

Applying system simulation

Another example of how companies can proactively take environmental aspect into consideration is system simulation of the products they develop. Tools like Simcenter Amesim allow for example automotive companies, and heavy off-road equipment manufacturers to develop simulation models for optimizing range and performance. Such tools allow developing advanced energy management models. Combined with design exploration tools, such as Heeds, these simulation tools can be used to optimize the products e.g. in terms of performance and energy consumption.

Combining fluid dynamics tools with design exploration tools

Combining computational fluid dynamics tools and design exploration tools provides powerful capabilities to eco-optimize certain types of products. Becker Marine Systems for example has developed a retrofit energy saving device for merchant ships, that improves propeller efficiency. Using CFD-based design exploration Becker Marine Systems can optimize the design for hull form and realize up to 5-6 % savings in annual fuel consumption. This is huge, since an average size merchant vessel listed at 55 000 DWT will use appr. 160 tons of fuel per day at normal cruising speed. Each such ship equipped with this device will save over 2 000 tons of fuel per year. Becker Marine Systems in fact states on their web page that with 1 050 ships equipped with this device so far, total sum of CO2 saved to date is more than 6,5 million tons.

Applying a holistic approach

A more holistic approach to evaluating environmental performance of products has also seen the daylight, with rising demands from customers and regulators for increased transparency in environmental issues. Life cycle assessment (LCA) has emerged as the de facto tool for continuously improving environmental performance. LCA can be applied to e.g. analyzing environmental impact of products, packaging, and production processes, and it can deliver business benefits in the form of gaining market access, enhancing brand value, and lowering costs.

    • By combining such Teamcenter tools as Integrated Material Management, and Substance Compliance with environmental impact indicator data for materials from Siemens partner thinkstep, companies can enable evaluating environmental impact of component and material selections already during product design. When environmental impact indicators are exposed to design engineers they are empowered to take eco-friendly design decisions.

    • Substance compliance experts can simultaneously run environmental compliance checks to secure that products meet all relevant regulations for restricted substances.

    • Finally, eco-design cost savings can be identified, and detailed environmental impact of a product assessed with tools like GaBi life cycle assessment software from thinkstep. With GaBi companies can also create required environmental product declarations.

Engineering community is in a unique position to respond to the challenges of climate change, and circular economy. As you can see, the tools exist for both finding environmentally optimal design solutions, and for holistic, advance evaluation of the environmental impact of products. It’s time to put them in good use!

Get in touch with me to discuss what we could do together to make your products and design sustainable!


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