If going green is just a marketing slogan then this article isn’t for you. If you’re serious, then you will need to consider all aspects of your manufacturing process beginning with your supply chain.
To truly “go green”, one of the first aspects that you need to consider is the environmental impact the physical distance your components travel to get from raw materials to finished product.
Let’s look at plastics as an example.
Paragon has a customer that uses a large plastic housing that is molded at a local molding facility. This supplier delivers these housings in cardboard boxes, 12 per box separated by a thick paper layer. Paragon recycles the cardboard box, and we reuse the paper separators when we ship the finished product to our customer.
Since the molding house is local, they can deliver the product with minimal packaging because they control the shipping environment. This also has the effect of minimizing fuel consumption because the parts come directly from the factory without first going through a distribution center.
The only plastic bags that are used in the entire process are the bags that the bulk components are delivered in, the bags we use in our kitting process, and the bags we place the finished assembly in for shipment.
Paragon has another customer that states they’re “going green” but has their plastics molded in China due to cost considerations. But what is the true cost to their green marketing strategy?
The raw materials are shipped to China. After the parts are molded each part is placed in a plastic bag. Every 5 parts (in their individual bags) are placed into another plastic bag. 5 bags of 5 are then placed in a bigger plastic bag that goes into a cardboard box. The box then travels across the ocean by freighter (which is powered by heavy fuel oil that is much higher in sulfur than diesel), loaded onto a diesel-powered truck and driven to a distribution center. Then loaded onto another truck to be delivered to Paragon where we un-package everything and throw away all the plastic bags.
So, let’s compare:
For the customer with the local supplier, Paragon recycles 42.3 cardboard boxes and throws away 5.4 plastic bags for every 500 units we build.
For the customer with the supplier located in China, Paragon recycles 935.6 cardboard boxes and throws away 22,000 plastic bags for every 500 units we build. That is not a typo… Twenty-Two Thousand!!
While off-shore suppliers may be less expensive, freight, packaging, and subsequent waste and pollution cannot be ignored if you truly want to be an eco-friendly business. This is applicable to all aspects of the supply chain, whether it is plastics, PCBAs, metal work or wiring, and must be considered if you truly want to “go green”.
Studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for a truly eco-friendly product. If your company has made a commitment to employ sustainable business practices be sure that you’re meeting that commitment from the beginning with your component sourcing.
Going green means going local.