Scaling to Prepare Process Phase
After successful scoping, the company aims to scale the approach according to their specific product or business strategy. Appropriate communication of facts based on one core life cycle information system is essential. C-level, engineering department heads as well as research engineers need tailored communication packages based on the same facts and data.
Therefore software and database management and maintenance ideally moves into the core of the activity. Foreground data management and in-house data collection needs to be consistent with supplier data collection and integration as well as background data management. Data updates from the background data supplier and distribution of their own company data to subsidiaries is organized including quality assurance routines. Leading companies start to organize their work by client–server based team work approaches. To harvest information synergies similar activities are combined under one common umbrella of a life cycle based sustainability approach, incorporating corporate sustainability activities as well as compliance and material information topics.
Integration and automation is a core topic if companies aim to scale their life cycle based sustainability activities. Automated LCA generation using existing information like e.g. “bill-of-materials (BOM)” or recipe lists is another area where leading companies are scaling the process towards higher quality in less time. Linking to ERP systems and available in-house data systems is also a promising step in scaling. The scaling phase increasingly enables integrated monetary assessments, with approaches like life cycle costing (LCC) and environmental costing approaches (e.g. Trucost) along with options to quantify or evaluate social aspects.
Summarizing, it can be said that in the scaling phase enterprise sustainability performance software (GRI, Energy & Carbon, EH&S, supply chain, building portfolios), management systems (EMAS, ISO 14001/50001), product sustainability performance software (LCA, EPD, PEF, Eco-Design), EPD and LCA automation as well as PLM-integrated materials compliance management is most effective when operated over one integrated platform to gain maximum from synergy and consistency and to reduce risks from data gaps and inappropriate data.
An example of successful scaling is with an American multinational confectionery, food and beverage enterprise that had a challenge to understand the environmental impacts for products and packaging. The aim was to improve process efficiently and examine new promising technology. The solution was to conduct LCAs for core food products and to establish a professional LCA in-house team. Alongside these activities an extensive database of in-house process data as well as external upstream and background data was partly set up and partly bought on demand. The measures incorporated sustainability into many of its existing and new products. The business value was the company is able to select the best alternative with regards to economic and environmental aspects before finalizing a new product design. This includes the quantification of incorporated costs in analysis to realize savings.
Another example again with an American multinational, this time an information technology corporation. The challenge here was increased customer demand for environmentally preferable and professionally registered products. Further, and inevitably, the need for LCA-backed information to guide product development teams. A further challenge was the complex supply chains. The solution was a LCA platform with pre-configured LCA templates to allow to scale and run over 70 LCAs on their portfolio using an LCA solution. The business value was that the LCA platform realized savings of over USD$1 million and hundreds of hours of time. A further business value is the increased efficiency and the ease of registering products within the assessment standard. This means in the end a faster market access to maintain a competitive advantage.
Another example, this time a German automobile manufacturer needed its existing and new products to comply with legislations such as the EU Directive 2005/64/EC on the recyclability of motor vehicles. The company applied professional software and extensive data sets to analyze vehicle components in terms of their recyclability. Scenario calculations allowed the consideration and comparison of different material options, and to improve favourable options. For example, different front module concepts were compared and material options like steel, aluminium-steel, plasticsteel assessed. The analysis revealed different strengths of the concepts concerning primary energy demand, weight and recycling. Scenario calculation showed improvement potentials which have been applied accordingly. The business value is combined compliance and improvement.
Another German automobile manufacturer also achieved success with international production sites and brands. The challenge was to perform an LCA of every new vehicle already in the design phase, to be able to grasp and execute on design options and optimization potentials. The goal was to combine design for environment with marketing and communication. The solution was a software implementation and corresponding BOM import for efficient LCA work. The benefit is the automobile manufacturer now optimizes cost and environmental impact of cars already during product development.