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The Future of Clean Manufacturing in the US

What does it take for a nation to become the home of supply chain and manufacturing practices that include minimal waste and prevention practices?

Improving supply chain and manufacturing methods, and educating consumers to demand greener electronics, and also less packaging is a good start for any supply chain wishing to contribute responsibly to a cleaner environment while doing its business.

As someone who cares about the environment, I am worried about the damage that humanity has been causing for decades now, not only to the environment that we all share, but also to the species living in it. For this reason, I was very pleased to learn that on March 26, the US Energy Department launched the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI).

Good for Supply Chain, Too

A new initiative focuses on boosting US competitiveness through improvements in manufacturing energy productivity.

A new initiative focuses on boosting US competitiveness
through improvements in manufacturing energy productivity.

Juicing manufacturing
The initiative focuses on “growing American manufacturing of clean energy products and boosting U.S. competitiveness across all sectors through major improvements in manufacturing energy productivity.” This is a part of the Obama administration's commitment to revitalizing all aspects of local manufacturing. A great, and so much needed, initiative, indeed.

Last year, here on EBN, we discussed plenty about bringing manufacturing back to the US: What could be done, how could it be done, and who should take the first step? This new initiative positively affects the US electronics supply chain in a positive manner.

So, what does the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative mean for the supply chain? According to the Solar Foundation, roughly 30,000 jobs in the solar sector in the US are in manufacturing.

The US wind supply chain has grown in recent years. Nearly 70 percent of the component parts of wind installations in the United States are being sourced domestically. All this effort translates into a means of reducing local and global air pollution. It also contributes to 7.9 percent reduction in computers and electronics supply chain.

According to the US Department of Energy, with the recent opening to manufacturers of a state-of-the-art $35 million Carbon Fiber Technology Facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn., clean energy companies and researchers are provided with a test bed for the development of less expensive, better performing carbon fiber materials, and manufacturing processes. In addition to the melt-spun fiber line to produce raw fiber materials, the facility expects to add a conversion line within this year. They also expect to produce 25 tons of carbon fiber annually.

Steel and aluminum are normally less expensive and easier to manufacture than carbon fiber. Now, the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility will help manufacturers lower the cost of production of their products. In turn, this will reduce end consumer prices. A win-win-situation, indeed.

The new Carbon Fiber Technology Facility represents a great potential in positioning the US in the international growing carbon fiber manufacturing sector. Finally, what is good for the environment is good for us.

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17 comments on “The Future of Clean Manufacturing in the US

  1. Ariella
    April 9, 2013

    Very interesting, Susan. You mention wind energy among the areas to be further developed. I wonder if companies will be turning to analytics, as they can be used to increase efficiency.This was explained in a recent article on Denmark-based wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems: 

    Situating wind turbines is about more than raising finance and winning governmental planning permission. The location of wind farms is an increasingly science-based activity, with developers modeling not just where to put the farms but also how to arrange each individual turbine to maximum effect.

    From working out how to maximise electricity generation and minimise maintenance costs, power companies need to look at wind patterns as well as rainfall, humidity and atmospheric pressure. And they need to model the airflow across turbine blades to calculate the best way to position each turbine tower.

    “People buy turbines not because they are beautiful, but because they want a return on investment,” said Lars Christian Christensen, a vice president at Vestas. “Our job is to make sure the buyer has the right site, but also the optimum layout for the turbines.”

    Using advanced analytics software and other tools to optimise wind turbine locations allows Christensen's team to “improve the output of the power plant by several percent,” he said. “You obtain a better output for the same cost. We use software modeling and tools to provide a better business case assessment and more certainty.”

     

  2. _hm
    April 9, 2013

    This is good symbolic gesture. Moot point is – how much is profitability and will it bring more jobs to USA? It is interesting to see if more independent entrepreneur embrace this concept. Concept is good.

     

  3. Anand
    April 10, 2013

    It also contributes to 7.9 percent reduction in computers and electronics supply chain.

    @Susan, thanks for the post. Its really good to hear that Obama administration is giving of stress on Clean manufacturing in the US. Could you please more elaborate on your point regarding what and how it contributes to 7.9 percent reduction in computers and electronics supply chain.

  4. Anand
    April 10, 2013

    Moot point is – how much is profitability and will it bring more jobs to USA?

    @_hm, no doubt profitability is important but since the initiatives are primiarily related to clean energy, I think we need to look beyond just profitability. Moreover creation of 30000 jobs will definitely boost the economy.

  5. prabhakar_deosthali
    April 10, 2013

    Clean manufacturing surely will help in improving our environment but the most important thing is to reduce the pace of innovation in consumer products. Too fast innovation is making the still working products obsolete , even making a large part inventories dead, and creating huge piles of e-waste.

    Can some policy decisions be taken jointly by all the key players across the world ?

  6. Ariella
    April 10, 2013

    @prabhakar_deosthali Ah, so haste really does make waste in this case.

  7. Susan Fourtané
    April 10, 2013

    Thanks, Ariella. 

    Most likely they will turn to analytics.

    Denmark is certainly a country to have as a model in wind power. They installed the first offshore wind farm in 1991.

    -Susan

  8. Susan Fourtané
    April 10, 2013

    _hm, 

    According to the  Solar Foundation, roughly 30,000 jobs in the solar sector in the US are in manufacturing.  So I would say of course, it's bringing more jobs already. 

    -Susan

  9. Susan Fourtané
    April 10, 2013

    Anandvy, 

    As nearly 70 percent of the component parts of wind installations in the United States are being sourced domestically this means this high percentage of local manufacturing is contributing to the reduction of local and global air pollution.

    If we take this reduction and see how much is contributed by computers and electronics supply chain it accounts to a 7.9 percent of the total reduction. 

    -Susan

  10. Susan Fourtané
    April 10, 2013

    Anandvy,

     no doubt profitability is important but since the initiatives are primiarily related to clean energy, I think we need to look beyond just profitability”

    Exactly. Well said.  

    There is an environment to look after, and this could be more important that profitability as some point in the future if people don't start being more conscious about the damage already causes.

    Of course the companies need to have its profite, but if the environmental situation gets worse profit will be of no imporance whatsoever. 

    -Susan

  11. _hm
    April 10, 2013

    30,000 jobs may be considered few in context of USA. Also, most of them be from tax payer money or government subsidy. Involvement of entrepreneur and their eager interest is most healthy sign clean manufacturing.

  12. Susan Fourtané
    April 11, 2013

    _hm, 

    Let's not forget that this is just the beginning. As long as new initiatives concerning opening new manufacturing possibilities in the US continue even more jobs will be open. I think 30,000 is a good number. What do you think it would be better considering everything mentioned? 

    “Also, most of them be from tax payer money or government subsidy. Involvement of entrepreneur and their eager interest is most healthy sign clean manufacturing.”

    Don't you think you are missing the point?

    -Susan

  13. Anand
    April 13, 2013

    Of course the companies need to have its profite, but if the environmental situation gets worse profit will be of no imporance whatsoever. 

    @Susan, very true. Profitability is important but not at the cost of environment. Already we are seeing so many negatives of extreme temperature like melting of polar ice-caps. Its high time we become serious about clean energy so that we can reduce the negative impact on environment. 

  14. Anand
    April 13, 2013

    30,000 jobs may be considered few in context of USA.

    @_hm, no doubt 30,000 is small number if you consider the overall economy but if you consider just clean energy sector its a big number. Considering the fact that unemployement is on the rise in USA, addition of 30000 jobs is really a positive sign.

  15. _hm
    April 13, 2013

    @anand: It will be interesting to know how many of them are in private sector with out government or other subsidy? If that is true, they are real jobs and I am very happy for that. If not, it is liability to tax paying people like us.

     

  16. Susan Fourtané
    April 15, 2013

    Anand,

    The condition of the environment is as it is at the moment because more attention has been paid to businesses' profits without taking the necessary precautions to protect the environment.

    Now that the situation is quite critical, smarter decisions should be taken. Also, less greedy decisions, if that is possible, right? 

    -Susan

  17. Susan Fourtané
    April 15, 2013

    “Considering the fact that unemployement is on the rise in USA, addition of 30000 jobs is really a positive sign.”

    Exactly. Also, isn't it better to have 30,000 more jobs rather than zero? And this is not the end of the clean iniciatives either. There is certainly more to come. 

    -Susan

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