Sustainability is not just a buzz word. It is becoming more relevant and important for companies and for consumers. Companies are rated according to how sustainably they manufacture their products. Consumers are looking for products that are designed to be sustainable.
The raw materials used to make a product are important, too. It matters how much the manufacturer leverages recycling and whether the materials they use come from sustainable sources. This is complicating supply chains, as it is hard and often expensive to locate and monitor the origin of all materials.
It matters how the goods are produced. Does the manufacturer use renewable energy? Do the processes used create air or water pollution during production? What kind of labor is used and what are the working conditions? The excessive use of resources, exploited labor and poor working conditions are clear red lines for sustainable production.
Indeed, as Avnet's value chain approach explains, the production cycle is long, convoluted and involves many partners.
Then there are various logistical considerations like transportation, packaging and distribution of the products, as well as how the product is disposed of at the end of its lifecycle. Whether the product is recyclable or it becomes waste defines how environmentally friendly a product is.
Another consideration is the amount of energy the product is designed to consume over its operational lifetime. Quality has a profound impact on sustainability. If the product is designed to be energy efficient and have a long lifetime, its replacement will not be necessary for a long time.
What is green production?
When can you call a product sustainable?
A sustainable product is one that has a minimal impact on the environment. This ranges from the raw materials selected, the emissions generated during production and the energy used throughout its operational lifetime. The raw materials selected should come from sources that conform to relevant sustainability standards. All the materials used should be recorded to provide traceability.
All products that use energy should be designed to consume the lowest possible amount. Products must also be designed for durability and longevity so they can remain in service for as long as possible–even several decades. When the product is eventually retired, it must be designed for recyclability. Recirculating products can create further value with minimal environmental impact. Designs based on a platform that allows upgradability of the product is also a good approach, as it can extend the product lifetime.
With more products now defined by software, it is also necessary to think about how software can improve sustainability. Updating software when the product is in service using over-the-air (OTA) update technology is now impacting product lifecycles and supporting sustainability.
Integrated circuits can potentially function as intended forever. In practice, operating conditions, product issues and exposure to natural elements will degrade an IC and may cause it to malfunction.
A factory for the future
For a good example of sustainable manufacturing, we need look no further than our own Avnet Embedded and Avnet Integrated. Avnet is currently building a new factory in the heart of Europe designed specifically to achieve carbon-neutral operations. The facility will seek the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) gold standard. Located in Eschbach, Germany, the new facility will replace an existing building and offer a three-fold increase in manufacturing capacity but with a much lower environmental impact.
Like the existing factory, the new facility will be located close to many of Avnet's customers, reducing the impact of transporting finished products. Photovoltaic panels fitted to the roof will make good use of solar energy to power the factory.
It will also be equipped with a heating/cooling system that draws energy from the ground. The factory will only use materials and machines that are recyclable and from sustainable sources. It will have plants on the roof as well as around the factory. These efforts ensure it will be far more sustainable than the old factory even with a higher manufacturing capacity.
Avnet Embedded’s compute modules are a good example of sustainable products. They are designed using sustainable materials which are recyclable. Energy efficiency is core to product design. Avnet Embedded’s production facilities, where its compute modules are manufactured, are highly automated.
What’s next for sustainable product design?
Component selection is fundamental to lowering active energy. More of Avnet’s global suppliers appreciate this and are developing technologies that support ultra-low power operation. This includes microprocessors and microcontrollers. Power semiconductors that have lower switching losses are becoming more affordable, meaning they can be used to replace less efficient power solutions.
Avnet’s FAEs are helping OEMs optimize their designs for sustainability. If you need advice or design guidance, contact your Avnet representative today.
Avnet Embedded builds embedded compute, display and software solutions that meet the demand for innovation and quality, with reduced time to market, utilizing Avnet Embedded’s platform technologies, design and manufacturing capabilities, and a world-class team of experts.