With growing environmental concerns across the world, it has become a collective responsibility of governments, businesses, and individuals to encourage and execute green initiatives when it comes to manufacturing industries like Metal Fabrication. There is a lot to learn from the hazardous effects of incidents like Benton fireworks disaster, Tennessee and PEPCON disaster, Henderson, Nevada. Sheet metal fabrication is not considered to be an environmentally friendly industry and hence, it is pertinent for this industry to keep addressing the environmental concerns and support go green initiative. This will help them achieve environmental sustainability which is the need of the hour. The US department of commerce defines Sustainable Manufacturing as- “manufacturing processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities and consumers and are economically sound.”
The good news is that the awareness to create an eco-friendly environment has permeated the industry and sustainable production has now been in focus more than ever before. So much so that welding is now recognized as a green collar job. Metal fabrication companies are continuously looking for greener alternatives that can aid sustainable manufacturing.
Key factors affecting the environmental sustainability of the industry.
- Use of raw materials that mostly consist of non-renewable resources such as ore and minerals.
- Machines doing sheet metal fabrication require hydraulic fluid, solvents, cutting agents and surface treatments that pose a risk to both the environment and human health.
- Metal Fabrication process also consumes a lot of energy.
- Fabricators produce a huge quantity of non-degradable waste during the production process.
While the above is not an all-inclusive list, it is imperative for the Metal fabrication companies to refine the process of production to take care of the environmental and safety hazards. Researchers are currently working towards developing improved metal recycling systems, ways to minimise the harm caused by the toxic chemicals and fluids, less energy intensive technologies etc. Also, environmentally friendly welding techniques like diffusive welding, vacuum soldering and friction welding are increasingly being adopted. Apart from these, given below are a few helpful pointers for professionals in Metal fabrication companies:
- Be sincere during training and get completely familiar with the SOPs. Also, impart the training with same sincerity for the new recruits.
- Keep the office spaces, production area and equipment clean and organized.
- Gain proper understanding of the technologies and materials to be used and be sure of the requirements to reduce errors and waste.
- Select the relevant lubricants keeping the right quantity in mind which would reduce the friction and hence, the amount of scrap.
- Have a sound quality control in place with all the relevant quality checking instruments. Be mindful of mill test report (MTR)to ensure that it complies with an international standards organization (such as ANSI, ASME, etc.) specific standards.
- Monitor and document the manufacturing process and technologies to prevent equipment failures, increase employee efficiency and facilitate learning and development.
Above, we looked at some of the processes that can help the industry to become more sustainable. We can clearly notice that the above measures are also adding to the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of the operations and therefore the benefits are many fold. It is also heartening to see that many government agencies are keen to help Metal Fabrication Companies so that they can move towards creating an environmentally friendly ecosystem. For example, the U.S. Department of Commerce along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have established the Green Suppliers Network to aid small and medium-sized manufacturers in their go green initiative.
Another aspect of Metal Fabrication industry supporting green manufacturing is that metal fabrication is a necessity in the production of wind turbines, solar panel, and natural gas lines. These are basically eco-friendly systems of generating power which contribute heavily to the green initiatives of the world.
It is apparent that the solutions to providing a safe work and habitable environment are also the ones that make the metal fabrication business cost-effective and efficient. Hence, the advantages of achieving environmental sustainability or green manufacturing is multi-faceted and there is no room for the organizations to become complacent.