In the not-so-distant past, companies practicing sustainable manufacturing methods were viewed as outliers willing to sacrifice a small portion of profits for a greener planet and a reputation for environmental responsibility. Specifically, sustainable machining meant little more than recycling chips and metal scraps, with everything else being business as usual.
Fast forward to 2023, when more and more manufacturers realize that working toward a sustainable environment is no longer an option but an essential objective in a comprehensive strategy to enhance growth while conserving energy and natural resources. In other words, sustainable machining and manufacturing means creating parts, components, and products using economically-sound processes that reduce negative environmental impact.
The case for CNC machining
By now, almost everyone is familiar with the benefits derived from CNC machines: faster machining times, repeatability, precision, and fewer labor hours. However, environmental contributions often get minimal attention or are entirely overlooked. Nonetheless, CNC machining offers a sustainability component deserving more than passing mention, so here are just three examples of CNC machining’s influences on a sustainable environment:
CNC machining produces minimal waste
CNC machines operate with software programs that develop the most efficient way to machine a workpiece without waste. With the help of simulations, the CAD-CAM model produces results and values on the initial cycle instead of relying on a costly and wasteful trial-and-error method. Because CNC milling machines and lathes operate on repeatable software programs with fixed tooling and tool paths, they use raw materials intelligently. As a result, CNC machines help manufacturers and the environment by significantly reducing waste.
CNCs reduce energy consumption
Several industries—aerospace, automotive, petrochemicals, etc.—are energy intensive, so adding CNC machines to operations allows them to remain scalable and precise without appropriating limited resources any more than necessary.
Zero defects eliminate costly do-overs
Since CNC machining happens with little human intervention, few errors occur in manufacturing, causing expensive and wasteful repairs and re-runs. The codes and software programs governing the production process ensure accuracy and a sustainable machining process.
How do we minimize environmental impact?
Putting sustainability at the center of our manufacturing strategy adds value to our business by helping it save money and giving it a competitive advantage. Some measures are small and straightforward, while others are long-term coordinated efforts. Either way, these endeavors improve performance while reducing environmental impact.
Here are some of the ways we work toward the goal of a sustainable environment:
Assess the operations in our facility
We analyze the impact and efficiency of our plant’s operations, including energy use, greenhouse gas generation, and emissions to air and water. Everything is considered, from the use of reflective materials on our windows to reduce heat, to the use of alternate lighting technologies requiring less energy. Nothing gets overlooked.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
If the primary goal for manufacturers is to reduce waste and use less, recycling’s simple mantra is an excellent starting point. For instance, switching to reusable handling containers to use less single-use cardboard is a relatively painless first step, but we also check overrun inventory levels before placing new orders for materials, buying only what we need. And, of course, all of our scrap material is recycled.
Choose sustainable suppliers
We choose sustainable suppliers where possible to ensure lower environmental impact across our supply chain. We question prospective suppliers about their sustainability objectives and search for evidence that they are practicing these policies.
Improve energy efficiency
Older machines are neither energy nor production efficient. We constantly examine the machining technology we use to ensure we have the latest advanced tools and techniques that use less energy across the same production levels. This is a win-win situation as we reduce our environmental footprint while improving productivity.
Focus on long-term solutions
We don’t just look for short-term wins. We have been performing CNC machining services for 50 years and we know how important it is to consider long-term strategies. For example, we review and adjust the coolants and air purifiers in our operations on a constant basis to minimize emissions that don’t just benefit the environment, but the day-to-day health and activities of our staff.
Sustainable machining and manufacturing practices do not happen in a vacuum. They impact workers, customers, communities, and even much further. Ben Machine engages in sustainability efforts with a goal of reducing environmental footprint while improving performance!