The green engineer as an enabler of life-cycle management in manufacturing: models and practices
Doctoral thesis, 2012
The last 20 years corporate environmental management has developed from pollution control and emission prevention, to include a greater responsibility for indirect environmental issues along the whole product life cycle. This thesis aims at providing a better understanding of how such environmental life-cycle management can be applied on manufacturing processes. Previous environmental management research has argued for the integration environmental work in daily operations. This thesis investigates how the production engineers in the operational core of the organization may better understand and take action to reduce the life-cycle environmental impact of manufacturing processes.
Through the use of both practice studies and life-cycle assessment (LCA) method development, two research questions are explored; regarding (1) how the LCA methodology can be adapted for producing results that make sense to engineers in manufacturing, and (2) what is influencing production engineers to consider environmental aspects in their daily work.
The conventional product-centred LCA methodology is redefined to capture the environmental performance of a manufacturing process. The approach takes into account the power of influence of production engineers, and produce results that are related to the production processes of a company. The LCA method is combined with discrete-event simulation (DES) to identify technical improvement potentials in the manufacturing system. The proposed LCA-DES method offers the possibility to recognize, for a particular work role in manufacturing, the most significant factors influencing the environmental performance of manufacturing processes.
From the practice studies a wider organizational perspective is applied. The analysis unfolds the challenges of a transition from facility-oriented environmental management to life-cycle management in manufacturing. First, the prevailing understanding that it is preferable with a co-management of several issues, leading to an “integration” of various management systems, for environmental management is challenged. Second, a need of distinguishing between direct and indirect emissions in environmental management in manufacturing is identified. The work to reduce indirect impacts of manufacturing operations need to be driven by manufacturing and engineering managers and thus be included in the normal work of improving the technical performance of the manufacturing process.
The thesis presents a model to understand why socio-technical factors become either a barrier or driver for the engineers to include environmental aspects in their work. It includes organizational factors, similar to earlier literature, but sees them from the perspective of the individual engineer, instead of as abstract factors, applied to describe the whole system, or organization. The proposed decision making model describes the driving force of environmental work as residing in the interplay of these factors. It is the situational interaction of several factors that determine action by the engineers and thereby also the environmental life-cycle work in the company.