Industrial ecology at factory level: a prototype methodology
Journal article, 2012
The concept of sustainable manufacturing is a form of pollution prevention that integrates environmental considerations in the production of goods while focusing on efficient resource use. Taking the industrial ecology perspective, this efficiency comes from improved resource flow management. The assessment of material, energy and waste resource flows, therefore, offers a route to viewing and analysing a manufacturing system as an ecosystem using industrial ecology biological analogy and can, in turn, support the identification of improvement opportunities in the material, energy and waste flows. This application of industrial ecology at factory level is absent from the literature. This article provides a prototype methodology to apply the concepts of industrial ecology using material, energy and waste process flows to address this gap in the literature. Various modelling techniques were reviewed and candidates selected to test the prototype methodology in an industrial case. The application of the prototype methodology showed the possibility of using the material, energy and waste resource flows through the factory to link manufacturing operations and supporting facilities, and to identify potential improvements in resource use. The outcomes of the work provide a basis to build the specifications for a modelling tool that can support those analysing their manufacturing system to improve their environmental performance and move towards sustainable manufacturing.