An Assessment Framework for Managing Corporate Sustainable Manufacturing
Doctoral thesis, 2019

This research aims to support the manufacturing industry in the endeavour of achieving the seventeen sustainable development goals by 2030, with “sustainable production” (the 12th goal) being the key one it should achieve. The output of this research is synthesised into a framework comprising assessment methods and tools which translate both economic and environmental sustainability factors into information for a specific set of company management decisions. These decisions are supported by the three guiding functions of the framework: 1) alignment between sustainability strategy and operations through the definition of core organisational capabilities, 2) assessment of the environmental impacts of R&D technology for production systems, and 3) improvement of the sustainability performance of existing production systems’ operations. Thus, the framework encompasses sustainability assessment methods and tools from a low level of analysis (machine tool) to a higher one (organisational). For the first function, an organisational “sustainability readiness” tool was developed with six companies. For the second function, an indicator for environmental break-even analysis of R&D technologies aims to pre-emptively minimise any undesired backfire effects. For the third function, an energy-based version of the known overall equipment effectiveness indicator diagnoses energy inefficiencies in production. By highlighting a red thread between the three functions and by providing assessment solutions in each of them, the proposed assessment framework aims to support management in their task to measure sustainable manufacturing. The use of the framework would also mitigate the strategy-operations misalignment that sometimes affects corporate sustainability management. The overall qualitative nature of the framework makes it suitable to be considered by industrialists and academia as a conveyer of a mindset which leverages management’s capacity to improve sustainability performance. Unfortunately, the validity of this statement could not be tested. What has been validated to various extents though are the methods and tools within the framework itself. The author suggests that future research would enable manufacturing companies to quantify the long-term sustainability impacts of product life cycles and production systems. If this could be encouraged, it would help to focus on eco-effectiveness performance, perhaps by taking an approach similar to Science Based Targets. Interventions such as these can contribute to a safer future that remains environmentally accountable at all levels of business operations.

key performance indicators

sustainable manufacturing

life cycle thinking

energy efficiency

technology assessment

sustainability management

environmental sustainability

Room EC, Hörsalsvägen 11, 5th floor, Chalmers University of Technology, Johanneberg campus
Opponent: Prof. Steve Evans, Department of Engineering, Cambridge University, UK


Ilaria Giovanna Barletta

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Production Systems

Assessing a proposal for an energy-based overall equipment effectiveness indicator through discrete event simulation

Proceedings - Winter Simulation Conference,; Vol. 2015-January(2015)p. 1096-1107

Paper in proceeding

Barletta, I., Despeisse, M., Hoffenson, S., Mani, M., and Johansson, B. An Organisational Sustainability Readiness Tool for Manufacturing Companies.

Social Implications of Introducing Innovative Technology into a Product-Service System: The Case of a Waste-Grading Machine in Electronic Waste Management

IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology,; Vol. 460(2015)p. 583-591

Paper in proceeding

'All They Do Is Win': Lessons learned from use of a serious game for Circular Economy education

Resources, Conservation and Recycling,; Vol. 135(2018)p. 335-345

Journal article

Every object that we make use of in our daily life is the result of myriad decisions made on how production processes should utilise human capital, natural resources, and innovation. That is to say, it is the result of how products and production systems are being managed, and with which goals in mind. The question that many practice-oriented academic researchers like myself have often asked is: when regulatory pressure is an insufficient motivator and support from costly external consultancies is either impractical or just another layer of complexity to have to manoeuvre, how can manufacturing companies achieve by 2030 the United Nations-championed goal of responsible production and consumption on their own?

The question I was asking offered many possible answers. This became apparent as I navigated the already crowded discourse on sustainability assessment methods and tools (solutions) applied to production systems. At the conclusion of this investigation, several research gaps were made evident, which I grouped under three main areas of focus: 1) from an industry point of view: low margins of resources and competences to apply sustainability assessment solutions developed by academics. 2) the necessity of designing these solutions with the principle of life-cycle thinking in mind, for a manufacturing company to truly deserve the term ‘sustainable’. 3) misalignments can occur between a corporate sustainability strategy (when it exists) and the implementation/management of the strategy at the shop floor. This misalignment has been overlooked.  Proper assessment solutions are thus needed to manage it.

To address these issues, I developed an assessment framework for corporate sustainable manufacturing that included six assessment solutions. The assessment framework provides top and middle management of manufacturing companies with qualitative and quantitative information in order to affect: (1) the process of sustainability strategy development and implementation, (2) the evaluation of sustainable technology investments, and (3) energy efficiency performance evaluation in day-by-day production. Furthermore, (1), (2) and (3) must be logically linked in order for cascading sustainability goals to be achieved in unison. The developed framework equips production management with assessment solutions for the above three functions to allow for more informed decisions that improve the sustainability performance. It must be conceded in advance that this research work is not an exemplar of theoretical novelty: many such assessment solutions are already available in the literature, especially for (2) and (3). Alternatively (and willingly), I have endeavoured to strengthen this body of knowledge by pinpointing its gaps and ultimately supporting its real world efficacy.

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Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Environmental Management

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Areas of Advance




Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4589



Room EC, Hörsalsvägen 11, 5th floor, Chalmers University of Technology, Johanneberg campus

Opponent: Prof. Steve Evans, Department of Engineering, Cambridge University, UK

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5/7/2019 6