As more and more industries and organizations come together to combat climate change and pollution, manufacturers are challenged to take action and make changes with measurable impact. Scientists estimate we have until 2030 to dramatically curb carbon emissions to avoid catastrophic and irreversible climate damage. And increasingly, consumers and end users are switching to products that are sustainable — throughout the value chain.

As a global community, we must prevent further temperature increases, but it can be overwhelming for individual manufacturers to assess their contribution to the effort and take actionable steps to curb their ecological impact. Fortunately, you don’t have to overhaul your operation to make a difference. Small changes, even in how you manage your cutting fluid, can have an outsized impact on your carbon and environmental footprint.

The Top Sustainability KPIs for Manufacturing

Just as production lines have key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the output and efficiency of an operation, environmental experts have developed a set of sustainability metrics every manufacturer should track — and actively try to improve. Here are the five most important sustainability KPIs:

1. Nonrenewable Materials Intensity

Nonrenewable materials intensity measures the volume or weight of nonrenewable materials you use in your products or manufacturing processes. The most common nonrenewable resources are oil, coal, and natural gas. Converting these resources into energy also creates carbon emissions, the leading cause of global warming and climate change. 

Minimizing (or even eliminating) nonrenewables from your processes reduces your carbon footprint and, in turn, your contribution to climate change. Many manufacturers have begun using petroleum-free cutting fluids in favor of Renewable based formulas to offset carbon emissions and environmental impact — even while improving performance.

2. Recycled and Reused Content Percentage

This metric measures the amount of recycled material a specific product is made of. This is especially common in consumer paper and plastic products, but manufacturers are increasingly incorporating recycled materials throughout their production processes. The ultimate goal of sustainability is to create a fully circular economy, and manufacturing products made of at least partially recycled content is one of the first steps toward that endgame. Metalworking fluids can be recycled and can offer manufacturers both sustainability advantages as well as significant cost reductions.

3. Energy Intensity

Energy intensity measures your operation’s energy consumption, including production and general facility energy usage. Less energy intensity is associated with less energy consumption, which is especially important if your energy is generated by nonrenewable resources.

There are many direct and indirect ways to reduce energy intensity. Beyond switching to LED lightbulbs in their facility, manufacturers may invest in more energy-efficient machinery. Even using high-quality and well-maintained cutting fluid in a metalworking shop can streamline operations enough to reduce energy consumption.

4. Toxic Content Percentage

This metric measures the amount of toxic, hazardous, or otherwise harmful ingredients in a particular product or material. When chemicals are present that can harm humans or the environment, manufacturers are responsible for safe disposal when that product or material is no longer needed. Often, professional handling and removal of toxic chemicals is required. Many manufacturers are redeveloping products as VOC-free and finding ways to make them less harmful to the environment and the people that use them.

5. Material Utilization

Are you maximizing the use and lifespan of all of your materials? This material utilization looks at how effectively items like workpieces, cutting tools, and coolants are managed. Traditionally, this metric was strictly a measure of cost-effectiveness, but it has a direct impact on your sustainability profile as well. Production techniques with high scrap rates waste valuable metal, which not only increases costs but could also contribute to over-mining.

Maintaining cutting fluid and proper fluid management processes can dramatically extend its useful life, reducing overall fluid consumption. Well-maintained coolant will better protect cutting tools and workpieces, extending tool life and reducing scrap rate to prevent additional waste.

Cutting Through Climate Change

Climate change is a cumulative challenge that requires many small but collective changes to mitigate. And even small changes throughout your operation can have a major, cumulative impact on your company’s sustainability profile.

Cutting fluid touches every aspect of your operation, so choosing high-quality coolant and carefully maintaining it can directly impact every one of these sustainability KPIs. To learn more about the role of cutting fluid in sustainable manufacturing, call +1 800-537-3365 or email us at [email protected].