Portrait of a Sustainable Supply Chain

Oct. 14, 2009
Best-in-class manufacturers are enjoying a significant reduction in energy consumption

Full visibility throughout the supply chain has been a standard goal for manufacturers for years, as it offers considerable advantages in areas ranging from inventory management to customer service. You can now add another advantage to the list: sustainability.

"Best-in-class companies are providing their employees with visibility into the key aspects of energy, environment, safety, and compliance and are using that information to optimize operations to achieve sustainability goals," observe Mehul Shah and Matthew Littlefield, analysts with Aberdeen Group. According to a recent study conducted by Aberdeen, the top three areas where manufacturers are enabling visibility into their production operations are energy usage (86% of respondents), energy costs (83%) and employee safety (72%).

There are four main pressures driving manufacturers toward sustainable production, based on the survey results:

  • Achieving competitive advantage in the marketplace (40% of respondents)
  • Ensuring compliance to current and future regulations (39%)
  • The need to impact an organization's bottom-line financials (38%)
  • Customers demanding eco-friendly products (29%).

The four pressures together, Shah and Littlefield say, illustrate the trend of how sustainability initiatives have shifted from something that is nice to have, to something that is at the core of an organization's success. In fact, those manufacturers identified by Aberdeen as best-in-class have reduced energy consumption by 24%; companies identified as laggards, on the other hand, have actually seen an increase in their energy consumption of 2%. "Best-in-class companies are truly following the sustainability definition of bringing together social, environmental and economic goals," the analysts observe.

The accompanying PACE (pressures, actions, capabilities and enablers) chart illustrates how manufacturers can progress from identifying a problem to focusing on a solution, and as a result become best-in-class themselves.


  • Achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace


  • Redesign/optimize production processes to support organization's sustainability goals
  • Provide real-time visibility into manufacturing operations


  • Standardized KPIs established to measure the success of sustainability initiatives
  • Executive-level leader is responsible for corporate sustainability initiatives
  • Energy data is collected automatically and stored in a central location
  • Role-based visibility into plant emissions data


  • Energy management
  • Environment, health and safety
  • Enterprise manufacturing intelligence
  • Enterprise asset management
  • Manufacturing operations management
  • Business intelligence/analytic/dashboards
  • Compliance management
  • Simulations and modeling

See Also

Popular Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!