New Environmental Product Lifecycle Management Solution from IBM

Sept. 25, 2008
Solution tackles entire phase of manufacturing -- materials used to make and package it, the energy needed to produce it, transport and use it, and designing it to be refurbished or recycled when its no longer useable.

Ranging across products as diverse as cars, tractors, televisions, electric shavers, even food and clothing, the IBM Environmental Product Lifecycle Management offering assists companies in analyzing every phase of a products existence and designing it to be environmentally friendly from the beginning. This includes considering the materials used to make and package it, the energy needed to produce it, transport and use it, and designing it to be refurbished or recycled when its no longer useable.

"The days of using inordinate amounts of energy, toxic chemicals and wasteful packaging to create throwaway products that just get tossed in the landfill are coming to an end," said Mark Wilterding, IBMs global leader for product lifecycle management consulting. "Governments, environmental advocacy groups, and most of all consumers are demanding that companies do better, and designing a product from the start to be eco-friendly throughout its lifetime is the most effective way to do that."

Companies that take a comprehensive approach to designing environmentally friendly products can not only avoid penalties and increase efficiency while lowering costs, but also have the opportunity to increase market share and revenue. Oftentimes, such "green" products are extensions of a brand or even support new product innovation, explains IBM.

IBM has incorporated many of the design-to-disposal capabilities within its own operations. The company created its product stewardship program in 1991, covering design for recycling, use of recycled plastics, product energy efficiency, and use of environmentally friendly materials and processes. The company has offered take-back programs for some products since 1989, and IBM processes more than 49,000 metric tons of products and product waste annually, with less than 1% of it going to landfills.

IBM's Environmental PLM offering is relevant to product and service offerings across all industries, but in particular to clients in sectors such automotive, heavy equipment, electronics, and consumer products ranging from food to apparel.

The new solutions can help companies develop the following processes:

  • Design for compliance -- ensuring products meet new regulatory requirements for energy usage, material safety, etc.;
  • Design for end-of-life management designing a product so that it is easy to refurbish and reuse or disassemble and recycle;
  • Lifecycle assessment and carbon footprint reduction reducing the environmental impact of producing the product, shipping it, use by the consumer, and reclamation and recycling, by evaluating carbon trade-offs through the manufacturing, distribution and transportation processes.
  • Material selection -- choosing materials that are renewable, recyclable and non-toxic;
  • Packaging design -- designing packaging to minimize waste and make it lighter and easier to recycle;
  • Project delivery acceleration -- reducing the time it takes to get eco-friendly products from the drawing board to market.

An IBM global survey on corporate social responsibility with more than 250 C-suite executives showed that most see CSR activities as an opportunity to gain competitive advantage and grow revenue. Additionally IBM's biennial global survey of more than 1,100 CEOs showed that the majority of them plan to increase their investments in CSR by 25% over the next three years.

View IBM's global CSR survey at To read IBM's CEO study, visit

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