New initiative to 'green' the manufacturing sector
A new organisation to bridge the "huge gap" between environmental pioneers and everyone else has been launched for the UK manufacturing sector.
The so-called 'Next Manufacturing Revolution' (NMR) will aim to share best practice across the sector in a bid to stimulate the UK market and bring jobs back on-shore.
High levels of engagement could end up saving the sector billions in the long-term as the radical changes of the far-sighted become mainstream, said those backing the scheme.
The news comes in a week when figures emerged showing that British manufacturing is still in recession.
NMR is the brainchild of the University of Cambridge's Institute for Manufacturing, the online sustainability network 2degrees and consulting firm Lavery Pennell.
Dr Greg Lavery, CEO at Lavery Pennell, said many manufacturers are "closed-minded" about the potential areas for improvements when it comes to social, environmental and economic sustainability.
"Some have made a 10% improvement in the last couple of years [in terms of energy efficiency for instance] and think they have maxed out. But Toyota has cut its energy usage per car by 70%."
The NMR website already lists a number of other pioneers in the sector, including Fuji Xerox which was facing closure in Australia because the cost of importing copiers from Japan made it uncompetitive. The company changed its business model and, instead of importing equipment, it began remanufacturing components recovered from its base of installed copiers.
Resource scarcity has become a major concern for UK manufacturers - a survey earlier this year by manufacturers' association EEF found the majority saw it as their 'top risk'.
More efficient use of resources is just one of the areas that NMR is hoping to pick up on in a wide-ranging survey. The new organisation is inviting contributions to a collaborative study that will find out where the sector is on sustainability and highlight the gap that exists between the pioneers and the mainstream. The plan then is to bridge it.
One of the challenges would be to encourage sharing of ideas and collaboration between competitors and between disciplines, but the coordinators are confident this won't be a problem given the commercial and marketing opportunities.
Previous studies have shown that changes in business practices, resource use, and technology could save billions.
"Our focus now is to get people engaged so they do the survey," Dr Lavery added. "This research is a serious attempt to give the UK a head-start. If UK industry takes decisive action, the nation is well positioned to seize massive economic improvements. This research could show them the prize."
Manufacturers taking part will receive information and advice as part of the half-hour survey and feedback regarding best practice among their peers.
Earlier this week, Forum for the Future called for more collaboration between businesses and the need for 'disruptive innovation' to help change whole market places.