Sustainability is a pressing concern for all industries across the globe, but metal fabrication is an especially energy-intensive industry. As you embrace sustainability in your fabrication, you will reduce waste, conserve energy and water, and contribute to a better, healthier planet.
#1. Understand the Environmental Impact
Recognizing and understanding the environmental impact of the metal fabrication industry is the first step to improving its sustainability. The iron and steel sector accounts for 8 percent of global energy demand and 5 to 10 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
In order to meet global energy and climate goals, the steel industry must decrease its emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050, then work toward zero emissions after that.
The metal fabrication industry is just one small part of a global energy problem, but if everyone does their part to implement environmentally friendly technologies, it will make a big difference.
#2. Invest in Renewable Energy
While the metal fabrication industry is a major contributor to global energy consumption, there are steps fabricators can take to increase sustainability and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. Investing in renewable energy such as solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and wind power is one such step.
If the primary materials industries implemented the best available technologies, renewable energy, and eco-friendly practices, industrial energy use could be reduced by 20–30 percent and the industry could reduce its carbon footprint by up to 50 percent.
While renewable energy has been expensive in the past, the cost has significantly decreased in recent years, making it more accessible. Installing solar panels at your facility has never been easier. Not only is renewable energy good for the environment, but it can also save you money on your utility bills.
#3. Material Selection, Waste Reduction, and Equipment
Material selection is an important step in becoming a sustainable manufacturer. By selecting only the best materials for your manufacturing facility, you reduce the amount of unusable, flawed products produced that will just go to waste. Whenever possible, source materials from manufacturers who also follow sustainable standards.
Consider using recycled metal for your products. Producing new steel from iron and steel scraps uses 60 percent less energy and reduces carbon emissions by 58 percent compared to using virgin materials. Plus, once you’re done with a sheet of metal, you can recycle the leftovers! This is an essential part of creating a circular production system.
Whenever possible, opt for used equipment instead of new. Fabrication equipment itself can require a lot of materials and energy to produce, so if you can decrease demand for new machinery, you will lessen the industry’s overall footprint.
Additionally, instead of throwing out old equipment once it’s no longer needed, try to sell it to someone who can use it! Even if it’s not in working condition as-is, another manufacturer might be interested in repairing it or using its parts for other equipment.
#4. Water Conservation
Metal fabrication can be water-intensive. In fact, the manufacturing industry, which includes metal fabrication, accounts for an estimated 20 percent of global freshwater consumption.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to optimize your process and use less water. Consider using a closed-loop system and recycling or reusing water in your fabrication process.
Adopting these practices can reduce your environmental impact and ensure there’s enough water to go around for everyone. In fact, implementing water-saving technologies can reduce water consumed by metal fabrication by up to 70 percent.
#5. Employee Training and Awareness
Thorough employee training and precise cutting of materials are essential steps in the sustainability process. If your employees are aware of the environmental impact of metal fabrication, they will take care not to waste resources and materials. Additionally, they will be more careful when operating machinery and make fewer mistakes, leading to less wasted materials.
#6. Collaboration and Industry Standards
In order for real change to happen in the metal fabrication industry, there needs to be a concentrated, industry-wide effort to adopt sustainable practices. The United States National Institute of Standards and Technology and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) are both valuable resources for manufacturers looking to improve the sustainability of processes.
Depending on your specialization, the specific standards and steps you need to take will vary. There is plenty of valuable research and information available about the environmental impacts of every kind of metal fabrication. It’s important to do thorough research and talk to other fabrication professionals in order to make sure you are implementing the correct, most effective practices.
Metal Fabrication Equipment From Sanson Machinery
Whatever kind of metal fabrication equipment you need, Sanson Machinery can help! We offer both new and used equipment and even perform repairs. Contact us today for more information!