Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sustainable Manufacturing - Mission Possible

Carbon-footprint reductions, design-for-manufacturing, lean and green, accessing finance, zero waste, the industry’s media image and supply chain management are all on this year’s Smart Manufacturing Conference agenda. Scheduled to be held 2 – 3 November at Muscat’s Grand Hyatt Hotel and organized by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates (PEIE) the two-day event will focus on the industry's need for a multi-functional approach to sustainable manufacturing practices.

Held under the patronage of Maqbool bin Ali Sultan, Minister of Commerce & Industry, the conference will cover choices in manufacturing methods that support and sustain a renewable way of producing products and/or services that are non-polluting, conserve energy, economically sound, as well as safe for employees, communities and consumers. “In my opinion, this is an important event for any company concerned with reducing its environmental footprint and looking for the smartest and best practice way to do so,” says Mark Eaton of UK-based Annis and conference presenter.

According to PEIE management, the development and implementation of environmental policies are top of the list for many Omani manufacturers right now, but many are unsure about where to start. There is a focus on supply chain management which is facing one of its biggest challenges since motor manufacturers used the concept to force their suppliers to deliver more cheaply. A new link in the shape of the carbon footprint is exercising the business and consultancy mind, driven by political, social and cost pressures. “Climate change, global warming and carbon emissions will undoubtedly change supply chain thinking in the manufacturing sector,” comments Eaton.

Manufacturing may appear to offer the better supply chain route to achieve a reduced carbon footprint and cost savings. Not so, argues Eaton. “Some of the most advanced supply chain practitioners are in the service industry. For example, banks are leading the way in sourcing and procurement and moving to a digital supply chain. There's a saying in the trade that the lettuce you buy from the suprmarket came through a more efficient supply chain than the plasma TV screen you've got in your living room. So if Omani manufacturers want to reduce their carbon footprint then perhaps they should be looking to the service sector for ideas and inspiration.”

But according to PEIE’s Marketing Director, Ibtisam Al Faruji, the fundamental issue facing Omani manufacturers is a basic misunderstanding of the principles of sustainability. “The majority perceive sustainability to be synonymous simply with climate change, environmental protection, reducing resources and recycling. In fact sustainability is about taking these issues and challenges and turning them into business opportunities that will differentiate companies from their competitors. Those firms that are doing this are seeing real benefits, but at the moment they’re the exceptions to the rule.”

Alya Al Hosni (pictured)of the Oman Brand Management Unit, sees the environment and a host of other socio-economic issues influencing manufacturing career decisions for the next generation of Omani managers. “Today’s '20 something' generation are looking around for a career and a company they can work with and trust. I believe that manufacturers that put the environment and sustainability at the top of their agenda will attract the best talent.”

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