IBM's Environmental Product Lifecycle Management offering helps clients go green

The IBM consulting offering can help clients make their products more eco-friendly from development and manufacturing, through delivery and use, to end-of-life reclamation and recycling.

Ranging across products as diverse as cars, tractors, televisions, electric shavers and even food and clothing, the IBM Environmental Product Lifecycle Management offering allows clients to analyze every phase of a product’s existence and design it to be environmentally friendly from the start. 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 it’s no longer useable.

Increasing government regulations require that companies think about the overall ecological impact of their products or face rising penalties, while more and more customers are expressing a preference for “greener” products. Both expect companies to plan for energy efficiency and proper disposal of products at end of life. In addition, the rising costs of energy and materials associated with making, packaging and selling any product can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.

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.

IBM has extensive experience with many of these 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 offering provides an overall analysis of a product’s lifecycle, taking into account current environmental concerns, regulations and business issues, and industry best practices. Based on that analysis, IBM can help the client understand any gaps in its current practices, develop realistic targets for reducing the environmental impact of its products and establish a strategic plan of initiatives to meet those targets.

From that plan, IBM can help the client build design-for-environment capabilities, integrating them into existing processes to improve the environmental competitiveness of its operations and products.

Through this offering, IBM can help clients develop the following processes:

  • Design for compliance — ensuring products meet new regulatory requirements for energy usage and material safety
  • 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.

Environmental PLM joins a growing list of consulting offerings from IBM designed to help clients address CSR issues throughout their operations, including the Carbon Trade-off Modeler, the CSR Assessment and Benchmarking offerings, and Green Sigma.

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