PLM for Sustainable Manufacturing

Lionel Grealou Circular Economy Manufacturing PLM 2 minutes

There are several definitions for ‘sustainable manufacturing‘, which is often referring to a long-term quality that aims to preserve, keep and maintain environmental resources without compromising future efficiency. It is also linked to the ‘circular economy‘—in contrast to the traditional linear economy—implying that resources are maximised, with more and more value extracted from products during their lifecycle, and then recovering or regenerating products and materials at the end of each service life (reuse, repair, remanufacture, recycle = closed loop product systems, which contribute to environment performance improvement, the economy and the society). 

Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimise negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources.

Sustainable manufacturing simultaneously concerns four dimensions or external factors: 1. society, 2. environment, 3. economy, and 4. technology. It is also referencing sustainable engineering. For examples:

  • Product life extension: optimising product use, by increasing its life, extending its serviceability, getting more from the same.
  • Part and component optimisation: more commonality, less waste, more cost effective and robust product components, clear distinction between consumable and durable components.
  •  Smarter and circular design: standardisation and modularisation of components, concurrent engineering, better upgradability, easier disassembly, better material selection and flows, effective product use, environmental parameters into the design process—also as a business opportunity (e.g. use factories to generate power).
  • End-to-end eco-innovation: innovative business models, easier access to product service, performance based management, business model driven product design, integrated supply chains, better collaboration across the value chain, lean factories and lean manufacturing.
  • Systems engineering, lean processes, clean datadesign for everything, data driven processes, from requirement, BoM, CAE, digital manufacturing to programme and project management, seamless integration of information flow, lean and robust data model, smart factoriesconnected devices and systems.
  • Sustained growth and productivity: smart visual decision making process, driven by shape, materials, technologies, economic and environmental factors, effective cost management. 
  • Renewable energy sources: reduced dependence on fossil fuels.

Sustainable manufacturing regroups multiple principles such as: reuse, recycle, reduce, recover, reuse, repair, regenerate, re-manufacture, waste management, etc. also, it might be required to rethink the product and its functions (e.g. how to use the product more efficiently and effectively). 

This can be summarised as an eco-product-lifecycle-management or “eco-PLM” where the digital product planning, design, virtual simulation, etc. also integrate eco-design and eco-manufacturing simulation and optimisation.

The PLM opportunity is to embed end-of-useful-life retrieval, refurbishment and upgrading into creating innovative new products and their supporting lifecycle processes (Peter Bilello, CIMdata).

There is more to eco-PLM than only product and factory simulation and optimisation; sustainable manufacturing will require energy optimisation simulation, environmental and industrial resource lifecycle management, and the spread of systems engineering across the entire resource lifecycle. The biggest cultural challenge will be with the engineering communities as they will have to acknowledge that there are other driving business functions that will generate eco-requirements for them to integrate from the very early days of their product concept design activities.

What are your thoughts?


  • Bilello P (2014) Supporting the ‘circular economy’, Raconteur:

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 18 March 2016.

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

You may also like: