Industrial growth has positively influenced the economic development but has also generated adverse effects on the environment. To minimize the environmental burdens resulting from industrial activity, new practices and management tools have been developed, including the concept of ecoefficiency which has aided the response to manufacturing environmental issues. However, traditional ecoefficiency measurement involves the use of multiple indicators that are individually evaluated over time to verify if the ecoefficiency is improving or worsening. This practice is procedurally difficult because ecoefficiency indicators can vary in opposite directions. To assess this issue, this paper suggests a procedure to appraise the ecoefficiency level of a manufacturing process by means of a conceptual proposal of a single measure that could reflect the process’ global progress, even if the selected ecoefficiency indexes move in opposite ways.
The proposed concepts were developed through a theoretical approach to gauge the ecoefficiency level of a single piece of equipment, which was then expanded to the whole production process area. This work can be categorized as a conceptual paper using literature review and theoretical developments as basic tools to support the concepts proposed. Complementarily, one practical example is presented to illustrate the application of the suggested procedure to a real‐life situation.
Initially the paper proposed a manner to evaluate the ecoefficiency level of a single machine combining the selected ecoefficiency indicators into a single index. Next, this concept was extended to consider the whole production process area by merging the ecoefficiency level of each equipment existing in a given production area with another single quantity named ecoefficiency level of the manufacturing process under consideration. The concepts developed were applied to a case study to show its use in a real‐life scenario.
Although the suggested technique could in principle be used in most common manufacturing situations, its widespread utilization cannot be assured based on the developments made in this paper. This could be a possible limitation to the concepts suggested. However, additional empirical research considering other types of production conditions could resolve this problem.
For the practitioners and managers dealing with environmental matters in manufacturing, this paper makes a relevant contribution because it permits the utilization of a single measure to appraise the ecoefficiency level in a single piece of equipment or in the entire production process, allowing challenging areas and the associated actions required to improve them to be identified.
Although the integration of environmental pressures into a single environmental performance measure has been a major challenge, this paper conceptualizes the ecoefficiency level of a production process by suggesting of a single measure that could reflect its global evolution, even if the selected ecoefficiency indicators move in opposite directions.
Cezar Lucato, W., Vieira Júnior, M. and Carlos da Silva Santos, J. (2013), "Measuring the ecoefficiency of a manufacturing process: a conceptual proposal", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 24 No. 6, pp. 755-770. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEQ-10-2012-0063
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