ECO-DESIGN: The Key to Sustainable Products 

Sustainability is arguably one of the most prominent topics affecting companies’ behaviors and driving the need to change the way they develop products for the future. That said, many companies are struggling to transition from traditional processes to a more sustainable approach while balancing customer demands for new, innovative products.

Without the right data and software, it can be hard to find ways companies can make this change while fitting customers’ demands within a product’s lifecycle.  

Thanks to eco-design, we now have a new mindset towards product development that goes beyond form and function. In this article, we will dive into what eco-design is and how we can make it measurable and more effective in reducing a company’s environmental footprint. 

What is eco-design? 

Eco-design is a mindset towards product development that supports the transition to sustainable products. Its focus is to reduce resource consumption, utilize renewable and recyclable materials, increase energy efficiency, reduce waste, and decrease emissions throughout the product’s lifecycle. When it comes to having access to data to make these changes, eco-design acts like a backbone to manage their environmental footprint with real data, covering areas such as requirements, design, sourcing, manufacturing, procurement, use, servicing, end-of-life, and much more. Companies that utilize an eco-design approach can benefit from: 

  • Cost savings: Save money on materials by designing products that use less resources. 
  • Increased Customer Loyalty: Eco-design can help build products that will last and that customers can rely on. 
  • Less Material Waste: By making engineering changes in the prototyping phase, companies do not have to waste materials and cost to build physical prototypes. 
  • Eliminate Trial and Error Phase: Easily ensure that products are sustainable throughout the products lifecycle when new regulation arises. 

 

Using a Lifecycle Assessment Tool to Make Eco-Design Measurable 

To measure the impact of an eco-design approach, lifecycle assessment (LCA) is a crucial method to systematically quantify the environmental impact of product design throughout its whole lifecycle.  LCA was a method used in the 1960’s that often required a lot of time and resources to guide improvements for the future; however, this was not used as much for companies’ current designs. As technology has evolved and the climate change movement has become more widely heard around the world, LCA data can now be incorporated instantly into future and current designs. Companies that use the LCA within their product design lifecycle can benefit from: 

  • Environmental Impact Assessment: Companies leveraging lifecycle assessment can identify and evaluate the environmental impact of their products right from the design phase. 
  • Comprehensive Footprint Measurement: Lifecycle assessment allows businesses to measure their product’s environmental footprint across various key performance indicators, including carbon emissions, land use, fossil depletion, water use, and more, enabling holistic sustainability evaluation. 
  • Optimal Material Selection: Companies can make informed decisions by determining which materials offer the best environmental performance, ensuring responsible sourcing and resource management. 
  • Carbon-Centric Manufacturing Strategy: Lifecycle assessment aids in defining manufacturing strategies based on carbon footprints, contributing to more eco-conscious production methods. 

 

Using Virtual Twins to Improve the Impact of the LCA Method 

As technology has evolved over the years, we can now use tools like Virtual Twins to uplift the effectiveness of an eco-design approach. 

What are Virtual Twins? 

Virtual twins are digital replicas of a physical asset that allow visibility across all departments to drive information, accelerate innovation, and streamline operations. Virtual Twins can be a transformational tool to help build products and prototypes across all industries. Using Virtual Twins on a cloud-based platform can be easily accessible to stakeholders everywhere to share data and promote collaboration. 

Using LCA Data with Virtual Twins  

Using LCA data within a virtual twin and effectively eco-design approaches throughout the beginning of product development can now be used to change current design projects. By using virtual twins’ data like manufacturing processes, material operations, and sourcing, LCA can use that data to analyze its environmental impact throughout the product lifecycle. Using LCA within Virtual Twins can help engineers easily grasp the environmental impact of all their product design components, which can result in pointing out which components have the lowest and highest impact on the environment. Engineers can now be informed of their sustainability status throughout the whole product ideation phase to choose different design choices and finalize designs that are sustainable yet fit the needs of their products. Companies that use LCA within their virtual twins can benefit from: 

  • Data-Driven Design Optimization: Integrated LCA and virtual twin technology enable data-driven design choices by connecting to constantly updated datasets for material sourcing and manufacturing decisions. 
  • Sustainable Goal Alignment: Businesses can establish sustainability targets and ensure designs consistently meet these objectives, promoting eco-conscious practices. 
  • Informed Decision-Making: The integration allows for informed trade-off studies, refining design choices and optimizing environmental impacts. 
  • Impact Monitoring: Throughout the development cycle, companies can monitor environmental impacts, ensuring ongoing sustainability and performance assessment. 

 

Conclusion 

Businesses now must incorporate sustainability into their products and processes, in order to do this, they must move away from a traditional product development approach while also maintaining customers’ expectations for innovation.  

Eco-design can transform the mindset around product development, focusing on reducing resources, renewable materials, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and more. Incorporating the Lifecycle Assessment Method (LCA) into this approach can help quantify a product’s environmental footprint and can help companies make more sustainable decisions. LCA data can now be integrated into Virtual Twins to make data-driven decisions for design optimization and sustainability alignment to drive companies towards an eco-conscious approach to product development for now and the future. 

Read our eBook to learn more about how companies are making the switch to a more sustainable approach with the latest technological advancements today!