NIST and ASTM International will be hosting a standards roadmapping workshop called Fostering a circular economy of discarded manufacturing materials on April 20-21, 11-4:30 EST.
The Systems Integration Division (SID) works closely with ASTM Subcommittee E60.13 on Sustainable Manufacturing, where we serve in leadership positions. E60.13 addresses a key problem that manufacturers struggle with: assessing and improving their processes and understanding the implications of changes in the operation of those processes. Other methods and tools to assess and describe sustainability of manufactured products focus on the life cycle of the products and do not necessarily account for individual manufacturing processes explicitly. For a given manufacturer, however, understanding their processes is critical to improving their performance and to including sustainability goals in their decision making. Manufacturing processes consume a large percentage of our national resources, so optimizing the performance of those processes holds tremendous potential for improving them while reducing their overall environmental impacts .
ASTM International’s E60.13 Subcommittee on Sustainable Manufacturing provides methods and guidance to help manufacturers address these needs. With NIST contributions, the initial set of standards addresses a range of approaches for integrating sustainability into manufacturing operations.
SID made major contributions to the suite of standards for modeling Unit Manufacturing Processes (or UMPs) E2986, E3012, and E3096. These can be used in unison to enable improvements to specific manufacturing processes and are described below. More information on the guide for investment analysis, to which the NIST Engineering Lab’s (EL) Applied Economics Office contributed, can be found here.
Manufacturers lack uniform methods to represent manufacturing processes and equipment performance, and our research found that this makes it difficult for industries to consistently compute and compare how sustainable their manufacturing processes are [1,2]. Manufacturers struggle to consistently characterize their systems and collect the data needed to understand trade-offs. Our research also showed that, when manufactures and their academic counterparts analyze manufacturing processes, they often focus on different metrics. This makes their results very difficult to compare and reuse . The standard format defined in ASTM E3012 provides a basis for ensuring that a consistent set of details are covered and that they are covered consistently. This consistency allows for better comparison, more reuse, and, in the end, more reliable results. NIST’s research reviewed the existing approaches to modeling manufacturing processes and selected the best practices and techniques for creating digital representations through a suite of three standards. Through rigorous review by ASTM and demonstrations in the research community, these standards to support emerging needs for digital manufacturing were finalized.
The ISO 14000 family of standards on environmental management are widely acknowledged to help manufacturers improve their sustainability. While these standards are a useful first step and help in developing a management approach to sustainability, they fall short of providing specific guidance for manufacturers to dive deeply into their processes and find more complex opportunities for improvement. The ASTM standards provide guidance to help manufacturers go through their processes one by one, capture the characteristics of those processes in terms of how they impact the environment, and look for opportunities to be more sustainable in their operations. The characteristics of a process are descriptions of what goes into and out of the process, what the process does in terms of how it transforms its inputs, and what other types of resources it uses. We call these descriptions unit manufacturing process or UMP models.
In addition to a systematic approach for characterizing the processes, the standards define a formal representation for those characterizations. Structure and formalism are needed for computer-interpretation to allow direct use of the representations for effective communication, computational analytics, and exchange of performance information. A formal information model promotes new software tool development that can link manufacturing information and analytics for calculating the desired environmental performance measures. Also, specific software tools will improve decision support capabilities while facilitating the development and extension of standardized data and information bases such as Life Cycle Inventory (LCI). LCI data is used in life cycle assessments (LCA), part of the 14000 family of standards. This is where the two approaches to sustainability assessment—the top down approach coming from the ISO 14000 family and the bottom up measurements coming via the ASTM standards—come together. ASTM E3012-16 is a starting point for computer-interpretation. Work is still needed to realize the vision of computation analytics and tool integration, but we now have a standard place to start.
Applying the standards to specify a form for digital representations for individual unit manufacturing processes can help businesses transition to using more formal methods for scientific modeling for decision-making and production planning .
The E3012 standard series was designed to be applicable across industries and manufacturing processes. The evolving standard was applied in a number of different industrial settings including pulp and paper , stone product , injection modeling [8,11], alloy surface inspection , additive manufacturing , and die casting . The research highlighted the following objectives of the standard:
The standard may be of particular interest to the software providers from manufacturing industries that provide analysis and modeling and/or simulation solutions to manufacturers. The standard format promotes information exchange and communication for decision making purposes.
The standard will show even more benefit over time as UMP models are collected. We envision different organizations building up their own repositories of UMP models unique to their systems. Such a repository would potentially reduce modeling time and improve model verification and validation activities. Industries may also come up with a set of standard models of common processes. Textbooks that are available today describe different types of processes. With the standard the information found in textbooks could be represented more formally as UMP models.
Application of the standard may result in reduced operational costs, improved prediction of product costs, improved scheduling maximizing manufacturing resources, improved control of product quality, and better transfer of best practices. Examples showing these benefits are described in the open literature  . The standard provides a uniform and repeatable way for more practitioners to reap these benefits.
The E3012 standards outline a process characterization methodology and proposes a generic representation from which manufacturers can derive specific UMP representations for meaningful sustainability performance analysis. According to the guide, environmental characterization identifies
The UMP is represented graphically as is shown here. Transformation functions are used to describe the transformation of inputs to outputs. These transformations are enabled through the use of information contained in other elements identified as Resources and Product and Process Information in the graphical model. Transformations include changes in
Transformations create data to establish baseline measurements for these metrics (e.g. energy in kWh). The generic representation is used as a template for collecting key information about a specific UMP. The instantiated UMP model is structured using a formal representation such as an XML format that enables machine interpretation.
The E3096 standards address the need for an open and neutral procedure in selecting key performance indicators (KPIs) for sustainable manufacturing when individual manufacturers are selecting KPIs for measuring, monitoring and improving environmental aspects of manufacturing processes. This standard guide can be used for (1) identifying candidate KPIs from existing sources, (2) defining new candidate KPIs, (3) selecting appropriate KPIs based on KPI criteria, and (4) composing the selected KPIs with assigned weights into a set. The paper explains how the developed procedure complements existing indicator sets and sustainability-measurement approaches at the manufacturing process level .