Guy Schlacter

Greening the High Technology Industry

With the right business decisions, high technology companies can greatly improve their eco-impact.

by Guy Schlacter, June 2011

Expanding global consumption of consumer and other electronic equipment is a driving force behind the entire high technology industry. With some product lifecycles as short as three or four months, continued pricing pressures and promotion frequency, increasing globalization, product complexity, and customer expectations, transparency and efficiency are required for businesses to grow profitably. To succeed, high technology enterprises must perform near flawlessly — whether knowing where to invest for your next product or service innovation, achieving maximum growth using your extended sales channels, or collaborating with strategic design, supply, manufacturing, or logistics partners in the supply chain.

Today, however, our moral guidance tells us it is not enough to simply succeed simply by growing profits; we must use processes and tools that also lead to profitability and environmental sustainability. Across all high technology enterprises — whether as part of a complex equipment or consumer brand owner original equipment manufacturer (OEM), semiconductor, distributor, contract manufacturer/electronics manufacturing services (EMS) or original design manufacturer (ODM) company — there are many ways businesses can achieve greener outcomes in day-to-day responsibilities.

Using an OEM Oracle Industry Map as an example, let’s take a look at how making the right business decisions, along with using the right products and solutions, can quickly and effectively improve high technology organizations’ environmental impact.
 

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Engineering Research and Development (R&D)

Within the engineering R&D roles, both engineering and management can have an impact on sustainability within their innovation processes. Choices of supplier, materials and parts can result in measured differences.

  • Suppliers can be better chosen to ensure environmentally friendly and regulatory compliance; in addition, proximity to manufacturing or assembly and test can impact transportation charges.

  • Supplier scorecards can help track on-time delivery to avoid wasteful expediting using high carbon footprint transportation.

  • Efficient collaboration with design partners will reduce errors that are not only expensive, but that also can lead to scrap and waste while reducing in-person travel.

  • A comprehensive quality management program will not only help reduce costs, but will also help reduce scrap during manufacturing and minimize product returns.

  • Product features can be improved for environmental friendliness, especially if they are designed to consume fewer or greener materials, or if power savings intelligence and features are incorporated into the design. 

Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing are at the heart of growth in an enterprise, and rely on various resources, team members and customer interactions. Meeting travel, printed collateral, printed promotions, product samples, and campaigns are all part of the job. Each can impact an enterprise’s carbon footprint.  

  • Sales team members can utilize solutions to improve communications and reduce travel using collaboration and visualization tools.

  • Sales teams can reduce their paper usage by using secure electronic document libraries and sharing.

  • Quoting and capturing orders are routine, yet automating and maximizing electronic communications minimizes needless paper use during processing.

  • Marketing can leverage and increase electronic tools such as social media, web content, webcasts, and ecommerce sites.

  • Improving forecasts and use of product bundles aligned to promotions can help minimize shipments. Supply chain planning and execution are improved, minimizing the use of higher carbon footprint transportation modes, and also decreases excess inventories that take space and energy to warehouse and subsequently transport when needed.  


Supply Chain Management

Supply chain management across all activities can have dramatic effect on an enterprise’s eco-impact.  

  • Procurement wields supplier decisions that can greatly impact the eco-system. When choosing to spend dollars with a supplier, understanding and monitoring their corporate compliance to eco-standards, eco-practice and regulations can in turn greatly affect your environmental impact.

  • Identifying consumption patterns that have alternative choices can save costs and create eco-savings from wasteful processes or choosing alternative suppliers can reduce transportation distances and costs.

  • Operations and supply chain planning need to continuously work toward right-sized inventories, meeting service level agreements, and providing customer demand responsiveness. This entails a complex process, but the eco-impact is tremendous, as is the potential working capital for inventory and other cost savings that can be achieved.

  • Proper planning can reduce inventory, wasteful transportation modes, distribution and warehouse operating complexity, and energy consumption.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing, whether outsourced, in-house or a hybrid model, has the ability to significantly improve efficiency and reduce carbon consumption.

  • By working from a consensus operations plan across the enterprise, manufacturing operations are able to improve production planning, scheduling and overall efficiency.

  • Shop floor management data provides additional visibility to planning and scheduling to further help efficiency.

  • Through improved production efficiency, manufacturing operations can improve carbon consumption by reducing operational hours and avoiding extra shifts, leading to saving power consumption as well as transportation costs of extra shift employees.

  • A greater return on assets can save power in addition to capital costs if production floor equipment needs can be reduced through better efficiency planning for current equipment and assets.

  • Integrating shop floor data with service and improving quality engineering and other product data can lead to reduced production waste, energy usage, and product returns.

Logistics and Transportation

While logistics and transportation have an obvious impact on carbon consumption, there are many ways the impact can be reduced.

  • Logistics and transportation can minimize material shipments and even total product transportation. This can be done by monitoring, collaborating and improving product package/size/volume, implement pallet optimization as well as route, mode and shared load optimization working with logistics providers to minimize energy for travel and distance.

  • Improvements will also come from better enterprise operational planning, which can help minimize reactive and expedited carbon waste created from poor planning or visibility. 

Aftermarket Services and Support

Aftermarket services and support roles are critical to shaping customer satisfaction and loyalty. Providing a continuous favorable customer experience is key to achieving this, and doing so in an eco-friendly manner can only help.

  • Efficient service and support that can accomplish first-contact issue resolution can often stave off customer dissatisfaction while also saving needless incurred service, repair, warranty or transportation expenses and respective carbon and waste costs.

  • Better accessibility to product and customer data improves call centers and depot repair center.

  • Along with this data, reps can be assisted by knowledge management, visualization and even guided selling intelligence systems that combine to improve the customer experience. Whether knowing how to describe visually where you want them to look, knowing what version hardware requires which version software during support or even during aftermarket sales, the customer is receiving improved service. High Tech enterprises greatly reduce their environmental impact through improved services.

  • Additional impact savings also come from improved services. Reducing needless product returns and repairs or need for field service. Also, simply improving field service by ensuring the customer is expecting the service via confirmations, and coordination of scheduling with service part availability with the service technician, there is a green affect by reducing transportation, shipping, packaging, refurbishing materials, and reclamation processes, all in addition to reduced cost to serve.

Financial Management

Finance organizations shoulder fiscal and compliance responsibilities and rely on systems, visibility, and data analytics to enable intelligent decisions to properly manage the enterprise. There are many ways that a finance organization can save green while going green.

  • Expense savings stemming from improved strategic and workforce planning, as well as risk reduction from environmental and trade compliance management, all hold the potential to save the environmental impact of the organization.

  • Optimizing employee utilization increasing productivity can curtail commuting carbon emissions in addition to other energy savings.

  • Analysis leading to reducing wasteful consumption spending can also lead to environmental reductions from material and waste savings.

  • While formal risk analysis can save tremendous potential costs incurred from compliance, product, legal, financial or product success risks, there can be additional carbon savings discovered stemming from the various scenario analyses.

Human Resources (HR) and Support Services

HR organizations help drive important enterprise-wide processes that impact efficiency and costs that can also lead to environmental impact savings. While addressing employee recruiting, retention, training, policy and privilege management, implementing self-service, e-based programs can reduce costs while also saving needless transportation or paper waste.  

IT Department

Information systems and technology organizations are working more closely today with their business counterparts than ever before. Not only does working together improve enterprise results, but it also provides the organization improved visibility and better ability to anticipate IT solutions and create the proper IT roadmaps that will support accomplishing the business goals. This enhanced visibility can improve technology planning, architecture, and utilization, leading to further cost and eco-savings. Cost and eco-savings can be achieved through hardware, business process and software solution optimization that leads to reduced data center and data-communication power consumption energy savings from both equipment and heating and cooling costs. Whether data center hardware footprint reduction is from integration architecture, higher performance and efficient equipment, application virtualization, instance reduction, or smart sensor technology management, significant expense and environmental savings can be achieved. 

Concluding, we all shoulder a responsibility to ourselves and future generations to be considerate and conscientious of our environment, and the impact we make. While always a challenge, there are many ways you can improve your eco-impact as you take on daily tasks in your high technology company. 


Guy Schlacter is director of high technology industry marketing and strategy at Oracle.