Cradle-to-Cradle research findings published

Findings have been published from a joint research project by TNO and Capgemini into the supply chain consequences of the new “Cradle-to-Cradle” concept for sustainable engineering.

In the “Cradle-to-Cradle” concept, products are designed and manufactured from sustainable and if possible fully degradable materials which can be returned to the technical and biological hemispheres after the product has reached its end of life.

In short: waste = food.

Re-use of materials in manufacturing and supply chain processes is not only good for the environment but also has financial benefits.

Therefore it becomes increasingly attractive for companies to establish closed-loop supply chains and to implement sustainable concepts like “Cradle-to-Cradle”.

Additional benefits can be realised if companies move their focus from product into service oriented organizations, to better profit from scale effects.

The TNO-Capgemini research was executed by request of the Dutch EVO association (Dutch industry association of logistics service providers) with support from the Dutch government’s Project Sustainable Logistics (Connekt Project)

The results of the research were published at the annual EVO conference on April 8, 2008.

“Previously companies have invested primarily in the optimisation of the forward supply chains,” says EVO Director Machiel van der Kuijl.

“The impact of certain manufacturing processes and supply chains on the environment along with the rapid increase in raw material prices has raised the attention being focused on recycling materials.”

“The larger the percentage of recyclable materials, the higher the financial benefits for the company.”

“However, really embracing the Cradle-to-Cradle concept requires a redesign of the complete supply chain, where return flows have the same importance as forward flows.”

“This research shows very well how companies can best design their supply chain if they want to implement the Cradle-to-Cradle concept in practice,” van der Kuijl says.

“EVO will advice its members about the best way they can incorporate the results from this research into their company operations.”

According to researchers Bram van Schijndel from Capgemini and Frank van Lange from TNO, the concept where waste becomes food, creating a positive switch in our consumption economy needs innovation from industry.

“The no-waste philosophy sounds nice and beautiful, but incorporation within existing supply chains is even more challenging,” the researchers say.

“Year after year companies have focused on the optimisation of their forward supply chains.”

“The return supply chain is severely lagging behind because of the erroneous notion that it is less important within the total economic chain.”

“With the Cradle-to-Cradle concept, the final business case is very dependent upon the effectiveness of return supply chains.”

“The industry will need to invest in redesigning their supply chains to enable the added value of the Cradle-to-Cradle concept in reality,” the researchers say.

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