Cost vs sustainability: are they always at odds?

The cost of a product is one of the key criteria for product development often backed by ambitious targets during the design phase. When sustainability is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is usually, how much is that going to cost me… But is it always a trade-off between cost and sustainability? Or can these two different requirements complement each other to make a superior product that meets both requirements?

CAD and analysis software of today allows geometry to be optimised so the minimum amount of material is used to achieve the required stiffness and durability. Using less raw materials is better for the environment and quickly adds up to cost savings for manufacturers as less material is purchased to make the same amount of product. Using alternative materials is another example backed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy Principles. There is so much research into sustainable materials and technologies and in many cases they can be substituted for environmental benefits with no impact on performance, cost or compliance.

For these kinds of trade-offs to be assessed efficiently, there is a requirements for a new generation of multi-criteria decision support tools. Tools which can quantify the impacts of both cost and sustainability early in the design stage to facilitate agile changes and improvements to the final product without impacting time and cost. These tools would need to seamlessly combine both internal data from ERP, PLM, CAD, etc and external data to fill data gaps and allow for early indications of the biggest divers, key impacts and trends.

But research shows that today’s product data management platforms are not equipped to meet these challenges. For many software providers, their architecture is outdated using siloed systems that were developed more than 17 years ago on average. For those that know the history of software technology, this is before the time of big data and artificial intelligence (AI) and for some even before the modern internet. For others, think back to the size and capability of our mobile phone or TV in the early 2000’s. You may remember the popular Nokia 3310, one of the most iconic phones of its time, with features such as “instant-messaging” and “push buttons” in comparison to the latest smart phones of today.

Other tools often focus on just a single aspect, for example expert tools for cost analysis or dedicated Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) tools. These solutions often lack the ability to evaluate across different dimensions in a single integrated solution. For manufacturers today, this means multiple different platforms to meet their needs increasing implementation time and expense as well as requiring multiple data sources which are extremely costly and cannot be easily integrated with each other.

But… Is there a better way? Yes!

There are a small number of platforms emerging with new architecture built from the ground-up to solve the challenges manufacturers are facing today. These innovative new technologies backed by big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are revolutionary in the way they connect data allowing manufacturers to explore more savings, more efficiently than ever before. They have built-in collaboration features allowing teams to connect to the latest information from anywhere in the world which is more important than ever in today’s work environments. We call this the next generation of product data management. Find how it can work for you.

Niki Inglis

Makersite – the next generation of product data management