by Shelly Martin, EARTHSHIFT Sustainability Analyst & Training Manager
Recently, fellow EARTHSHIFT Sustainability Consultant, Dave Hartter and I traveled to Hypertherm to facilitate a sustainable product development (SPD) workshop for over 40 engineers at their industrial cutting solutions firm based in Hanover, New Hampshire. SPD workshops engage the employees within an organization in broader discussions around the value of sustainability and employing life cycle thinking throughout their product development process, no matter where they are currently in their journey towards sustainability.
At Hypertherm, sustainability is becoming part of their DNA, with integrated sustainability goals around waste, energy efficiency and carbon reduction. Their use of Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) of several key products has led them to identify environmental hotspots outside of their manufacturing that they are currently focusing on. The goal of the SPD workshop was to further integrate life cycle thinking within their engineering organization and to brainstorm new sustainable and innovative opportunities.
Right from the get-go, the energy, human energy that is, in the room was palpable. The engineers were asking pointed questions and sharing their personal experiences.The workshop was organized around brainstorming activities where groups of 4 or 5 people would discuss topics such as the life cycle of consumer products like a pair of blue jeans, a bucket of paint or a package of corn to get them thinking outside the box – quite different from a plasma cutter. Flip charts were scattered around the room and participants nominated scribes, or in some cases artists, to document their thoughts on the environmental hotspots and ideas to create sustainable value.
Participants learned about value creation through sustainability initiatives including life cycle thinking and assessment, which brought in the findings from recent LCA studies EarthShift conducted for Hypertherm on their metal cutting machines, as well as rules of thumb on designing for sustainability and how these are applicable to their operations. In addition, the workshop explored shared value and non-traditional opportunities that Hypertherm could take to help alleviate societal and environmental pressures, and help support under-served markets.
“This workshop took our CSR goals and recent sustainability initiatives to the next level. The interactive nature of the day allowed our engineers to ask questions and really see how these methodologies can bring real value to their day-to-date activities and Hypertherm’s sustainability and financial goals.” Jenny Levy, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Hypertherm, Inc stated.
The day concluded with each engineer writing down how they will use these learnings and tools in 2015. I can’t wait to hear how the learnings from this workshop help drive product sustainability and innovation at Hypertherm going forward.
Are you interested in learning how to drive sustainability and innovation at your company?