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William A. Levinson, P.E.  Principal
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Identification of Material and Energy Wastes: the Control Surface Approach

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Common Sense Green Manufacturing from Levinson Productivity Systems

Vision Statement

A large share of Henry Ford's unprecedented profits came from what we would now call "green" manufacturing. Ford's Today and Tomorrow (1926) defines the ultimate goal of green manufacturing in one sentence:
 "…we will not so lightly waste material simply because we can reclaim it— for salvage involves labour. The ideal is to have nothing to salvage."
Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C. offers training and consulting in "green" manufacturing and "green" supply chain management. We do not support efforts to reduce carbon emissions for their own sake, because this does not add value for the customer. Our goal is to help our clients create value for their customers, "value" is something for which the customer is willing to pay, and not many customers define carbon credits (the modern counterpart of medieval indulgences for sins) as value. We have no interest in non-value-adding shell games with carbon credits, such as "getting rid" of the CO2 emissions by moving the smokestacks to China. On the other hand, suppression of material and energy waste (and therefore costs) often has the incidental effect of reducing carbon emissions, so clients with a public relations need to do this will find our services helpful.

Common Sense Green Manufacturing (or Sustainable Manufacturing) is:
Common Sense Green Manufacturing is not:
  • Identification and suppression of material and energy wastes
    • Consistent with ISO 14001
    • Carbon emissions are symptomatic of energy expenditures whose reduction will deliver lower costs. If energy comes from non-carbon sources, however, a focus on carbon emissions will overlook these improvement opportunities.
  • Extraction of all possible value from every resource prior to disposal or recycling
    • Make the resource work until it can deliver no further value

Example of Common Sense Green Manufacturing (or agriculture) versus politically correct and dysfunctional policies: methane emissions from livestock

Common sense green manufacturing recognizes that methane emissions represent wasted animal feed that would have otherwise been converted into value (wool and meat). As of 2001, Australian scientists were in fact researching a vaccine that suppresses methanogenic bacteria that live in the digestive tracts of farm animals.
  • Focus on carbon footprints, or efforts to reduce carbon emissions for their own sake
  • Purchase of wind turbines, solar panels, or other "green" energy sources that cannot justify themselves economically.
    • If they were cost effective, they would not need government mandates or even tax credits to sell themselves. Consider, for example, the problem of "horse emissions" during the early 20th century. Automobiles eliminated the solid waste problem, but they were costly luxuries that only the rich could afford. When Henry Ford introduced the inexpensive Model T, however, the horses went away on their own without any government intervention.
    • Our investigation of residential wind turbines shows them to be competitive with commercial electric power. On the other hand, we do not expect to live long enough for a residential solar system to pay for itself, let alone yield anything that would consitute a good investment return. Technological improvements and production cost reductions could of course change this.
  • Levinson Productivity Systems does not recognize climate change as a problem worthy of the widespread economic disruption that would result from carbon taxes, mandatory cap-and-trade schemes, and so on.
    • King Canute's futile command that the tide not come in is highly instructive, noting that higher solar activity is also making Mars warmer. Suppression of carbon emissions is therefore not only costly, but might not even achieve the desired results.
    • Climate change has happened in the past without human intervention, it will happen in the future, and adaptation (through migration) is likely to be the most cost-effective response. As an example, the Native Americans who were later known as the Iroquois doubtlessly adapted to global warming through migration to Upstate New York after retreat of the glaciers. Vikings meanwhile adapted to global warming through the colonization of Greenland.
  • The Company's position is that carbon credit exchanges are little more than a 21st century version of the sale of medieval indulgences (forgiveness for sins; if you thought your own soul was in good shape, you could buy indulgences for your deceased relatives).
    • While most people and organizations that promote this agenda are well-meaning, there are a few unscrupulous ones that are not above fabricating or hyping a "global warming crisis" to obtain an income without having to deliver anything of value to society.

Identification of Material and Energy Wastes: the Control Surface Approach
  • Material and energy waste can easily be built into a job. They often escape notice because everyone focuses on the end product.
  • Elimination of these wastes is central to "green" manufacturing and the ISO 14001 standard and, more importantly, very profitable. 
  • We cannot, however, remove this waste before we identify it.
The control surface is a chemical engineering analytical technique that forces all material and energy streams--including waste--to become visible. We recommend it as a green manufacturing analytical tool that ties in with the SIPOC (Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customer) model. The basic idea is to surround the process with a control surface, and then balance all material inputs and outputs--with "outputs" including what is thrown away as well as what is shipped to the customer.

Here is a simple example. (In practice, all inputs and outputs should be quantified in pounds, kilograms, liters, or whatever.)

The metal turnings (even if they can be recycled) and the spent cutting fluid are waste, but they are often taken for granted because everybody focuses on the product. Arnold and Faurote's Ford Methods and the Ford Shops (1915) made this observation more than ninety years ago:
The foundry supplies the machine shop with 13,000 pounds of ring pots per day, worth, at 2.5 cents per pound, $325 per day.
The machine shop produces about 14,000 rings per day, 1 5/12 ounces each, say 1240 pounds of finished rings from 13,000 pounds of ring stock, 11,760 pounds of stock, worth $294 wasted for the pleasure of cutting it into chips and using snap-ring piston packing.
That is to say, $325 worth of ring-stock is supplied to the machine shop, $294 of this value is wasted, and $31 of stock value utilized in the finished work.
These figures are not favorable to low-cost piston-ring production.
Many organizations might ignore this waste and, in fact, some owners of a sophisticated machine tool bragged about how many tons of aluminum it could turn into scrap in a single day (because this was evidence of productivity). Ford, however, recognized this waste for what it was.
  • "One of the workmen devised a very simple new method for making this gear in which the scrap was only one per cent" (Ford, My Life and Work, 1922). The former process wasted 12 percent of the material.
  • "Our objective is always to minimize the subsequent machining" (Ford, Today and Tomorrow, 1926).
  • "A casting must be machined— sometimes by taking away thirty percent of the metal; that is a waste" (Ford, 1930, Moving Forward).

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