Sustainable Engineering: Why It’s Important and How It Can Help

Written by: Carlos Melgarejo

Read Time: 2:30 min

According to the journal Sustainable Production and Consumption, the decisions you make during the product development process are critical. Eighty percent of a product’s environmental impact is determined during this phase. Material selection, supplier selection, manufacturing processes, the operational efficiency of the product, design for reuse or recyclability – all these things are established, and many are set in stone, before production begins.  So, the best way to address sustainability is to start with sustainable engineering.

As a manufacturer, the way you develop and build products can consume a lot of energy and natural resources which can have a negative impact on the environment and its ecosystems. It is important to take this into consideration when designing and manufacturing products. Sustainable engineering can help.

What is sustainable engineering?

Sustainable engineering is the practice of designing products and processes that drive material and energy efficiencies to minimize their environmental impact while cutting costs and improving the bottom line. Manufacturers can minimize waste while maximizing the value they deliver. Today, consumers and investors alike are expressing tremendous interest in sustainability and in response, manufacturers are adopting sustainability initiatives into their product development strategies.

Dr. Helen Meese, Chartered Mechanical Engineer says, “Sustainable design is no longer simply focused on reduce, recycle, and re-use or repurpose. Today, sustainable design is about adding value, designing products that bring societal benefits and solving environmental challenges that are also viable for businesses to implement. Engineers must have the mindset to develop innovative solutions.”

Why should engineers practice sustainable engineering?

Further to Dr. Meese’s point, engineers should always strive to keep the safety, health, and welfare of the public in mind while, at the same time, improving efficiency and reducing the use of materials and energy. Sustainability has become a top objective for engineers as they are the ones who make the decisions that can minimize a product’s environmental impact.  

There are several reasons why manufacturers should focus on sustainable engineering:

  • To reduce overall CO2 emissions 
  • To minimize energy & materials consumption, which increases operational efficiency by reducing costs
  • To build in recyclability and reuse, which optimizes the top and bottom line 
  • To improve company culture, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction
  • To increase competitive advantage, strengthen the brand, and build public trust
  • To compete in markets with strict environment, health, and safety regulations

What key sustainable engineering principles should engineers focus on?

Sustainability is a collective endeavor. However, engineers are responsible for designing the product and can influence what goes into it, how it’s built, how it operates, and how it’s disposed or recycled. As an engineer, you can adopt more sustainable practices that can reduce your organization’s environmental impact. 

Here are a few sustainable engineering principles that can help you in your eco-friendly strategy:

Use resources effectively

When designing products, engineers should make sure non-renewable resources are properly and sparingly used in the manufacturing phase to reduce depletion and minimize waste. 

Eliminate excess waste

PLM for green engineering enables you to utilize digital thread capabilities to support sustainability initiatives. You can design, visualize, develop, and test products in the digital realm as opposed to doing it in the physical world, avoiding scrap and waste.  


Consider material alternatives

When sourcing parts, it’s important to consider suppliers that offer sustainable options such as recycled or reused materials. 

Sustainable engineering and PLM

Adopting a sustainable engineering strategy for manufacturing requires a deep understanding of a product along its whole lifecycle and processes. That’s where product lifecycle management (PLM) comes into play. By implementing a holistic and data-driven PLM approach, organizations can measure, analyze, and improve the impact of their product design, methods of production, and supply chain operations on the environment. 

PLM enables all data related to a product to be managed by a single source of truth. Manufacturers have visibility and traceability into a product’s carbon footprint throughout its lifecycle which helps engineers determine better alternatives for sourcing parts and manufacturing practices.

PLM software also supports compliance with regulations that dictate the use of materials hazardous to human health and the environment.  

You can have the peace of mind that you can develop innovative and quality products while helping protect the environment, human health, and minimize the depletion of natural resources through sustainable engineering practices propelled by a PLM enabled digital thread.


PLM for Green Engineering

Utilize the digital thread to make design decisions that support your sustainability initiatives. Learn More
Tags: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Sustainability

About the Author

Carlos Melgarejo Carlos is a Sr. Content Marketing Specialist for PTC’s PLM technology. He comes from a broadcast journalism background where he developed a love for writing and visual storytelling. He is also passionate about developing creative content and communications, having received a Master’s degree in Marketing. He enjoys the outdoors, the beach, exercising, riding his motorcycle and car restoration.