The vision as a story

Laura works in a medium sized mechatronic-enterprise in Europe. Besides the automotive industry their customers are spread throughout all industrial sectors. As the head of the department for special design, Laura tailors products for the customer’s individual needs. She is very happy about her recently improved work-life-balance. After bringing her three children to school, she smiles on her way to work. How things changed within the past few years!

In 2010 her work was very exhausting, Laura reminds herself. The changing requirements and the hectic fixing of problems to meet the customer’s needs and to adhere to the delivery dates often caused problems. Aspects regarding eco-efficiency or sustainability were mostly overlooked. When the customer had new requirements, Laura had to spend a lot of her time in contacting her suppliers along the whole supply chain. If her suppliers were able to deliver the requested information, she still had the problem of handling a multiplicity of different file formats and information structures. Sometimes the person responsible for environmental requirements had to sign certificates of non-objection without having any information. This lack of security carried a very high operational risk. At that time existing concepts and data platforms did not contain all necessary information and were very user unfriendly. The director of her enterprise refused to use other platforms because he did not want to take the risk of the publication of his suppliers and the entire supply chain.

Today, in 2016, the daily routine has changed in a revolutionary manner. Almost effortless, Laura’s department is increasing the output and the ecological efficiency of the products dramatically. The continuous “green self-evolution” of Laura’s products reduces their impact on the environment, improves the usage of resources and minimizes their risks for health.

Laura’s enterprise was one of the first companies who joined the SustainHub network and applied the new methods. SustainHub was developed in a European funded research and development project. It provides a systematic and efficient approach to collect compliance and sustainability data for products and manufacturing processes through the supply chain and integrates these into the internal systems and processes of companies. This led to a better management of supply chain data and sustainability data and improved the eco efficiency performance of product design and production. Since the start of SustainHub, Laura’s enterprise has been able to preserve and improve its competitive position.

SustainHub creates a win-win situation for the developers and the partners by offering amazing advantages. The shared, local data management of all sustainability data is no longer cost intensive and is very user friendly. The continuous enlargement of the data keeps it up to date. Local methods and in-house processes provide an easy and quick support of new suppliers in the network. Once Laura’s enterprise joined the network, all her suppliers were integrated in the system. Additionally all of Laura’s customers were able to use the automatically generated sustainability data of the products. Due to this mechanism, SustainHub spread very quickly throughout all European countries and all over the world. The constant development of new hard- and software services and applications from different developers is steadily improving the functionality and usability of SustainHub. Even Laura’s smallest suppliers can now afford sustainability data management. Costs for the testing and checking of components and parts decreased dramatically since the conjoined testing system of all members was introduced. Plausibility checks and risk analyses have helped to minimize the number of necessary tests and have reduced the operational risk for the members. The combination of current data, testing results and new trends in research and development enforced the implementation of ecological processes and fabrication methods throughout the whole industrial sector.

The basic principle of SustainHub is a business model for the exchange of sustainability data, in combination with new technical solutions. These solutions consist of innovative in-house processes, new peer-to-peer networks and a testing platform. The quick and easy integration to the existing data management systems of Laura’s enterprise made the application simple and comfortable. The system is able to estimate missing data through a comparison with similar processes or products. Existing information is automatically collected and added by self-reliable software agents. Testing data is shared with all members and completes and verifies the stored sustainability data. Laura’s company gains access to a data-pool in which all testing data is visible, storable and usable. The analysis of the data allows the identification of critical suppliers, processes and technologies at a very early stage of the design process. An analysis on an inter-industrial, national or international level is the base for the introduction of new Key-Performance-Indicators (KPIs) of sustainability.
With a sense of satisfaction Laura thinks about her next task, the adaptation of a drive-by-wire steering for a new generation of electric cars. She is very curious how green the new steering will be at the end of the development and about the indicators for sustainability. Laura is very confident that the future will be bright and that her children will grow up in a protected, sustainable world.