Eco-friendly designs are top of mind for many of late. This is partially driven by good citizenship and (perhaps just a little) regulatory incentives. While some may see sustainability as a passing fad, there isn't a CEO that doesn't dread being featured in a front-page story in The New York Times for contaminating the planet or, worse yet, causing deaths because of hazardous products.
Although tracking these products to ensure environmental compliance is admirable, the better choice would be to design sustainability into the product from the start. Many companies have started down the path of sustainable design. However, if it's not managed effectively, the added steps to validate eco-friendly designs could lead to inefficiencies, including increased new-product time-to-market and manufacturing costs.
Eco-friendly design should follow the same principles as other functions, like quality, cost and performance. The requirements and characteristics need to be defined in the early stages of design and addressed before it is too costly or impossible to incorporate at later stages.
It's a generally accepted principle that over 70 percent of product cost is committed to design-a fact that frustrates procurement professionals when it reduces their sourcing flexibility.
Demand for sustainable and eco-friendly designs are bringing new innovations to the forefront that are challenging the current capabilities of design organizations in both sciences and knowledge management and decision support. As business leaders identify sustainable design as a strategic company direction, they must assess whether they have the necessary capabilities in place to achieve this goal. Past design expertise may not meet these requirements, nor the processes and technologies in place today.
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