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How to extend LCA across your entire Supply Chain

With the rise of customer awareness, in-depth LCA covering the entire product’s supply chain is becoming a decisive competitive edge.

Extending Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) throughout your entire Supply Chain

Understanding the impact of your products goes beyond analyzing your sole business. With the rise of customer awareness, companies are held accountable for their impact on the world and being able to pinpoint a product footprint along its entire supply chain is now a crucial competitive argument. In order to provide this level of accountability for their products, companies need to perform more extensive Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), in a shorter amount of time.

But how to conduct in-depth LCA with the increasing complexity of supply chains?

What is LCA?

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is the globally acknowledged method used to evaluate the environmental impacts of economic activities. It serves as a valuable tool for businesses by providing insights for decision-making processes, aiding in the development of products, processes, or buildings, and contributing to educational endeavors. Additionally, LCA plays a crucial role in product labeling, supply chain management, waste management, and pollution studies. The practices of LCA are integrated into the ISO 14000 environmental management standards and align with frameworks like the Green House Gas (GHG) Protocol, ensuring comprehensive environmental assessment and management practices.

Why is LCA important?

LCA allows for a holistic approach to understanding the environmental impacts of a product or process throughout its entire life cycle. This includes all stages, from the extraction of raw materials, through production and distribution, to use and disposal. By analyzing each stage, LCA can identify potential areas for improvement in terms of resource usage, emissions, and waste generation. This information is valuable for businesses looking to reduce their environmental footprint and promote sustainability. LCA also allows for the comparison of different products or processes, providing a basis for informed decision-making. Additionally, with growing consumer awareness and demand for sustainable products, LCA software can serve as a tool for companies to differentiate themselves in the market.

Product Life Cycle and LCI

A product’s life begins with raw material extraction through materials processing. After manufacturing, and distribution, the product enters its use phase, during which it can be repaired and maintained. The end of life of the product is usually disposal or recycling.

The inputs from nature associated with all these stages include water, energy and raw materials. The outputs include releases of substances to air, land, and water. These inputs and outputs from and to nature are called “flows”. To develop an inventory of flows for the life cycle of a product, a model is constructed using data on inputs and outputs. This data is called the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI).

Inventory analysis is followed by impact assessments. This phase of LCA evaluates the significance of potential environmental impacts based on the LCI flow results. It consists of the selection of impact categories, their classification, and their impact measurement.
Due to globalization, the rapid pace of research and development of new materials and manufacturing methods are continually being introduced to the market. Many consumer goods for example, such as electronics, foods or apparel are redesigned frequently, creating a need for ongoing data collection. Similarly, the transformation of the energy mix toward renewable sources can fundamentally change the environmental impact of entire countries or sectors for the better.

Data quality is crucial

When comparing different products with one another, the analysis is only as valid as its data.

  • Comparable, accurate and current data are crucial for analysis. They often aren’t.
  • Traditional Life Cycle Assessment Data typically does not connect to other dimensions, such as costs, waste, impact location, water footprints, and others.
  • LCA results are often only used by LCA experts, rather than the designers and engineers who conceive products.
  • Complex products take a long time to compute to get results, sometimes days.

Extend LCA to your entire supply chain

Makersite augments LCA data with other impacts, keeps data current and networked and dramatically increases computing speed for impact analysis.

Once imported, Makersite automatically establishes connections between Unit Process data and other data, such as regulatory, chemical, material or cost information across supply networks. This allows product teams to augment their LCA data and seamlessly optimize product designs not only for the environment but also for other criteria.

Pulling connected modeling data into the design stage is paramount for product development teams. It reduces the total development cycle and extends the use of lifecycle data into other domains and across the supply chain.

Makersite provides a next-generation approach to life cycle assessment through open and connected data. This extends to integrations with other applications on the desktop as well as in the cloud.

Fast LCAs and powerful APIs

Makersite’s benefits are numerous:

  • Greatly augment your LCA data: make it visual and instant.
  • Makersite’s computing power renders LCA data in seconds.
  • Connect to other tools, such as CAD, via Makersite’s powerful API and enable ECO-Design across your organization.
  • For companies in time-pressured industries, moving from stage gate process to lean and concurrent design efforts helps shorten development timelines.

If you would like to see how our product sustainability tools could transform your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a personalized demo.

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