Innovation Goes Green with Lean & Sustainable Product Design!


Can the “Innovation Economy” and the “Green Economy” coexist? Here at the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, we see innovation and sustainability as keys to the long term economic growth and prosperity of U.S. manufacturers. At the same time, a culture of continuous improvement is necessary to enhance productivity and free up the capacity that will provide manufacturers a stable foundation to pursue innovation and growth.

These three key strategies of innovation, sustainability and continuous improvement come together in Lean and Sustainable Product Design (LSPD), a service offered by MEP to its manufacturing clients. It incorporates the critical element of product sustainability throughout the total life use cycle of a product, from cradle to grave to cradle. Environmental attributes are designed-in early and balanced with quality, performance, and price-value attributes. As such, the resulting product meets the needs of the customer and market place, and still makes it profitable to produce, sell, and service. In today’s emphasis on global environmental stewardship, LSPD enables product designers to address all aspects of sustainability throughout the entire product lifecycle.

However being lean and sustainable isn’t just about addressing environmental stewardship or altruism. More importantly, it is about growing your business, because in many cases, sustainability makes good business sense so that you can stay sustainable and help both your firm and the planet that it resides on!

What are some benefits of applying lean and sustainability to product design? Among other things, LSPD brings about:

• Reduced production and life-cycle costs
• Ability to meet market demand for “green” products
• Reduced environmental impact of product and processes
• Optimized raw material consumption and energy use
• Improved waste management and pollution prevention
• Enhanced design and opportunities for innovation

There are a number of strategies for the development of sustainable products, as well as market strategies for lean and sustainable design, but perhaps I’ll save those for my next entry (yes that counts as a tease). For now, if you’d like to know more about how your firm can sustainably increase profits and market share while cutting costs and waste, drop me a line…

About Author

Ben Vickery

Ben Vickery is Senior Technical Advisor with NIST MEP, and works in its Partnership and Program Development Office. Ben is leading NIST MEP’s efforts to create regional Technology Collaboratives, which serve to develop and sustain regional innovation ecosystems that are positioned and prepared to identify, assess, and adopt technologies resulting from federal R&D investments.


  1. Ben your on the right track. The key iIthink is to listen to the customer and give them what they want and need instead of trying to sell them what we make. In addition, we need to make our products better than anyone else. Cutting costs by turning out a cheep product that is going to be in a land fill in a year is no bargain for the customer and its no bargain for the planet. Cutting costs of production while producing a quality product that will last or can be repaired instead of discarded is a better solution.

  2. Pingback: Manufacturing Innovation Blog – Eco-Labeling Your Product for Competitive Advantage

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