Growing awareness of climate change, as well as the increasing scarcity and rising prices of natural resources, have subjected the use of energy and resources in manufacturing and production to close scrutiny. With this in mind, the MEMAN project aims to support European companies in the metal mechanical sector in their efforts to maximise their resource saving potential and increase competitiveness.
The MEMAN consortium brings together fifteen partners from six countries including industrial enterprises, SMEs, and experts in eco-innovative models, who will be working on optimising resource efficiency across three manufacturing value chains: Casting (led by MCC – Entrepreneurial Innovation Cluster, Basque Country, Spain); Machining (by MV – Entrepreneurial Association, Rhone-Alpes Region, France); and Surface Finishing (by EIFFO – Industrial Innovation Cluster, Germany – Austria).
Project co-ordinator Joseba Bilbatua from MONDRAGON Corporation (Spain) explains the project’s concept and approach.
What industry sectors participate in MEMAN?
The optimisation of energy and raw material consumption has become an important goal for most manufacturers. Far ahead of personnel costs (at 20%), raw materials represent the largest cost share for manufacturing companies, at 30-45% of total expenditure, followed by energy costs at 8-15%. Thus, materials and energy together are by far the most critical cost factors for a manufacturing company; its competitiveness in the global context will be determined by its capacity to use these resources efficiently.
The MEMAN project is focusing on industry sectors which are especially sensitive to the consumption of energy and raw material due to their large series (automotive sector), high costs of their components (aerospace sector), and their complexity (mechanical engineering sector). Being able to save valuable resources from every stage of the production chain will have a big impact on many European companies, for both end users and main stakeholders of the value chain.
What is unique about the MEMAN approach?
The optimisation of manufacturing processes have traditionally focused on a singular process of the production chain. However, the innovative approach followed in MEMAN is the analysis of energy and raw material flows along the whole life cycle of a product, from the cradle to grave.
Following this approach, it will be possible to improve the competitiveness of European companies in the metal mechanical sector through validation of new business models that allow for collaboration between different companies in the most extended value chain (casting + machining + surface finishing).
This method will be executed by applying a simultaneous and multiple-objective optimisation to the total consumption of energy and raw material resources, as well as other supplies in order to achieve optimal results. This includes the reduction of waste streams through waste prevention or recycling.
How will companies in the metal mechanical sector benefit from the MEMAN solutions?
We intend to tackle the complete production chain in three main industrial sectors (automotive, aerospace and mechanical engineering) through establishing a collaboration ecosystem among the main actors of three production clusters: casting, machining and heat treatment/coating.
This means that not only the end-users of the sectors considered will benefit from MEMAN results, but also the main actors of the value chain: machine suppliers, technology providers, raw material developers, research centres, universities, small and medium enterprises, etc., as all of them contribute to the global optimisation of the manufacturing processes.
There is also a presence of several associations in the consortium, besides the participating industrial companies, so this can further enlarge the potential impact on the European economy.
How can the technological advances and new business models developed within the project be applied to other industry sectors?
MEMAN’s developments will focus on the three mentioned industry scenarios, but the approach we are following is quite transversal and applicable to any other manufacturing sector:
(1) Analysis of the current processes in terms of energy, raw material consumption and CO? emission;
(2) Modelling of the interfaces between the different steps of the value chain;
(3) Proposal of alternative technologies, processes and equipment;
(4) Analysis of new scenarios, and finally;
(5) Identification of possible new business opportunities.
New business opportunities will emerge from the interaction among different processes of the same value production chain, through optimised interfaces that will allow for the identification of potential benefits upstream and downstream in the production chain.
In your view, what will be the main benefits for the environment?
The MEMAN project pursues goals aligned with those defined in the Europe 2020 Strategy around the reduction of the CO? emission reduction (LCA) for the final product of at least 30% from cradle to grave. This is intended to be achieved through cutting down the primary energy consumption at different levels of the value chain compared to commonly occurring scenarios.
Our project includes three case studies selected from typical metalworking chains, including all steps; from sophisticated steelmaking to precision machining and functional coating. Total resource efficiency is much more than a mere combination of just energy efficiency and reduced material waste. Integrated resource efficiency should reduce material inputs and material losses, which reduce recycling needs, and all this should lead inherently to less energy intensive processes.
What is your vision for resource-efficient manufacturing?
Resource-efficient strategies must be applied over all the steps of a product’s life cycle, from the design, planning, modelling and manufacturing stages, up to the advanced services offered during and after the product life-time.
Therefore, research is needed to support production companies in their efforts to manufacture innovative products with customised and complex functionalities and guarantee their operational reliability during their entire life cycles. Manufacturing companies need to be better equipped with energy-efficient machines and plants, energy efficient process engineering and reliable modelling and simulation tools.
In doing so, they will create new business opportunities within the production equipment and capital-goods companies, manufacturing technology providers, tier one and two, the end-users or the research and academic institutions. The aim is to help Europe remain a market-leader in the field of innovative manufacturing technologies and equipment.
MEMAN stands for “Integral Material and Energy flow MANagement in MANufacturing metal mechanic sector’’. It involves 15 partners and will receive almost 6 million Euros of funding from the European Union under Horizon 2020 under grant agreement no.636926.
This three-and-a-half year initiative is the single project awarded under the Factories of the Future topic, ‘Global energy and other resources efficiency in manufacturing enterprises (FoF-03– 2014)’.