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What is the total environmental impact of just one product or its package? How about all of the products you produce within a given year?
Answering these questions can seem unfeasible, given the multiple factors that influence a product’s environmental impact. Many of these factors may not have crossed your mind, while others you are aware of can prove difficult to track and measure. But that doesn’t stop many companies from trying to conduct accurate Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) to identify opportunities that improve sustainability visibility and eco-friendliness throughout the supply chain.
Here’s a brief overview of the complexities of the Life Cycle Assessment process and how you can improve the way you conduct an LCA for a more optimal outcome.
3 Common Pain Points Found in LCA
A critical input that companies need to conduct an LCA is supply chain data – and a lot of it. The purpose of an LCA isn’t to compile data, but rather identify and use data to drive business decisions and sustainability. This is usually easier said than done, as most companies don’t have the required level of detail readily available in a single source of truth to make accurate, reliable decisions. This is especially true when it comes to specification data. As with any audit or assessment tool, the resulting LCA output is only as good as the data input. Any fragmented, inaccurate, or outdated information just won’t cut it.
Companies that find themselves lacking the data needed to complete a successful LCA often face these three common pain points:
- A lack of product component data
- Supplier sourcing identification
- Supply chain complexity
A Lack of Product Component Data
Part of understanding the environmental impact of a product requires knowing the environmental impact of each individual component within the product, commonly referred to as a specification. Every packaging component, ingredient and its formula must be investigated and documented, including the impact of production and transportation for each raw material.
This can create a great deal of tedious and intricate work for companies and stakeholders. And without proper product documentation or easy ways to access the specification data, organizations often find themselves repeating the same labor-intensive processes, especially with products that share overlapping materials. With the digital mapping and process automations provided through Specification Data Management™, much of this confusion and redundancy is eliminated.
Supplier Sourcing Identification
Most companies work with more than one supplier, and most suppliers provide their customers with many identical or similar items. The impact of one supplier could affect multiple products in your total company profile. With relevant research showing that more than 80 percent of the environmental impact comes from the supply chain, identifying alternate suppliers for product components may have a huge effect on your product footprint. Tracking and analyzing supplier performance over time can also provide layers of intelligence that enhance your overall operations, processes, and methods to achieve sustainability goals.
Considering the Entire Supply Chain
The physical product itself is only part of a bigger picture with the environmental impact of a product’s creation. For example, the LCA would also need to assess the mode of transportation for a product (and each component of that product), the production processes, distribution specifics, and even sales and marketing methods.
Bringing Greater Clarity to LCA with Specification Data Management Software
Given the multitude of moving parts, it’s critical for companies to establish a single source of truth for specifications and supply chain data to not only conduct LCAs more quickly, but to continuously measure and track sustainability progress over time.
For most companies, the hardest part of completing a Life Cycle Assessment is gathering the data needed for the inputs. This can take anywhere from 2-4 months of working across internal departments and external suppliers and vendors to collect the required data.
With Specification Data Management, companies have a single source of truth for the DNA-level data of their products, components, materials, ingredients, formulas, and machinery, enabling them to greatly accelerate the previously time-consuming task of gathering data. With instant access to up-to-date records and specifications in one location, customers can quickly export the necessary data from within Specright’s Specification Data Management platform.
Information on a material or supplier’s environmental impact can be instantly accessed in our Specification Data Management platform to gain better visibility into a product’s life cycle impact and make data-driven decisions.
Since LCAs can be expensive and resource intensive, they’re typically conducted only once a year. This is where the power of Specification Data Management comes into play, as it continuously tracks and reports on life cycle progress over time, instead of only providing a single snapshot of data once a year. Within Specright, we’ve created out-of-the-box sustainability dashboards and reports for users to continually track sustainability progress and identify improvement opportunities. And the platform provides a central anchor point to help illuminate critical spec details at the DNA-level. With the platform’s built-in intelligence and correlation capabilities, your organization can gain better visibility into a product’s life cycle impact and make more data-driven decisions over time.
While traditional Life Cycle Management solutions have continued to improve and even include tools capable of predictive and preventive machine maintenance, these solutions don’t provide features such as live data integrations that decrease the time needed to complete a full analysis. A Specification Data Management platform allows companies to decrease the LCA data collection and analysis requirement times across an entire global portfolio, providing access to data in days, not months. This allows for immediate product adjustments and improvements to sustainability, profits, and customer satisfaction.
Jennifer Blaser, Quality Assurance Manager at Soylent, believes unifying teams with the same set of deeper-level data is critical to their operations. “We needed something where someone could document everything in one area so we weren’t messing up formulas and have the same reference data for everyone. Specright was amazing because we could tailor the product to what we needed,” Blaser notes. She states that with Specright their operations improved as they were able to locate product data with just a few clicks instead of spending months gathering needed data. This improvement of data collection and analysis by only just a few weeks can be enough to determine the continued success of nearly any product.
To learn more about Specification Management software, download our eBook and see how you can improve the way you conduct LCAs and make meaningful improvements throughout the supply chain.