Stakeholder Interaction Analysis – Enhancing Sustainability of Products and Manufacturing

It is becoming increasingly important for manufacturing companies to efficiently utilize both alternative and renewable energy sources, and to retain materials in closed-loop systems. The role of the individual in an increasingly digitized and networked production environment must be considered as well. Against this backdrop, twelve Fraunhofer Institutes have set themselves the goal of changing the manufacturing world by applying new ways of thinking. The three E’s of the E3 Lighthouse project stand for efficient engineering, efficient fabrication and efficient work. Put another way: maximal conservation of resources and minimal emissions while integrating and involving people. During the first two years of the project, promising solutions to challenges in planning, control, optimization and evaluation of production processes and facilities were developed within the consortium. These will now be amalgamated into an “E3 manufacturing world of tomorrow”.

Sustainability and benefit assessment

Involving all the participating parties in the planning process – well before the introduction of new industrial technology or construction of a new plant – becomes a critical factor for success of a manufacturing company, especially when production facilities and the urban environment are moving closer to one another. The focus of the sub-project “Sustainability and Benefit Analysis of Production for German Industry – SUSPROFIT” is the synergistic examination of the economic, social and ecological criteria in an efficient production sequence. A practical, industry-specific evaluation system is being developed under SUSPROFIT that categorizes the interests of affected parties in terms of sustainability and indicates options for action.

Stakeholder views broaden perspective

The goal is the evaluation of products and processes using a life-cycle approach that takes into account manufacturing, distribution, benefit, and waste management. The team of experts from Fraunhofer IGB and UMSICHT is able to call on its experience with sustainability management in large companies as well as from within its own organizations. Involving all stakeholders has long been a standard approach in these instances. The approach is tailored to examining production processes in small and medium-size operations in order to assist companies in responding more quickly to potential risks, achieving higher social acceptability and in the end being able to better withstand the challenges of the marketplace. The interests of employees, investors, suppliers, clients and consumers, local residents, lawmakers and environmental organizations are analyzed in dialog with company representatives.

Toolbox for analyzing interaction

A modular kit of computer-aided analysis tools, a knowledge bank and evaluation methods provide the framework for a comprehensive systemization of factors that contribute to success and risk. The core element for stakeholder interaction analysis, as it is referred to, is the conversation with the company. During this discussion, all relevant fields of activity, especially economic, ecological and social ones, are examined and investigated for their importance to key stakeholders. The form of the subsequent communication with stakeholder groups can be selected from various formats such as employee surveys or neighborhood dialogs. The company receives the following information from the focused amalgamation of analysis, research, dialogs and consultations: Classification of the current state in terms of sustainability, indications of interest conflicts, hot spots, and feasibility of corrective measures as well as recommendations for action based on examples of good practice.

Actual test projects are currently running at two SMEs and an equipment manufacturer. During the remaining duration of the project, the interaction tool will be integrated into the E3-based demonstration platform for virtual product development in Berlin to enable people to see and experience the potential of the E3-Production system.