Global Cooperation

Advanced Manufacturing is going green — 3 CEOs explain how

A semiconductor factory is seen bathed in orange light. Advanced Manufacturing is due a new narrative.

Advanced Manufacturing is due a new narrative. Image: REUTERS/Edgar Su

Lena McKnight
Partner Lead, Automotive and New Mobility and Advanced Manufacturing Industries, World Economic Forum
Maya Ben Dror
Industry Manager, Automotive and New Mobility & Advanced Manufacturing, World Economic Forum
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  • Advanced manufacturing solutions, once perceived merely as tools for increasing efficiency and productivity, warrant a new narrative.
  • The World Economic Forum's New Narrative demonstrates how Advanced Manufacturing can solve challenges and drive lasting, measurable impact across resiliency, efficiency, sustainability, people and innovation.
  • Three manufacturing leaders explain how sustainability benefits can be catalyzed in advanced manufacturing.

In a world of seismic shifts driven by geopolitics, economic instabilities, climate change, and tech innovation, the advanced manufacturing industry is emerging as a game-changer.

Transforming the manufacturing cycle from the ground up can unleash untapped opportunities.

This is why the World Economic Forum’s Advanced Manufacturing Industry community developed a New Narrative, built on the idea of re-imagining five core tenets of global operations: resiliency, efficiency, sustainability, people and innovation.


How is the World Economic Forum contributing to build resilient supply chains?

The New Narrative's five areas of impact

The New Narrative's five areas of impact.
The New Narrative's five areas of impact. Image: World Economic Forum

The leaders spearheading advanced manufacturing

Although the five impact areas of the New Narrative are intertwined and reinforce each other, we have asked three co-authors of the New Narrative to share how sustainability can be advanced in the wake of Climate Week. Here are their insights:

Michael Süss, Executive Chairman, OC Oerlikon

"This sustainability transition requires a holistic perspective."

One of the key elements of the New Narrative is to prioritize advanced manufacturing technologies and solutions that enable the transition to sustainable processes and value chains. This includes enhancing process and material efficiency, reliability, durability, circularity and waste minimization.

Materials, coatings and Additive Manufacturing (AM) have a vital role to play in the advanced manufacturing ecosystem, and coatings, in particular, are now seen as an integral part of the component design.

This process of decarbonizing manufacturing must examine the entire value chain. From extending tool life, reducing fuel consumption in cars and airplanes to improving textile machinery efficiency or increasing the recycling of fibers and materials, the challenge is great — but rising to it is essential.

This sustainability transition requires a holistic perspective. Net-zero is not a standalone activity. All stakeholders — industry, governments, companies and end consumers — have a role to play, and the solution is the sum of all these parts that we play.

Ultimately, we must challenge the misconception that companies must choose between either cost savings or sustainability advances, as these are in fact complementary and not in competition or conflict with one another.

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Ric Fulop, CEO, Desktop Metal

"Global metal production accounts for approximately 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions."

3D printing, also known as Additive Manufacturing, is a key enabling technology for sustainability. Its potential is immense, ranging from metals and polymers to ceramics.

Metals, in particular, are a key area of improvement when it comes to making advanced manufacturing more sustainable.

Global metal production accounts for approximately 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Technologies that lead to serial metal production at high volumes using additive manufacturing can reduce this impact. Binder jetting, for example, which is a specific form of 3D printing, generates little to no waste for comparable complex part designs, reduces emissions over conventional methods and enables once-impossible lightweight part designs that reduce the impact of products over their lifespan.

The same digital files can be printed on any continent using the same equipment, allowing goods to be made closer to the point of use, eliminating excessive shipping and lessening supply chain bottlenecks.

Overproduction, too, is eased with AM. With AM, you can make what you need when you need it — ensuring no wasted resources or excess emissions.

Terrence Brady, President and CEO, UL Research Institute; Board Chair, UL Standards & Engagement

"Building safety into these innovations while they’re still under development is key."

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers steam, technologies like 3D printing, renewable energy and artificial intelligence can be leveraged by manufacturers to promote efficiency, supply chain resilience and decarbonization.

Building safety into these innovations while they’re still under development is key. By conducting such research now, we can incorporate safety and sustainability into every level of development, from site selection to material usage, to energy generation and storage, to processes that are safer and more sustainable. All of this will be backed by data.

It’s also important to closely examine the maintenance and planned and unplanned byproducts of manufacturing processes, so we can develop end-of-life recycling and reuse strategies that ensure integrated systems are built for the next generation of manufacturing demands.

While manufacturing is a foundational cornerstone of modern society, and waste an unavoidable consequence of modern life, circularity can significantly improve the manufacturing industry's process collectively. Embracing circularity can substantially enhance industry processes and help the industry decarbonize and reduce waste.

To fulfill the promise of sustainability and circularity, the industry must cultivate a cohesive ecosystem, encompassing willing suppliers, engineers, customers, end users and recycling stakeholders. Together, they can embed circularity in the industry.

Achieving the long-term vision of circularity necessitates essential partnerships and a globally connected supply chain, spanning from design to end-of-life, with manufacturers at its core. The World Economic Forum’s Advanced Manufacturing Industry community is focused on enabling innovative, inclusive and sustainable industry transformation and growth.

To facilitate this, the community has collaborated on a New Narrative that responds to four megatrends, commits to five guiding principles, and demonstrates how advanced manufacturing can unlock real value across five interconnected impact areas. Click here to learn more.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Global CooperationManufacturing and Value Chains
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