Sustainability is an issue of ever-increasing importance to individuals and companies alike. With that said, it can be harder for some more than others to make sustainability a reality.

In the world of manufacturing, it is commonplace for there to be residual materials that aren’t included in the final products. And more often than not, these residual components are not recycled and scrapped entirely. Such a shame and a waste in terms of lost sustainability opportunities.

The hard truth is that there is a lack in demand of such materials, whether it be due to their limited shelf life, complex logistics, or even the regulatory barriers that prevent the materials from being processed across borders. But whatever the reason, it is clear that this type of waste drives consumption of resources and leaves a negative ecological impact.

That being said, it’s hard to envision sustainability in this kind of manufacturing environment.

However, this does not mean that the health of the planet is not top of mind among these manufacturers. As a matter of fact, one company found a way to take the discarded and create a demand for it.

Identifying the Problem

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) serves as a professional services firm with a network spanning 156 countries and more than 295,000 employees. The company is dedicated to ensuring quality in assurance, advisory, and tax services.

At PwC Germany, its technology advisory and data analytics services are particularly focused on supporting companies’ business strategies and operations through the design and implementation of IT-empowered processes.

As such, PwC addressed a formidable gap by increasing efficiency while keeping sustainable targets in mind – and the requirement to reuse residual materials by supported, accelerated processes was born. By recognizing this gap, PwC developed a solution based on a concept running in one of its customers production plants.

PwC saw that not only this customer with its specific requirements could benefit from the reuse of remaining materials from production sites but, in a broader sense, other companies in the industrial manufacturing and mill industries as well. But it wouldn’t be easy. It would take a substantial effort to manage more flexible handling requirements into existing processes.

PWC’s solution? The Production Reprocessing Tool.

Transforming Waste into Purpose

As a partner of SAP, it was only natural that PwC use SAP technology to overcome its customer’s hurdle. PwC developed the Production Reprocessing Tool by utilizing SAP S/4HANA as an add-in to help optimize the use of residues in the production process.

As the name suggests, the Production Reprocessing Tool reuses rather than scraps remaining materials.

This further enables production order components to be replaced with residues when needed. It also features a flexible search algorithm that helps find alternative parts.

Putting It into Practice

Case in point: Trelleborg Sealing Solutions (TSS) is the first that has benefited from the Production Reprocessing Tool. TSS was no stranger when it came to encountering the problem of wasted materials. In fact, the requirement of reusing residuals had become increasingly important through an internal requirement to minimize the use of landfills. It was nearly impossible to calculate the scrap percentage of required components via the given system capabilities, and the company would frequently produce more than needed without a solution.

Trelleborg Sealing Solutions is committed to its internal agenda of “protecting the essential” and has therefore been a great partner to jointly design the add-in solution during an SAP implementation by piloting the tool in a local production plant in Denmark.

Once implemented, PwC saw that Trelleborg made several quantifiable improvements due to the Production Reprocessing Tool. After all, not only does reducing waste in the production process help to reduce raw material and labor costs, but it also has a positive ecological impact.

Overall, with the Production Reprocessing Tool, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions’ plan was to:

  • Reuse up to 7% of residues of the total production volume
  • Recycle the residues up to 90% and therefore reduce waste and environmental load significantly
  • Reduce customers lead time up to 30% for all orders manufactured from residues

Now, with the new add-in, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions is able to thrive more from both an economical and environmental perspective. The Production Reprocessing Tool allows for recalculation, reuse, and recycling during the production process, which, in the end, leads to less scrap of residual components and therefore less in landfills.

TSS is keen to see a positive ripple effect thanks to the solution. As the Production Reprocessing Tool reduces the consumption of materials, it frees up usage of machines, which in turn reduces the consumption of electricity and increases machine capacity. In addition, the planning and order handling efforts are lowered, which grants TSS the freedom to focus on other business improvements.

This is just one example of how an industry originally thought to be environmentally unfriendly can take meaningful productive measures to improve its sustainability practices – in this case, thanks to the innovative solution created by PwC and Trelleborg Sealing Solutions.

To gain more insight into PwC’s Production Reprocessing Tool that garnered an honorable mention in the 2021 SAP Innovation Awards, check out its informative pitch deck.

Casey Tobias and Michael Kure are SAP global marketing contributors.