Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Customer Success Story: Creating Knowledge Workers for the Greener Product Marketplace – Part 2: Getting Started

By Sustainable Minds on June 12, 2012

On May 24, we held the second in a series of webcasts that feature educators from leading colleges and universities demonstrating how Sustainable Minds is being used in education. This webcast showcases the creativity of two engineering and manufacturing educators discussing how they got started integrating Sustainable Minds into current projects and courses, and how they developed new ones. They reported not only a very high level of student engagement and enthusiasm, but a clear impact on students’ improved job marketability.

Integrating environmental sustainability into product development education is still relatively new for just about all schools. Despite its newness, the link between greener product development education and industry demand for graduates possessing this type of preparation is strong and growing. This webcast series spotlights how educators from a range of disciplines, with both professional and academic careers, are themselves learning new things, building on what they know and getting started teaching in new ways.

Following is a summary of their presentations.

Montana Tech: Teaching environmental sustainability and how to manage it is a rational win-win given today’s changing manufacturing paradigm.

Associate Professor Rajendra (Raj) Kasinath is a PhD in Materials Engineering. He teaches core courses and capstone design at Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Environmental Engineering Department. His research activities include biomimetic chemical synthesis of inorganic constructs and studying the effects of nanoparticles on microbial diversity. Raj started teaching environmental sustainability management for engineering seniors and in the MBA program 5 years ago. He believes teacing sustainability and how to manage it is a rational win-win given today’s changing manufacturing paradigm.

Today Raj teaches two courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels: ’Sustainable Environmental Quality Management’ and ‘Assessment Tools for Sustainable Management.’ Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a crucial part of his course on assessment tools. Realizing that many current business systems are optimized for focusing on business productivity rather than environmental issues, he began a search for enabling tools to help integrate the importance of ecodesign in business, ultimately selecting SM for this purpose.

While Raj didn’t recently start teaching environmental sustainability, he did just start teaching it using Sustainable Minds. In the first semester with SM as a core tool in his ’Assessment Tools‘ curriculum, Raj’s students effectively demonstrated assimilating concepts of sustainable product development and management. They were able to conduct the right level of LCA to quantitatively justify their recommendations on changes in materials, methods and business behavior. Raj demonstrated how students were able to support decisions on packaging methods for beer (bottled vs. canned) and coffee (paper disposable vs. reusable cups), building a conceptual and practical bridge between business and environmental values.

Interestingly, Raj also envisioned how Sustainable Minds can serve as a unifying platform across an array of college programs including engineering, business, public health, natural resources, and law. Within the engineering program, he has found that SM is straightforward and intuitive, generates high throughput outcomes, and enables more credible analysis and recommendations, while collapsing the typical months-long timetable for reliable decisions to a matter of hours – a significant competitive advantage in today’s greener product marketplace.

Kent State University: The importance of practical NPD education – making the case for functional, environmental and economic performance

Aaron Marshall is a mechanical engineer who has spent the last 14 years developing consumer and light industrial products. He is recently an adjunct faculty member at Kent State’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology. His day job is Product Development Manager at the Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network (MAGNET) where he manages a department that designs and commercializes products. MAGNET is a nonprofit dedicated to helping Northern Ohio manufacturing and technology-based companies compete and grow by adopting innovative methods and technologies for new product development and entrepreneurial services.

In 2010, MAGNET partnered with Sustainable Minds to support its eco-SMART Manufacturing Program aimed at educating and assisting Ohio manufacturers with sustainable manufacturing and eco-Innovation strategies. Since then, Aaron has been using Sustainable Minds. When Verna Fitzsimmons, associate professor and interim dean of the college (2008 to 2010), wanted to introduce an advanced life cycle design course into the graduate program curriculum, she selected Sustainable Minds for this purpose and invited Aaron to teach it.

Talk about just getting started. This was Aaron’s first time teaching at the university level. He not only taught the course, but also created the curriculum for: ‘Tech 67221 Life Cycle Design II,’ a graduate elective ‘intended to provide students with a working knowledge of sustainable design utilizing detailed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).’

Aaron assigned his students a project to redesign an alarm clock by estimating the life cycle impacts of material and manufacturing methods of an existing product, and identify the associated functional, economic and environmental performance issues. They started by creating a System Bill of Materials (SBOM), modeled various design concepts, assessed the environmental performance, and used the data from the results to drive product design decisions. Informed by the LCA results, they redesigned the product and prepared a product marketing presentation telling an integrated story.

In the project description, Aaron included the following:

Learning outcomes

  • Understand the environmental impact of product design choices
  • Use data to drive product design decisions
  • Identify key traps that prevent applying these principles effectively
  • Develop leadership skills
  • emonstration of how you value others in a particular type of situation

Expected outcomes – This exercise nurtures the following abilities:

  • Identify & create innovative products that address the functional, economic, and environmental issues
  • Succinctly capture the distinguishing features of the product and market the ideas

Deliverables – 15-minute presentation to make the case for the new alarm clock design. Include discussion of functional, environmental, and economic performance. Watch a self-running, short student presentation here >

Key learnings

  • Able to use SM software effectively
  • Understanding of how to breakdown a product and create an SBOM
  • Realizing and understanding the value of a sustainable thought process and how it can be incorporated into the a product development process

As a result, students learned not just job skills but business performance concepts. In today’s world of doing more with less, new hires are increasingly expected to add value immediately. Aaron believes that students are more marketable when they have knowledge and skills that can be directly transferred to industry.

Summary

Leading edge educators are not waiting to be told. They are anticipating and responding to the growing need for sustainable product development knowledge and skills. With Sustainable Minds as a catalyst for enriching business, design and engineering curriculum, schools can excel in preparing students to make substantial early contributions in whatever career track they choose. The right program can enable fast, productive onboarding – a valued proposition in any industry.

Watch for more webcasts in this series, where we showcase more educators learning new things, building on what they know and getting started teaching in new ways. If you’d like to learn about our Education Programs including class, department or unlimited subscription packages; curriculum, training and support, contact us at (617) 401-2269 or sales@sustainableminds.com.

Comments

Posted by Michael on Jun 13, 2012

I was fascinated by the comparison of a beer 6 pack in cans vs bottles. Cans winning hands down - challenges the reusability vs recyclability model.

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