When & how to use

An SM LCA can be conducted at many points throughout the design process –
the earlier the better to create innovative greener products, win new buiness, and reduce cycle times and cost.

Operationalizing greener product design; why estimating impacts early is important

Typically 75% of manufacturing costs are committed by the end of the concept phase. Critical decisions are made about key product attributes such as materials, energy requirements, recyclability and longevity. These same decisions often lock in the environmental performance of the product. By the time you begin detailed design, you know what you’re making, and it’s too expensive to change the design.

Operationalizing greener product design starts with bringing life cycle thinking and a whole product systems approach to the beginning of the design process. The result is innovative, greener products, cost savings by reducing re-engineering, and greater competitive advantage!

Learn more about using SM Eco-concet + LCA software in the design process >

Assessments are created in a 3-stage process that incorporates in-context learning, and knowledge creation and sharing.

SM LCA is based on the ISO 14040 framework for life cycle assessment.





1. Product Setup

Define the scope and goals of the assessment to measure what matters. SM LCA’s in-context Learning Center content helps users understand the purpose and importance of these steps. Free text fields provide opportunities to document content sources, decisions, policies, guidelines, and more. The result is more robust decision support, richer reporting and knowledge sharing.

  • Project definition: client, design brief, product category, ecodesign strategies to explore

  • Goal definition: company environmental goals, purpose of assessment

  • Assessment scope: product system, system boundaries, functional unit

2. Inventory analysis & assessment

It's all about comparisons. Create an unlimited number of product concepts (what-if scenarios) by building a system bill of materials (SBOM) for the reference design. Then create new product concepts to compare.

  • Reference concept creation: It serves as the baseline for comparison. Use an existing product or a new product.

  • Unlimited concept creation: Enables concept comparison across key attributes to easily identify changes in environmental performance from the reference.

  • Build SBOMs to model the whole product system across its life cycle:

    • Build manually or import BOM data from your favorite CAD or PLM system. Note: Interoperability has been streamlined for Autodesk Inventor.

    • Browse the SM Impact Factors of more than 600 materials, processes, use phase consumables, end of life processes, and transportation modes.

    • Create hierarchical or flat SBOMs using sub-assemblies and parts

    • Input as little or as much information as you have, depending on what you want to learn and the state of your product concept. This is not a wizard, which means results are viewable and continuously updated.

3. Compare and interpret results

Discover and analyze environmental impacts to inform and inspire new design concepts that support the goals of the assessment and business goals.

  • Multiple graphic results views provide quantified information. View by scorecard, overall impact, or carbon footprint by both SBOM input and life cycle phase. Learn about the environmental performance of the reference concept and compare it with new product concepts.

  • SM Impact Assessment Methodology is continually updated with single figure impact factors evaluating 10 environmental impact categories and CO2 equivalent values.

  • Printable and exportable assessment results. Print results views to a file (such as PDF), or save results as HTML files for inclusion in presentations, web sites, workshops or print a hard copy to share with the team.

Sustainable Minds results.

The impact scores indicate the overall environmental performance of the product or system that has been assessed. They can be used to communicate to people inside the product development team, on the marketing team, or among management. This is often a highly educational process where managers have an “AHA!” moment about their products and services.


SM LCA results can be used for:

  • Making informed trade-off decisions based on quantified and credible data
  • Creating marketing communications based on decisions that really make products greener
  • Reusing results, learning, knowledge, and decisions for subsequent projects

SM LCA results can NOT be used for:

  • Making external environmental performance claims based on weighted, single-indicator scores (millipoints)
  • Comparative assertions that reference a competing product and are intended to be used publicly

Guidelines for making environmental claims are provided by both ISO and the Federal Trade Commission. These guidelines are summarized in the ‘Communicating Results’ section of the Learning Center where there is more information regarding the types of public assertions that can be made from Sustainable Minds results.

The following table provides guidance on conducting an SM LCA in the design process.

PHASE WHAT
Service or activity?
HOW
With what data?
WHY
To learn/assess what?
WHO
is involved?
Phase 0

Learning & definition

Develop maps for design development, identify new market opportunities

> Set directions & verify brief

Impact assessment for a reference product Reference product data from:
  • full LCA results
  • product teardown
  • competitive benchmarks

Identify opportunities for impact reduction

Identify opportunities for innovation in product category

  • Design strategy
  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering
  • Marketing
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers
Impact assessment for a hypothetical product Data chosen from reasonable estimates Understand impacts of early stage design directions
Phase 1

Concept

Develop concept based on opportunities 
and directions 
from Phase 1

> Select concept and verify feasibility.

Impact evaluation and reduction Reference product data from:
  • full LCA results
  • product teardown
  • competitive benchmarks

Identify opportunities for impact reduction

Identify opportunities for innovation in product category

  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering
  • Marketing
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers
Comparative life cycle assessment

Reference product SM LCA compared with various design directions

Compare impacts associated with different design directions

Explore ecodesign strategies

Copy reference product SM LCA and modify with various ecostrategy opportunities

Understand impacts and possible improvements associated with durability, disassembly, recyclability, remanufacture

Design for energy efficiency

Address end-of-life issues

Introduce extended producer responsibility

System optimization

Product life cycle strategy and planning; SM LCA paired with stakeholder research

SM LCA paired with stakeholder research

Identify opportunities that resonate with stakeholder goals, values, or motivators

Alternative materials investigation

Copy reference product SM LCA and modify with various material options

Understand implications of different material choices

Phase 2

Development & refinement

Refine, develop, and prototype prime concept

> Approve Design

Impact evaluation and reduction

Input data from primary design direction to create SM LCA

Identify ‘hot spots’ as areas for additional impact reduction


  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers
Product life cycle strategy and planning SM LCA paired with stakeholder research Identify opportunities that resonate with stakeholder goals or motivators
Alternative materials investigation Copy primary design SM LCA and modify with various material options Understand implications of different material choices
Comparative life cycle assessment Reference product compared SM LCA with various design directions Compare impacts associated with different design directions
Regulatory compliance SM LCA with data from primary design direction Understand whether product might meet regulatory or company-driven policy directives
Phase 3

Pre-production

Refine the developed concept for production

> Release production information

Impact evaluation and reduction

Actual part data and product life cycle data

Evaluate impacts from designed parts

  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers
Alternative materials investigation Actual part data and product life cycle data Understand implications of different material choices
Comparative life cycle assessment Actual part data and product life cycle data Compare impacts of primary design direction to those associated with different design directions
Phase 4

Production & rollout

Confirm manufacturability and support product launch

Impact evaluation and reduction Actual part data and product life cycle data

Conduct full LCA* on manufactured product, compare SM results from design concept to actual. Update reference product.

  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing partners
  • Supply chain managers
  • Marketing
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers