Sustainable Product Development
Customers are increasingly seeking sustainable products. We believe that developing sustainable products must begin at the design stage where product materials and lifecycle considerations can be built in from the start. We also seek solutions to reduce our impact during manufacturing and expand the useable lifespan of products, often in partnership with customers. Sustainable product lifecycle management activities are undertaken by our new NovantaSUSTAIN program.
In regard to ‘green’ industry segments, our robotic tool changer technologies are presently used in robotic manufacturing processes in electric vehicle production; our beam steering technologies are used in laser scan heads for eMobility product manufacturing processes for batteries and fuel cells for electric vehicles as well as solar cells for renewable energy products; and our digital scanners are used in additive manufacturing processes.
NovantaSUSTAIN is part of our New Product Innovation Toolbox (the “NPI Toolbox”) which is integrated into our Novanta Growth System. The NPI Toolbox was launched in 2021 to take environmental sustainability into account from the requirements definition stage of a new product to its commercial launch. NovantaSUSTAIN provides an in-depth overview of best practices for environmentally responsible product design, as well as internal resources engineers can access throughout the design process. All new projects begin with templates for systematically capturing stakeholder and system requirements. This set of templates includes a mandatory environmental requirements checklist. Focus areas include, for example, energy efficiency, transport efficiency, material use, product lifecycle management, packaging design, distribution, service, and repair. Given the breadth of Novanta’s product portfolio, rather than setting blanket environmental standards, products are required to make improvement on their previous versions. That said, requirements remain flexible for product development teams so they can prioritize product quality, safety, and environmental sustainability. During the design validation stage, product prototypes must be checked against those initial requirements to confirm that they meet all listed needs.
For some products in our laser and medical businesses, we have reduced the number of components or marked relevant components of the product to indicate the type of material used for easy recycling at the end of the product life cycle. In one example, we collaborated with a customer in our Vision segment to reduce the environmental impact from our product. We were able to eliminate the entire physical product including the housing, power supply, and all electronic parts and just deliver the software to meet the customer’s needs.
Looking ahead, we plan to continue to develop NovantaSUSTAIN with webinars, internal and external subject matter experts (SME), and trainings, and to build company-wide awareness of the NPI toolbox. We are also engaging with customers and suppliers to better understand how they measure their own carbon footprints to help inform our future Scope 3 emissions measurement.
Our manufacturing teams also look for ways to make processes more sustainable. We do this proactively and also in direct response to customer requests. For example, we worked with one customer to eliminate the use of etched glass and replaced it with laser-marked metal, which is easier to recycle. We now offer the metal component to other customers as a more sustainable option as well.
We seek opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of our packaging wherever possible, without impacting the protection of products during shipping. We conduct packaging reduction and reuse pilot projects internally and with our suppliers and customers.
For example, our Laser Quantum business unit reduced its reliance on single-use plastic tape for packing and shipping boxes by using paper-based tape on some of its shipments. The new tape is strengthened with natural fibers and uses a water-based adhesive, making it easier to recycle downstream. The business unit has installed two machines that can apply the new tape.