Sustainable Teamwork:

Design and Manufacturing Partnerships for a Circular Economy

In our last blog, we discussed the many reasons why manufacturers should take part in a circular economy. Not only is sustainable manufacturing good for the environment, it can have a huge positive impact on a manufacturer’s brand, stakeholder relationships and bottom line.

Here we carry on with ways to make your value chain more sustainable and the trick to getting a head start.

Start at the source

In 2019, about half of total global CO2 emissions came from the extraction and processing of over 100 billion tons of non-renewable materials. Key opportunities arise, therefore, for manufacturers to make more sustainable choices about what goes into the products they make.

Applying circular thinking at this stage of the supply chain, results in:


Ethical sourcing of raw materials and sustainable parts


Reducing dependence on plastics and other oil-based materials in favor of natural, bio-friendly options


Opting for standardized rather than customized parts and components


Using parts or materials that require less processing and energy, such as those that have been repurposed or recycled


Eliminating toxic components that risk harming the user or polluting the environment

Make it better

Manufacturing processes that turn raw materials into finished products and getting them to market, use roughly one third of the world’s energy. There are many, many ways to lower that number and make both manufacturing and logistics more sustainable. Here are a few:

  • Use renewable energy to power manufacturing and delivery
  • Adopt lean practices to minimize waste and achieve more-with-less efficiencies
  • Capture heat, carbon and other byproducts that can be used as fuel
  • Recover production byproducts and circle them back into the manufacture of new products
  • Identify and fix areas that use excess energy or water
  • Adopt smart technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), automation, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain to improve operational efficiency and supply chain transparency

Make it better

Finally, let’s look at the product itself. Again, there are boundless opportunities to make the end product more sustainable by:

  • Choosing eco-friendly components and materials such as compostable material in packaging
  • Using smaller components and minimizing use of materials in production and packaging for smaller, lighter, and easier shipping
  • Making products more energy efficient in their everyday use
  • Extending product life to delay replacing or recycling it for as long as possible
  • Enabling the replacement of parts of a device (such as the head of an electric toothbrush) rather than the entire device

It starts with design

Katie Treggiden, author of Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure, wrote that “up to 80 percent of a product’s environmental impact is baked in at the design stage.

Likewise, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, established to push a faster evolution into a circular economy, urges us to make a paradigm shift and start thinking of waste and pollution as design flaws.

In other words, sustainable manufacturing begins with circular thinking and designs that leverage every opportunity for:

Use of bio-friendly raw materials

Future repurposing, reusing or recycling

Lower energy requirements in manufacturing

Reduced waste and pollution during manufacturing

Eradication of single-use plastics and non-biodegradable packaging

Elimination of materials that are likely to be banned or regulated in the future

Smaller devices, less material and lighter packaging

Making products that are more energy efficient

Designing products that last longer and are easier to repair than to replace

Furthermore, getting things right at the design stage prevents errors that typically occur further on in the process and the energy and waste that results from having to do things over again.

There will be trade-offs, of course. Designing for a circular economy can mean considerable initial investments and higher manufacturing costs that are passed on to the consumer. Eliminating plastic can also introduce limits in design that not all engineers understand yet. However, as we saw in the last blog, the value far exceeds the cost and a growing number of consumers are willing to put up with paying more and sacrificing convenience in favor of more sustainable products.

Getting your foot in the circle

Supply chains for the circular economy require all players to share your commitment to sustainable design. The right contract manufacturing partner (CM) can do even more. They can fill whatever gaps you have in your own manufacturing processes, from sourcing to design to production. They alleviate the burden of investing time and money in making your operations more sustainable all at once, and speed up your entry into the circular economy.

They will tell you:

  • What sustainable materials or components are available through their extensive supplier network
  • What lean manufacturing practices they have in place to increase yield with less waste
  • What water and heat-saving efficiencies they have in place
  • What possible tax breaks, subsidies or other incentives may be available to encourage greener products and practices
  • How they help optimize designs for sustainability
  • What new and emerging technologies they have in their factory – and can incorporate into your design – to make both more efficient
  • How they minimize or eliminate pollution in the production process

Would you like to know how Providence achieves all of the above for their clients?

Would you like a copy of this post to share?

Other Featured Resources

Relationship Advice for Manufacturers

February 23, 2022

Read More

How CM Expertise Helps You Control Costs

February 22, 2022

Read More

Breaking down Walls

February 21, 2022

Read More

Make vs Buy

February 20, 2022

Read More

Strategies for Continuity

October 14, 2021

Read More

How to tell whether Providence is… or isn’t… the perfect fit CM for you

September 23, 2021

Read More

Intellectual Property: How to Protect Your Big Ideas in a Global Supply Chain

September 9, 2021

Read More

Dispelling Myths About Doing Business in China

August 26, 2021

Read More

(Net)Working Wonders

August 16, 2021

Read More

A Spectrum of Possibilities

August 14, 2021

Read More

Too Big, Too Small or Just Right: A Guide to Finding Your Perfect Fit Contract Manufacturer

August 13, 2021

Read More

10 Dimensions of Excellence

May 21, 2021

Read More

Ten ‘Must-Haves’ for Medical Device Manufacturers

May 19, 2021

Read More

How CM-Enabled Transparency Reduces Risk and Improves Your Medical Device Supply Chain

May 16, 2021

Read More

At What Stage of a Product’s Lifecycle Should You Bring in a CM Partner?

March 11, 2021

Read More

Causes, Costs and Cures for Unplanned Downtime

March 4, 2021

Read More

The Many Hats of an Integrated Contract Manufacturer

February 17, 2021

Read More

Leverage Key Suppliers for Consolidation

December 9, 2020

Read More

The Importance of Choosing the Right Plastic

November 18, 2020

Read More

Medical Device Contract Manufacturing — When Less is More

October 18, 2019

Read More

About Providence Enterprise

Providence Enterprise is a Hong Kong medical device contract manufacturer of Class I and II medical devices with manufacturing in China & Vietnam. We specialize in electro-mechanical assemblies and high-volume disposables. We are FDA registered and ISO 13485, ISO 14971, ISO 14001, ISO 27001 certified. Our capabilities include fabricating tooling for silicone rubber and injection molded plastics, clean room injection molding, electronics, clean room assembly, and sterilization.