Green Jobs in Manufacturing

Manufacturing will always play a big role in the economy, and that includes the green economy. The good news is that an eco-conscious job search will uncover many opportunities in sustainable manufacturing. Perhaps you want your career transition to take you into the creation of environmentally friendly goods, or maybe you want to help produce traditional goods more sustainably. Either way, manufacturing is working toward a greener future, and that is good news for a green job-seeker.

Green manufacturing follows a cradle to cradle model, where materials from outdated models become an input to the production process. Manufacturers must review all the following components of the process:

  • Extracting and processing raw materials for the manufacturing process

  • Manufacturing and producing the products

  • Moving materials and finished products to their intended locations

  • Using the products

  • Maintaining and repairing the products

  • Reusing and recycling when parts become broken or obsolete

Obviously, this transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Materials, products, manufacturing systems, factories, and distribution must all be redesigned. Some products may be redesigned to allow the final product to biodegrade more easily. Other products may be disassembled and the parts reused in manufacturing. Sustainable design applies a triple bottom line philosophy (profit, social responsibility, and environmental impact).

Sustainable manufacturing is currently the key issue for the manufacturing sector. According to an Eye for Transport report, 95 percent of executives surveyed indicated that the trend toward green manufacturing will continue. Furthermore, 71 percent noted that costs to green their process were decreasing, and 43 percent were experiencing higher product quality and manufacturing efficiencies by moving to a green manufacturing process. But a survey conducted by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers found that only 16 percent of 1,046 manufacturing professionals understood what environmental footprint meant. Clearly, there’s a ways to go before the entire manufacturing sector is completely onboard with this growing trend.

One trend to keep an eye on is the role nanotechnology (very tiny manufacturing) will play. Creating non-toxic materials without hazardous substances is commendable. Who doesn’t want to see fewer chemicals used in the manufacturing process? The trouble is, no one is quite sure yet what, if any, are the side effects of nanotechnology. Several organizations are studying the issue, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Alabama’s Center for Green Manufacturing.

If you'd like to find a green job in manufacturing, consider the following possibilities

  • Management: Vice president of manufacturing, division manager, general manager, plant manager, assistant plant manager

  • Design: Researcher, industrial designer, engineering, manufacturing engineer

  • Project and production: Project manager, project engineer, product manager, product development engineering manager, production manager, production supervisor, manufacturing technician, production technician, machine operator, production worker, production planner/scheduler, expediter, safety manager, safety coordinator, manufacturing production engineer, production engineering manager, quality control manager, quality assurance manager

  • Distribution: Distribution manager, shipping and receiving manager, shipping and receiving supervisor, shipping and receiving clerk, green logistics specialist, packaging engineer

  • Materials: Materials manager, materials handler, materials planner, purchasing manager, purchasing agent, buyer

  • Facilities: Facilities manager, maintenance superintendent, maintenance supervisor, maintenance technician, machinist

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