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Process Reference Data for Sustainability


Current approaches to understanding the environmental impacts of manufactured products are based on a methodology known as life cycle assessment (LCA.) LCA uses generalized estimates for the impact of the different processes involved in the manufacturing of these products. The actual impacts of manufacturing processes can vary dramatically and are influenced by a wide range of factors, including the manufacturing operating environments and process settings and the cost and availability of labor, energy and materials [1-3].


The LCA tools available today focus on material production and use sustainability approximations that fail to account for specific manufacturing process performance, thus resulting in uncertain comparisons. With newer equipment, or by outfitting older equipment with sensors, we are able to accurately measure many of the factors contributing to the overall sustainability impact, such as energy, water, and material use; however, each process assessment is time consuming and the results are not widely shared.


An easily accessible source of manufacturing process reference data would allow more accurate assessments of the overall sustainability impact. A collection of reference data of manufacturing processes which use formal representation methods capable of integrating into software solutions such as analysis packages will be useful for industry decision making, integration with LCA solution providers, and educational purposes in general. For example, this reference data could be incorporated by solution providers to analyze manufacturing plans to reduce the impact of the manufacturing processes in terms of the environment, as well as operational costs. The data could further be used to predict production costs, schedule manufacturing resources, and control quality of production.


The repository of reference data should support collaboration for data contributions from a variety of sources, mechanisms for rating data accuracy and validity, mechanisms for people to find relevant data sources, and mechanisms to support automated interfaces to the repository. Furthermore, a business model for providing a viable service is needed.  Reference data collection is a time consuming and the resulting data may contain sensitive information. The project should outline a business model that will support a variety of different stakeholder needs including academic research, industry specific interests, and integration with an enterprise’s proprietary reference data.

The goal of this project is to make manufacturing process sustainability reference data available to enable accurate estimates of the impact of manufacturing processes. Process reference data can facilitate process trade-off analysis that will result in an overall reduction of the impact of manufacturing activities and that will reduce costs to manufacturers.


Phase I expected results:
Demonstrate a framework for collecting unit manufacturing process data in a standard and reusable way from a range of contributors, making use of emerging standards from ASTM E60.13, Committee on Sustainable Manufacturing, for process characterization and the development of standard templates for information collection, storage, and retrieval. The reference data set should provide at a minimum the information needed for composing the unit manufacturing processes for purposes of sustainability-related decision support. Create and provide such a database to address existing gaps on manufacturing process- specific information for life cycle analysis. The framework will include methods to support collaborative contribution, open discussion, and rating of contributed process data.


Phase II expected results:
Develop a repository of reference data sets for manufacturing processes represented in Phase I using a standardized format suitable for access by both end users and software applications. The repository should accept and solicit contributions of data and provide mechanisms for the data to be reviewed and discussed. Features for determining the validity and accuracy of the datasets should be considered. The number of manufacturing processes in use is so large that collaborative development of the data sets will be necessary in order for the system to have broad coverage increasing its usefulness. Provide a collection of unit manufacturing process data to a wide range of manufacturing customers either directly or through providers of manufacturing analysis solutions. Provide a variety of innovative mechanisms to make the data available. 



NIST will be available to work collaboratively with the awardee providing consultation and input on the standards activities and directions and connecting a network of data providers.


[1] Sustainability-related standards are currently being developed by standards development agencies such as ASTM International.

[2] Unit process life cycle inventory (UPLCI), as part of the CO2PE! Initiative is an international effort to document, analyze, and improve the environmental footprint for a wide range of manufacturing processes.


[3] Mani, M., Madan, J., Lee, J.H., Lyons, K.W. and Gupta, S.K. “Sustainability characterization for manufacturing processes”, International Journal of Production Research 52 (20), 5895-5912;

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