Integration of Sustainability Into Early Design through the Function Impact Matrix

by | Aug 15, 2010

Authors: Srikanth Devanathan, Devarajan Ramanujan, William Z Bernstein, Fu Zhao, and Karthik Ramani
Journal of Mechanical Design, August 2010, Vol. 132, No. 8, pp. 1-8.

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Abstract: The issue of environmental sustainability, which is unprecedented in both magnitude and complexity, presents one of the biggest challenges faced bymodern society. Design engineers can make significant contributions by incorporating environmental awareness into product and process development. It is critical that engineers make a paradigm shift in product design from centering on cost and performance to balancing economic, environmental, and societal considerations. Although there have been quite a few designs for environment (or ecodesign) tools developed, so far, these tools have only achieved limited industrial penetration. The present-day methods are either too qualitative to offer concrete solutions and not effectivefor designers with limited experience or too quantitative, costly, and time consuming. Thus, current ecodesign tools cannot be implemented duringthe early design phases. This paper develops a novel, semiquantitativeecodesign methodology that is targeted specifically toward the early stagesof the design process. The new methodology is a combination of environmental life cycle assessment and visual tools such as quality function deployment, functional-component matrix, and Pugh chart. Since the early design process is function-oriented, a new visual tool called the function impact matrix has been developed to correlate environmental impacts with product function. Redesign of office staplers for reduced carbon footprint has been selected as a case study to demonstrate the use of the proposed approach. Life cycle assessment results confirm that the new stapler design generated using this methodology promotes improved environmental performance.