Tracking Down Energy Loss

Resource efficiency within companies

How much of the value that companies add is then effectively lost through material residues, waste materials, and defective products? The ISO standard 14051 provides the answer by calculating material flows. A special method for evaluating company costs, this standard revolves around the analysis of energy and material flows within a company. This not only lays a foundation for assessing costs, but it also makes it possible to draft “environmental balance sheets,” for example a company’s carbon footprint. The Steinbeis Transfer Center for Marketing, Logistics, and Company Planning takes this as their starting point for training courses on resource efficiency.

Resource efficiency is an important issue in Baden-Wurttemberg. In collaboration with leading business associations in industry, the Baden- Wurttemberg Ministry of the Environment is currently publicizing a showcase project called 100 Companies for Resource Efficiency. Businesses openly and descriptively outline the measures they have already introduced or are currently planning to implement in order to save resources. This serves as an example for others, also showing what manufacturing companies are already doing to protect resources and be innovative. A grant of €10,000 is given to each company involved in the project.

As part of the project, the state of Baden-Wurttemberg has issued free software that now makes it easy for the first time to carry out clear material flow cost accounting (MFCA). This solution is called bw!MFCA and it provides a professional tool for mapping energy and material flows in production. It also captures material and energy costs, as well as all outlays on personnel, machines, and material disposal. The result is a calculation of added value, showing the value that is squandered through residual materials and wastage. The losses resulting from die cutting, offcuts, spoilage, production residue, or even defective products are greater than the cost of simple disposal. What lies beneath is the expense of the materials that had to be purchased and these were also transported and processed internally, so other operational costs are wasted when materials are thrown away.

It is precisely this potential to make savings that MFCA methods work out. This unveils even greater cost savings, resulting in quicker pay-back periods on any measures that are introduced. But avoiding material losses does not just make sense for cost reasons. Behind every loss lies damage to the environment, especially carbon emissions, which are essential just not necessary. The bw!MFCA software therefore highlights the cost of avoidable carbon emissions thus bridging the gap between financial and environmental factors.

Working in collaboration with the Baden-Wurttemberg State Agency for Environmental Technology, the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Marketing, Logistics, and Company Planning, which is based at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences, has developed training courses on resource efficiency, as well as the methods of MFCA and the bw!MFCA software. These are regularly offered to people working at manufacturing enterprises, and the training and software are provided to companies in Baden-Wurttemberg free of charge (more: purebw. de/ de/mfca-schulung). The feedback from companies until now has been extremely positive, raising hopes that the program will culminate in widespread use of MFCA methods in Germany, on a similar scale to the results achieved in Japan.


Professor Dr. Mario Schmidt is a project manager at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Marketing, Logistics, and Company Planning, which is based at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences. He also heads up the Institute for Industrial Ecology at Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences and is a member of the advisory board for sustainable development for the State Government of Baden-Wurttemberg. Schmidt and his team also advise politicians and companies on resource efficiency, life cycle assessments, and environmental management.

Professor Dr. Mario Schmidt
Steinbeis Transfer Center Marketing, Logistics, and Company Planning
Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences (Pforzheim)

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