Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cradle-to-Cradle: Just a fad or future standard for supply chains.

From the readings for this class, called my attention the paper "Design for theNext Generation: Incorporating Cradle-to-Cradle Design into Herman MillerProducts".  Having seen the recommended video about the same company (About Herman Miller), I expected to find a more detailed explanation of the company supply chain, or its best practices that allow them to deliver on time, or the efficiency in the assembly line guaranteed from the design of each product. Cutting cost approaches and time optimization at every single point.

Instead, I found the concept of "cradle to cradle" (which I recognize was new for me, I was lagging in the recycling-reusing era) .  To summarize, a product "made from 100% biological and/or technical nutrients". “Biological nutrients” are safe and healthy materials that create food for natural systems across their life cycle. “Technical nutrients” are materials or products that can be continuously and safely recycled into new materials or products (McDonough and Braungart, 2002) (quoted in the article).

The main focus was not into design a product easy and fast to assemble, but easy and fast to disassemble with simple tools as fast as possible, in component parts that can continue separately to its respective cycles (as technical/biological nutrients). 

The article diverts in a discussion about the methodology to design and produce cradle-to-cradle, and to certify this quality.

"Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an example of a “tool-driven” approach to addressing environmental problems".  This approach is associated with compromise between the tool and the goals, which implies some extent or risk of manipulation for a better look in the cradle-to-cradle arena. As opposite, the article proposes a goal-driven approach: "The cradle-to-cradle system is an example of a “goal-driven” approach to addressing environmental problems: establish the goals to be achieved, then develop the tools and metrics needed to measure progress and help achieve the goals."

They recognize the problem of acceptance of an internal process to guarantee cradle-to-cradle products:
"Plans for independent validation of the tool need to move forward, otherwise substantiating valid claims of environmental improvement by Herman Miller will not be possible"

The final answer to it, beyond the scope of the article, can be found in the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute….  http://www.c2ccertified.org/

The question that remains and  I want to raise (apart from the methodological problem exposed in the paper) is, will survive the cradle-to-cradle approach in the long run? Can it be widely adopted by any kind of industry?

It's not a straight-forward question, but from my humble perspective, there is a tough path for it. For instance, nowadays you can find a lot of chairs in the market shamelessly replicating most of the appearance of the Mirra Chair (the original cradle-to-cradle Herman Miller product shown in the article as study case).  The Mirra Chair can be bought for $819. I bought mine for less than $189; is not a "Herman Miller but, fit my... needs and budget.

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