Sustainability in Manufacturing: Insights from 3D Printing Facilitator Fictiv’s 2023 Survey

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Fictiv, a digital matchmaker for custom manufacturing needs and a significant player in the 3D printing industry released its 2023 Sustainability in Manufacturing Survey, providing insights into the key issues and goals that business leaders face when adopting sustainable practices. In partnership with Dimensional Research, the study sheds light on how manufacturers, including those in additive manufacturing, deal with sustainability, especially as the sector rebounds from macroeconomic and geopolitical setbacks.

Fictiv’s 2023 Sustainability in Manufacturing Survey. Image courtesy of Fictiv.

Overwhelmingly, 87% of industry leaders agree that making their operations more environmentally friendly should be a priority. In fact, 42% of manufacturers directly invest in reducing their carbon emissions. Yet, when it comes to the engineering departments, focusing solely on sustainability seems less of a priority, suggesting a gap between what is planned and what is being done.

While many in the industry want to be more sustainable, they are running into roadblocks. At least 36% of respondents say lack of funding is a significant barrier in their sustainability journey, preventing them from meeting new 2024 sustainability standards. Planning is another challenge; roughly one-third of leaders say they don’t have the know-how to make a solid sustainability plan.

Fictiv’s 2023 Sustainability in Manufacturing Survey. Image courtesy of Fictiv.

Another data point derived from the survey shows that 40% of manufacturers are increasing their investments in sustainability data tracking and analytics. Moreover, 60% are investing in technology to boost operational efficiency—a direct enabler of sustainability. Artificial intelligence (AI) stands out in this tech-savvy environment: 85% are either planning to adopt or have already embraced AI technologies, and a staggering 97% anticipate that AI will revolutionize product development and manufacturing.

Another key focus is on materials and packaging. Half the surveyed manufacturers are zeroing in on sustainable packaging, materials, and energy solutions. This shows an industry-wide recognition of the need to consider environmental factors in the production phase and how products are presented and delivered.

Regarding supply chain visibility, 55% of respondents claim it is a top priority—nonetheless, 54% struggle with controlling sustainability standards in their supply chains. Half of the manufacturers put sustainable packaging and materials into the spotlight, further proving the industry’s growing sustainability awareness beyond the factory floor. Small businesses, however, seem to be trailing in this green transformation. Only 20% of small firms prioritize sustainability, which contrasts sharply with the 53% and 54% of medium and large enterprises investing in renewable energy solutions, respectively.

On a positive note, the survey suggests that compared to 2021 data, more manufacturers report no difficulties meeting their sustainability goals, 17% in 2023. Businesses are making holistic decisions, accounting for environmental impacts during cost-benefit analyses, thereby embedding sustainability into their operations.

Fictiv’s 2023 Sustainability in Manufacturing Survey. Image courtesy of Fictiv.

Fictiv Co-Founder and Chief Experience Officer Nate Evans sums it up: “Manufacturing leaders overwhelmingly recognize the criticality of sustainable production. It will take persistent focus, industry support, and access to tools and technology to achieve our national and global emissions targets.”

As a leader in custom manufacturing, Fictiv holds a significant role in the growing 3D printing industry, serving as a bridge between organizations needing specialized manufacturing and a global network of providers. Their digital platform revolutionizes how custom parts are sourced, speeding up the entire process from design to delivery. Given the inherent advantages of 3D printing in reducing waste and optimizing resources, Fictiv’s survey findings offer valuable insights into the additive manufacturing sector. As more companies adopt 3D printing technologies to achieve their sustainability goals, understanding the barriers and investment priorities in the broader manufacturing industry can guide strategies for more eco-friendly additive manufacturing practices.

With industry leaders realizing how important sustainability is yet pointing out big obstacles like money and know-how, the survey is a wake-up call for the field. Working together to share information, make smart investments, and better manage sustainable practices in supply chains could help make manufacturing more environmentally friendly.

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