NCDMM Sustainable Military Manufacturing

NCDMM Sustainable Military Manufacturing

For many manufacturing companies, improving sustainability of manufacturing processes is a daunting task – strategically, tactically and economically. All too often manufacturers quickly find themselves mired in the processes of assessing environmental performances, analyzing assessment data, identifying improvement areas and implementing manufacturing changes. However, opportunities now exist for companies to deliver optimized manufacturing solutions to the Department of Defense (DoD) that include consideration of sustainability. Thanks to global environmental security considerations and green technologies, sustainable manufacturing is a key driver of improved manufacturing solutions for private and public stakeholders, such as the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM).

NCDMM, a non-profit formed to develop and deliver manufacturing solutions to DoD and its industrial base, helps assure the readiness and sustainment of needed defense systems using new methodologies and affordable solutions that reduce/avoid cost and reduce lead times. Traditionally, the organization focused on metrics such as improved part quality, but now it also considers sustainability metrics involved in areas such as resource conservation, waste stream reductions and energy efficiency improvements of the manufacturing operation. In many cases, these measurements are byproducts of or complimentary to its previous focus areas. NCDMM recognizes the need to focus on the most efficient use of natural resources while ensuring compliance to evolving environmental health and safety regulations and minimizing energy intensity and environmental impact of manufactured components.

NCDMM’s strength and experience comes from its 80 Alliance Partners – local and national, large and small. Working in collaboration, they concentrate their areas of expertise toward a focused goal of providing viable and sustainable solutions to manufacturing problems. NCDMM’s primary program sponsor is the Manufacturing, Science and Technology (MST) Division of the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) in Huntsville, Ala. In addition, its customer base includes DoD facilities (for example, depots and shipyards), prime and tiers commercial suppliers, such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and small manufacturing firms that make up the remainder of the industrial base. NCDMM’s optimized manufacturing solutions, which result from its ongoing government, industrial, and academic interface, promote implementation of best practices through development and delivery of disciplined training, advanced technologies and methodologies.

The Sustainable Manufacturing Call

NCDMM adopted the definition of sustainable manufacturing from the Department of Commerce as “the creation of manufactured products that use processes that minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, and are economically sound and safe for employees, communities and consumers.”



It is not a subset of an environmental management system; and, it is more encompassing than “green manufacturing” because it takes into account aspects of the environment, energy, community and economics.

The need for a sustainable direction is evident through creation of several recent DoD documents. All of the following include aspects of sustainable manufacturing:

  • Air Force Energy Plan
  • Executive Order 13514 – Federal Leadership in Environmental Energy and Economic Performance
  • Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP)
  • Defense -Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology Program
  • United States Code Title 10
  • Development of a MIL STD (military standard) for Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) Acquisition
  • President’s Advanced Manufacturing Program


Additionally, social and world pressures will increasingly influence sustainable manufacturing, thus making it an additional component to a company’s growth strategy. Incorporating sustainable manufacturing programs into a company’s strategy can impact the ability to achieve regulatory compliance, to generate bottom-line savings through reduced consumption of energy or resources and to improve public perception of an organization.

Regulations are becoming more stringent, and sustainable programs will help companies comply with changing regulations established locally and globally. In creating products for DoD and similar customers, companies may encounter local ordinances, federal waste regulations and energy restrictions, the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive, the EU Directive 2002/95/EC, and/or the REACH (Registration, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals, European Union Regulation [EC] 1907/2006). While initially companies will need to incorporate sustainable manufacturing programs to comply simply with regulations, these programs will ultimately allow them to be more responsive to regulatory changes and, in many cases, will create long-term benefits through operational cost savings.

Studies show that organizations with sustainable programs have improved worker safety and reduced lost work case incidents. Improved worker safety has a tangible financial impact as well as contributing to the social aspect of the sustainable manufacturing definition. Superior safety programs lead to improved worker morale, increased productivity, reduced worker compensation payments and lower insurance rates.

Using sustainable practices allows a company to be flexible and to respond pragmatically to external forces like increased energy prices, drought or the availability of critical materials. When working in a sustainable environment, a company already has plans and practices in place to work efficiently and to implement a plan utilizing alternatives when required. When a hurdle presents itself, the company can continue to operate with minimal disruption to the operation because a contingency plan exists.

Creating an efficient and sustainable manufacturing operation influences public perception. A company that expels clean water and provides a safe work place for employees gains public goodwill. More importantly, all things being equal, consumers are driven to a product that is environmentally friendly. This also allows a manufacturing organization to draw upon a higher level of workforce talent. Many of today’s potential employees consider the reputation of a potential employer. Those who maintain a reputation as a leader in sustainability will ultimately draw from a more elite pool of potential employees.

Measuring Sustainability

Discussing benefits and savings is good, but how does one measure the effects of sustainability in practical terms? A good tool, and the most common approach, is through Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA). Manufacturers and their customers already employ this technique to guide their manufacturing operations. In any comprehensive LCA, manufacturing is a critical phase of the life-cycle.



At the manufacturing level, companies review impacts from resource extraction through end-of-use, reuse or disposal.

In most cases, life-cycle costs and Environment, Safety and Occupational Health (ESOH) impacts are locked-in after the development and design phases. Depending on the product, manufacturing could be a small segment just after the design phase or, for a consumable product, it could encompass the full range of the Use / Maintenance phase. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is currently in the process of developing a military standard (MIL STD) for sustainability in the DoD acquisition process. (See section below.) This standard will drive decision-makers to consider the sustainable impacts of key purchasing decisions early in the life-cycle. This will lead to reduced total ownership costs of weapon systems and components.

In the manufacturing operation, sustainability is measurable at the cell, facility and supply chain levels. Sustainability is a complex metric to measure given the number of variables and the differing importance of each, depending on location, time of day or other circumstances. For example, water is more valuable in the desert, and energy is of higher concern during peak hours. Whatever technique a manufacturer employs, the bottom line remains the same. Accurate data will drive intelligent decisions that will improve sustainability and profitability of the manufacturing process.

With tools like the Baseline Energy Consumption Model (see section below), benefits can be quantified at three levels:

Level Benefits
Cell • Isolating variables
• Measuring true impact of changes
Facility • Data is available
• Energy consumption
• Water consumption
• Material consumption
Supply Chain • Reveal negative impacts caused by change
• Isolate problems

Making Sustainability Attainable

Sustainability does not come prepackaged. It is a collection of studies, outcomes and implemented practices. Small and mid-sized companies do not always have the resources to perform these tasks. NCDMM has the resources and support of AMRDEC and DoD to help manufacturers address these tasks. NCDMM and the manufacturing community have been working together since 2003 to solve specific machine issues and problems. Now, they are working together to implement sustainability in daily operations.

Life-Cycle Analysis MIL STD. NCDMM participation in an advisory board for OSD is tasked with developing a life-cycle analysis (LCA) MIL STD for DoD acquisitions.

Baseline Energy Consumption Model. The collaborative team of NCDMM, System Insights, Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), and General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems developed a Baseline Energy Consumption (BEC) standard for machine tools.

Roadmap to Reduce Energy Consumption and Waste Products. NCDMM supports the Air Force (AF) Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program as it strives to mature its sustainable manufacturing practices.

Sustainable Manufacturing in DoD MRLs. Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs) are a technique used to assess maturity of a technology, component or system from a manufacturing perspective. Yet today, MRLs do not include any consideration for sustainability of a manufacturing operation or the life-cycle costs associated with these decisions.

In future issues of livebetter magazine, NCDMM will share information from some of the projects it has partnered on with DoD and others. The results have been beneficial to all stakeholders.





For more information on NCDMM, please contact John Wilczynski by phone at 724-539-5352 or by email at