How Boeing, Rolls-Royce, and others are finding solutions to material, environmental, and regulatory risks

A report from the EMIT Open Seminar held at NPL, Teddington, March 2014 | PDF PDF summary

EMIT Consortium The Environmental Materials Information Technology (EMIT) Consortium is a collaborative project (members include Boeing, Airbus Defence and Space, Emerson Electric, Airbus Helicopters, Honeywell, NASA, NPL, Rolls-Royce, Thales, and United Technologies Corporation) that develops and applies information technology solutions to enable product design and development in the context of environmental objectives and regulations.

An Open Seminar was hosted by the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), who help to administer the consortium. Members were joined by manufacturing organizations, material producers, aerospace and defense companies, automotive manufactures, and others concerned about mitigating environmental and regulatory risk.

Those manufacturing enterprises taking part wanted to hear more about overcoming the  challenges surrounding emerging regulations on topics such as restricted substances (e.g., REACH) and conflict minerals (e.g., the Dodd-Frank Act). Many came seeking to minimize supply chain risks associated with critical materials, and looking for efficient ways to lower the environmental impact of products for cost, innovation, and market advantage. The meeting providing extended opportunities for discussion, centered on two case studies presented by member organizations.

Boeing: Mitigating risk and meeting legislative reporting requirements with practical linking of information

Boeing’s involvement in the EMIT Consortium arose from a growing awareness of the acceleration in regulatory restrictions. They were looking for a way to connect materials, specifications, regulations, and parts—“a laborious and costly process when you consider the mountains of data”. They also needed to keep track of and report on enormous amounts of historical data, in some cases exceeding 80 years.

“Near-term risk reduction actions,” Boeing’s Peter Mezey explained, “included managing chemical information.” So Boeing adopted GRANTA MI to provide a centralized hub of materials knowledge, allowing restricted substance information to be fully integrated with other materials information. “This does not replace authoritative data/specifications, but for the first time we have the linkage all in one place”.

Linkage is about more than just connecting individual specifications, materials, and regulations. It can also help overcome the common challenge of ‘missing information’ in vendor data. ‘Fallback links’ feel in this missy information using appropriate restricted substance information from Granta’s comprehensive MaterialUniverse dataset. This allows comprehensive reports to be generated, even when suppliers have only disclosed the minimum of legally required information. “Fallback links are a brilliant innovation,” Mezey concluded.

The first phase of the project has already enabled simple queries of this materials and substance knowledge-base (based on links between materials, specifications, and legislation) and the production of the reports (known as “REACH Article 33 reports”) which are required to provide information on whether an article is impacted by materials on the REACH Candidate List Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC). The return on investment from using GRANTA MI has been significant, particularly in areas such as data cleanup, risk mitigation, and the enormous efficiency benefits seen through data linkages. A recent example were efficiencies gained when Boeing had to respond to issues around Mercury in Canada.

Phase II is now focusing on automated bulk data importing, of, for example, TSCA Section 12.B Export Notifications, CAS registry numbers, material safety data sheet (MSDS), and various Specifications. With very large quantities of data and their inter-relationships to import, it was inevitable that this would be a challenging process. However, as EMIT members, Boeing “have been impressed by how consistently Granta have met these challenges, making vast improvements”. As the first organization to attempt to bulk-import such large amounts of information, Boeing’s input has been invaluable in providing enhancements from which many others will soon benefit.

As someone directly involved in implementing the materials information management system at Boeing, Peter Mezey highlighted just how important it was to “get the internal IT team on board early on”, in order to maximize the effectiveness and ease of adoption. He concluded the presentation by focusing on their involvement in the EMIT Consortium, especially working on a common specification schema. “Being able to directly influence the ongoing development of GRANTA MI has been an excellent opportunity.”

Rolls-Royce: Using data-driven assessment of materials supply and environmental risks to design-out problems

Andy Clifton, Manager of Sustainable Development and Health and Safety in Design at Rolls-Royce, opened his presentation by looking at the risks and opportunities presented to a business when considering environmental impacts. He emphasized that Design for the Environment (DfE) “is an essential element of effective risk management: operations create impacts; undesirable impacts attract regulation; and regulation restricts the ability to carry out operations.”

As many of Rolls-Royce’s products have extremely long lifecycles “a lack of proactive thought in design would create the potential to miss opportunities and increase risk.” Instead, they are committing significant resources early-on (pre-launch). This allows them to identify problems and develop solutions when costs are low, and to minimize the resource required post-launch. In this way, “environmental performance by design” leads to greater revenue than “reactive design”.

“DfE at Rolls-Royce is about understanding the risks of a system’s lifecycle-impacts and integrating the consideration into our decision processes,” Clifton explained. This includes phases such as: design; extraction of raw materials; product manufacture; product use; maintenance, repair, and overhaul; and end-of-life. Having this “big picture” is how Rolls-Royce made the decision to invest US$1 billion in R&D to reduce use phase emissions and improve efficiency in 2013—“since concerns about use phase emissions are an integral part of the decision process within the company.”

In the aerospace industry, material choice is critical: safety is paramount; the product lifecycle is very long; cost is proportional to weight; and the materials must function in a severe operational environment. The result is a very limited range of material options for a given level of performance. This means that material criticality has become a key area of concern. Assessing the business impact of supply disruption is “relatively straightforward”, but the challenge is establishing the likelihood of disruption accounting for physical, market, and political factors—“there are many things associated with the supply of materials and the resulting environmental impact that can have a significant effect on the supply of materials.”

Through Rolls-Royce’s involvement in the EMIT Consortium, they have been able to work on this problem “with a group of like-minded people. EMIT provides a wide user base of companies all working towards practical ways of managing materials data issues. The structure of EMIT allows for a quick turnaround on ‘working demonstrators’ that turn your requirements into a practical solution.” In particular, Rolls-Royce’s requirements have resulted in the Critical Materials Data Module which links elemental supply risk information to materials by composition. This enables data-driven assessment of materials supply and environmental risks, so Rolls-Royce can design-out problems and meet legislative requirements. Together, Andy Clifton concluded, they have developed approaches that deliver a “triple win scenario” benefiting customers, the environment, and suppliers/manufacturers.

The ongoing work of the EMIT Consortium

The two member presentations demonstrated some of the ways that EMIT helps to guide development of Granta's software and data in areas of restricted substance, critical materials, and eco design. Software demonstrations showed the GRANTA MI materials information management system and how restricted substances reports can be performed within CAD and CAE through MI:Materials Gateway applications. There were also extended discussion sessions where EMIT members shared their experiences and answered questions from those present.

The Open Session preceded the 12th EMIT Consortium Meeting, during which members (some of the representatives pictured below) received dedicated training and support from the EMIT technical team, and participated in discussions which continue to shape the development of Granta’s software and data.

Those interested in reading more about the work of the Consortium, and details of upcoming meetings, should visit www.grantadesign.com/emit