Environmental compliance challenges discussed in Cambridge

EMIT Consortium leads the way in defining best practice tools to assess and respond to environmental legislation

EMIT logo Cambridge—March 19-21, 2012 Engineers and materials specialists met at Cambridge University for the 8th Environmental Materials Information Technology (EMIT) Consortium this Spring. They shared their experiences, and discussed approaches to meeting environmental objectives and responding to growing legislative restrictions. A key insight of the Consortium has been that managing and using materials and process data is a critical part of the response to these issues, and they are working to define and apply best practice in this area.

Shared challenges identified at the open meeting

The Consortium meeting was preceded by an open seminar, where managers in materials engineering, product development, and environmental compliance were able to meet and discuss ideas with members of the consortium. They also heard presentations from members, including Rolls-Royce and Honeywell.

A key issue raised at the open seminar was identifying the complete range of legislation that can impact a product: not just regulations that impact the materials and processes directly used to make a product, but also those that can affect other stages of the supply chain.  There was general agreement that, when analyzing a bill of materials, there are often problems in seeing where quickly restrictions might apply.

Honeywell demonstrated how they are building a system to help with this situation. In particular, they have given a lot of thought on how to use generic information on a materials family to identify restricted substance risk where data about a specific grade is unavailable. Such approaches are helping with their product stewardship, as they make informed decisions on where to focus their resource in order to mitigate risk. Rolls-Royce, in their presentation, emphasized how assessing the ‘likelihood of restriction’ needs to become part of every organization’s early warning system, giving them time to change designs, investigate alternatives, or (where possible) secure the supply chain.

Working with restricted susbtance legislation within Pro/ENGINEER

As the discussions continued, shared challenges came to the fore.These included issues surrounding collating and making use of the full range of complex information required to address restricted substances during design. This highlighted the need for a centralized repository of materials and process information which also tracks legislation. Another challange was that designers often want to reuse previous designs to benefit from tried and tested approaches, yet face the challenge of re-assessing the environmental impact in light of recent or probable future legislation. There is growing awareness of how tools to apply this information need to be seamlessly integrated into the CAD and CAE systems on engineer’s desktops. Demonstrations of software to achieve this, for example, working with GRANTA MI:Materials Gateway in Pro/ENGINEER (pictured), were well received.

As the open session drew to a close, it was clear that there were many common issues faced across the industries represented. Rolls-Royce’s Andy Clifton drew on this as he emphasized the benefits of collaborations through the Consortium: it is a place to ‘broaden horizons’, he said, but also a place where the Consortium-driven software development can ‘turn your requirements into a practical solution’.

Integration and early-warning on critical materials key themes at main sessions

The integration challenge raised at the open seminar was also discussed in more detail at the members' meeting. EMIT members are driving the development of best practice tools to integrate software, data, and reporting tools that bring environmental regulations into the hands of designers when they need it, using the GRANTA MI:Materials Gateway platform. This allows integration of a corporate materials information system with other engineering and business systems—computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided engineering (CAE), or other relevant parts of the organization’s IT infrastructure such as product lifecycle management (PLM).

Alongside the drive to improve integration, members are also working to highlight substances that might be fast-tracked towards authorization under REACH. They are working to define new approaches, such as those that enable more detailed reporting of the areas surrounding, for example, coating substitutability in specific engineering applications, and the risks presented by critical materials.

Members gave positive feedback following an early demonstration of new reference data and tools being developed to assess restricted substances, environmental impacts, and help manage resulting substitution within GRANTA MI. EMIT meetings form an integral part of Granta’s development process, so much of the meeting was spent discussing ideas and defining priorities for tools to be developed for release over the next two to three years.

Across the two days, there were many opportunities for discussion, with members sharing what they are doing in this field. One example was the report on the Rolls-Royce led SAMULET project. SAMULET aims to ensure that the aero-engine industry remains competitive in the face of new 2020 emissions targets for aircraft and that it is in a position to manufacture engines for the next generation of civil aircraft. Funding for this project comes from industry, the UK Technology Strategy Board, and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project is an industry-academic collaborative program led by Rolls-Royce and involves other high-profile manufacturers, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), and several of the UK’s top universities. EMIT members were able to see a demonstration of some of the software tools being developed to raise awareness of critical materials, and to give their feedback.

The next EMIT meeting will take place on October 3-5, in Columbus Ohio, hosted by Emerson Electric.