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Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (2010) 1015e1020

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Improvement of agility and sustainability: A case study in an Indian rotary

switches manufacturing organisation
S. Vinodh
Department of Production Engineering, National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli 620 015, India

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Increasing competition has been forcing the modern manufacturing organisations to adopt advanced
Received 30 November 2009 manufacturing paradigms. Agile Manufacturing (AM) is an advanced manufacturing paradigm that
Received in revised form enables an organisation to survive in the competitive business environment. Agility is the performance
15 February 2010
measure of AM practices. Simultaneously, modern business organisations are forced to evolve envi-
Accepted 15 February 2010
ronmental friendly products. Sustainability is regarded as an important concept for survival by the
Available online 18 February 2010
modern organisations. In this context, agility and sustainability are regarded as performance measures
for contemporary organisations. This paper reports a case study which has been carried out in an Indian
Agile manufacturing
rotary switches manufacturing organisation. The candidate product is the knob of rotary switch. Initially
Sustainable engineering Computer Aided Design (CAD) has been used to digitalise the baseline model. Keeping the baseline
Computer aided design model as reference, five new knob models have been evolved. Then the sustainability analysis has been
Environmental product design carried out to determine the environmental impact of the knob models. The analysis results indicated
that the proposed knob models possess minimal environmental impact. The conduct of case study has
lead to an inference that there is a significant improvement of agility and sustainability in the design and
development of knob of rotary switch.
Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction the minimisation of the impact to the environment and increasing

the rate of recycled materials. The integration of these two offers the
The modern manufacturing organisations are forced to transform business benefits such as improved product variety with minimal
their pattern of manufacturing. The manufacturing era started with environmental impact; time compression coupled with cost effec-
craft era, followed by the emergence of mass manufacturing era, then tiveness; survival in the competitive business environment. In this
lean era. The increasing product complexity and market dynamism context, this case study has been carried out in Indian rotary switches
has forced the emergence of Agile Manufacturing (AM) era (Tanimizu manufacturing organisation. The Computer Aided Design (CAD)
et al., 2006). AM enables an organisation to survive in the competi- model of existing knob of a rotary switch has been created. Keeping
tive environment of continuous and unanticipated changes to the baseline model as reference, five different knob models have
respond quickly to customers' dynamic demands (Vinodh et al., been created. After the creation of CAD models, the sustainability
2009). Agility is the performance measure of AM practices. On the analysis has been conducted to determine environmental impact in
other hand, growing businesses recognise sustainability as an terms of carbon footprint, energy consumption etc. The results of the
important concept for survival in the competitive environment case study indicated that there is a significant improvement of agility
(Bevilacqua et al., 2007). The contemporary design engineers needs and sustainability in the design and development of knob.
approaches for creating environmental friendly products. Environ-
mental friendly design is a comprehensive, holistic approach for 2. Literature review
creating products and systems that are environmentally benign,
socially equitable and economically viable (Senthilkumaran et al., The literature has been reviewed from the perspectives of agility
2001). In the contemporary manufacturing scenario, agility needs and sustainability.
to be coupled with sustainability. Agility is the ability of an organi-
sation to produce a variety of products within a short period of time 2.1. Literature review on agility
in a cost effective manner; on the other hand sustainability refers to
AM research has been initiated in the year 1991 at Iacocca
E-mail address: Institute, Lehigh University, United States of America when a group

0959-6526/$ e see front matter Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1016 S. Vinodh / Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (2010) 1015e1020

Fig. 3. CAD model of proposed model D2.

2.2. Literature review on sustainability

Fig. 1. CAD model of baseline knob model.

Ilgin and Gupta (2010) have presented a state of art review of

environmentally conscious product design, reverse and closed-loop
of researchers have instituted Agility Forum. Thereafter researchers
supply chains, remanufacturing, and disassembly. They have
have started working on AM (Uribe et al., 2003). The most
suggested that Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing (ECM)
commonly used definition of AM is the capability of
deals with green principles that are concerned with developing
a manufacturing system to respond quickly in accordance with the
methods for manufacturing products from conceptual design to
customers' dynamic demands. A group of researchers have been
final delivery to consumers, and ultimately to the End of Life (EOL)
working on the incorporation of flexibility in manufacturing
disposal, that satisfy environmental standards and requirements.
systems. Another group of researchers have been concentrating on
Senthilkumaran et al. (2001) presented Life Cycle Environmental
the deployment of lean manufacturing principles for developing
Cost Analysis (LCECA) model to include eco-cost into the total cost
AM infrastructure. Sarkis (2001) has enunciated that AM is the
of the products thereby identifying the feasible alternative for cost
combination of principles of lean manufacturing and flexible
effective, eco-friendly parts/products. Kaebernick et al. (2003)
manufacturing systems (FMS). Some of the major dimensions of
have presented the integration of environmental requirements
AM include low cost, speed, product variety and volume flexibility
throughout the entire lifetime of a product. Kumazawa and
in new products. Various agility performance indicators include
Kobayashi have presented the evaluation of the business model of
customization, replaceability, performance, robustness, effective-
vacuum cleaner taking into account the closed material flow cycle.
ness and product development flexibility (Gunasekaran, 1998).
They have examined the feasibility of their system from the view-
point of material and cash flow. Park and Seo (2003) have presented
a new appropriate Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology for the

Fig. 2. CAD model of proposed model D1. Fig. 4. CAD model of proposed model D3.
S. Vinodh / Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (2010) 1015e1020 1017

et al. (2008) have proposed three-dimensional concurrent

engineering as an environmentally responsible manufacturing
practice. The proposed method helps to simultaneous design
product, process and supply chain as a way to improve traditional
new product development, such as reduced time to market, lower
costs, and improved customer acceptance.

2.3. Missing research

Though research has been reported from the perspectives of

agility and sustainability, no exclusive research has been reported
from the combined perspective of agility and sustainability and
discussing the business benefits of integrating agility and
sustainability. The integration of agility and sustainability leads to
varied benefits ranging form improvement in product design and
development, generation of robust products, minimising the
environmental impact etc.. In this context, this case study has been
Fig. 5. CAD model of proposed model D4. reported.

3. Case study
product concept by grouping products according to their environ-
mental characteristics. Hanssen (1999) has developed a method
This section presents the details of the case company, CAD
called Environmentally Sound Product Development. The author
modeling and sustainability analysis of knob models.
examined the method on six different cases and reported that,
there is a significant improvement in environmental performance
3.1. About the case company and background details
of new products, compared to existing reference product. Robèrt
et al. (2002) have presented a strategic sustainable development
The case study has been carried out in an Indian rotary switches
approach as an essential tool for selection, design and synergies of
manufacturing organisation located in Coimbatore, India (hereafter
applied tools. They developed this concept to show how these tools
referred to as XYZ). XYZ is an organisation aspiring to attain world
and approaches relate to each other and build on each other when
class status by means of implementing world class strategies such
used for planning for sustainability. White et al. (2003) have
as ISO 9001:2000 Quality Management System, Total Productive
presented a concept called product remanufacturing. They
Maintenance (TPM), Kaizen and 5S. The author is involved in
proposed product recovery as an environmentally preferable
executing long-term projects in Agile Manufacturing and Sustain-
alternative to disposal, and described the recovery of products
able Manufacturing for the case organisation. The cross functional
which is a step-by-step process, to frame an environmental
team involved in the execution of those projects as well as the
research agenda for recovery management. Michelini and Razzoli
author felt that there exists a contemporary need to integrate these
(2004) have presented a green-engineering approach to Product-
two concepts for enriching the business benefits. In this context,
service eco-design concept to focus on clear accounting of the
this research project has been initiated.
consumption of tangible resources. They also considered the
tradeoff between sustainability costs and technology benefits to
3.2. Methodology
manage production and enterprise growth aiming at both ecolog-
ical safety and economical return. Byggeth et al. (2007) have
The research begins with the literature review on agility and
presented a method for sustainable product development with the
sustainability principles. This is followed by the selection of
aim of integrating social and ecological aspects of sustainability
candidate product for investigation. Then the CAD modeling of
with a strategic business perspective in product development. Lisa
baseline and proposed models has been performed. This is followed
by the sustainability analysis of baseline and proposed models.
Then the environmental impact has been measured and compared.
This is followed by the validation and derivation of practical

3.3. CAD modeling of baseline and proposed models

The CAD model of baseline knob is shown in Fig. 1. The CAD

model has been developed using Pro/Engineer software package.
The CAD infrastructure chosen was the PRO/ENGINEER software.
The reason for selecting Pro/E was its easy availability in the market
rather than any technological reasons. However, it is a coinciding
fact that, few researchers have espoused the superiority of Pro/E.
For example, Nandkeolyar et al. (1997) have reported a case study
in which the design engineers and mangers of a company have
favoured the use of Pro/E to the maximum extent. They have also
pointed out that Pro/E is the widest package used for CAD
modeling. Pro/E has been incorporated with B-rep (Boundary
representation) type of solid modeling approach which supports
Fig. 6. CAD model of proposed model D5. parametric design. Pro/E makes use of parametric design which is
1018 S. Vinodh / Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (2010) 1015e1020

Fig. 7. Results of sustainability analysis of baseline model.

a powerful tool for undertaking CAD modeling (Chen and Wu, models have been designed in discussion with the executives of
1994). XYZ and also by gathering customer preferences (Fig. 6).
Keeping the baseline model as reference, new models of knob All the proposed designs are made of the same material nylon.
has been derived. The new models are shown in Figs. 2e6. The new The proposed designs vary in weight when compared to the

Fig. 8. Results of sustainability analysis of proposed model D1.

S. Vinodh / Journal of Cleaner Production 18 (2010) 1015e1020 1019

Table 1
Comparison of the results of sustainability analysis of baseline and proposed models.

Parameters Baseline Proposed Proposed Proposed Proposed Proposed

model model 1 model 2 model 3 model 4 model 5
Carbon footprint 0.12 0.06 0.05 0.1 0.07 0.06
Water Eutrophication 5.17E-05 2.56E-05 2.17E-05 4.08E-05 2.95E-05 2.69E-05
Air acidification 3.18E-04 1.57E-04 1.33E-04 2.51E-04 1.81E-04 1.65E-04
Total energy consumed 1.84 0.91 0.77 1.45 1.05 0.95

baseline model. All the proposed designs possess the same were judiciously handled by the cross functional team. The deci-
complexity for machining. sions have been made by the cross functional team members in
several discussion sessions. The proposed models are found to
3.4. Sustainability analysis possess improved agile and sustainability characteristics such as
improved aesthetics; improved functionality in terms of gripness
The sustainability analysis has been carried out using Sustain- and torque application; improved ergonomics; minimal environ-
ability Xpress software package. The package in embedded with mental impact; increased customer base. The baseline and
algorithms that screen the CAD models of products to generate the proposed models while under operation in rotary switches are
various environmental impact parameters. The inputs to the found to possess working life of about 3 million cycles (mechanical)
package include design in the form of CAD model, material, and 3 lakh cycles (electrical) with a standard operating frequency of
manufacturing process, locations of manufacture and distribution. 120 cycles per hour.
The output is the environmental impact that has been measured in
terms of carbon footprint, air acidification, total energy consumed 4.2. Statistical validation
and water eutrophication. Air Acidification represents the sulphur
dioxide, nitrous oxides other acidic emissions to air cause an In order to conduct a detailed statistical analysis, ‘t’ test has been
increase in the acidity of rainwater, which in turn acidifies lakes and conducted in order to examine the acceptance of ‘Improvement of
soil. This impact is typically measured in units of either kg sulphur agility and sustainability after the implementation of the proposed
dioxide equivalent (SO2e), or moles H þ equivalent. Carbon approach’. Based on the analysis, it was found that for the test value
footprint represents Carbon-dioxide and other gases which result 9, the p values are greater than 0.05, the hypothesis got satisfied
from the burning of fossil fuels accumulate in the atmosphere which leads to the inference “90% of the executives' opinions fav-
which in turn increases the earth's average temperature. Global oured the successful improvement of agility and sustainability in
warming is the reason for problems like loss of glaciers, extinction practice at 95% confidence interval”. On the whole, this validation
of species, and more extreme weather, among others. Total Energy study indicated the feasibility of improvement in agility and
Consumed is a measure of the non-renewable energy sources sustainability after the implementation of the proposed approach
associated with the part's lifecycle in units of megajoules (MJ). This in practice with a success rate of 90 percent.
impact includes not only the electricity or fuels used during the
product's lifecycle, but also the upstream energy required to obtain 5. Conclusions
and process these fuels, and the embodied energy of materials
which would be released if burned. Water eutrophication repre- The manufacturing organisations have been witnessing a tran-
sents over abundance of nutrients added to a water ecosystem. This sition from craft era to agile era. AM enables an organisation to
impact is typically measured in either kg phosphate equivalent sustain in the competitive market scenario (Brown and Bessant,
(PO4e) or kg nitrogen (N) equivalent. 2003). Growing organisations are found to recognise sustain-
The sustainability analysis for the baseline as well as the ability as an important concept for survival in the competitive
proposed designs has been conducted. The results of the sustain- environment (Bevilacqua et al., 2007). The combination of agility
ability analysis for the baseline design have been shown in Fig. 7. and sustainability is very much needed in the competitive situation.
As a sample, the results of the sustainability analysis for the The case study has been carried out in an Indian rotary switches
proposed design (D1) have been shown in Fig. 8. manufacturing organisation. The CAD model of the existing knob
Similarly, the sustainability analysis has been carried out for the has been made. Then the new models of the knob have been
remaining proposed models. derived. The sustainability analysis has been carried out for the
The results of the sustainability analysis indicated that the baseline as well as the new models. The results of the sustainability
proposed models possess minimal environmental impact. analysis indicated that the new models are found to possess
minimal environmental impact. The results of the case study indi-
4. Results and discussions cated that there is an improvement of agility and sustainability.

The results of the sustainability analysis have been presented in 5.1. Limitations and future research directions
Table 1.
From Table 1, it has been found that the proposed models are The proposed approach has been test implemented in a single
found to possess minimal environmental impact. Based on the manufacturing organisation and for a single product. In future more
conduct of case study, it has been found that the proposed knob number of case studies could be conducted for several products
designs are found to be sustainable. The agility and sustainability of across several manufacturing organisations. The proposed models
the design and development process is found to be increased. could also be subjected to design and shape optimisation in future.

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