Sustainability is a hot topic right now, but, for managers of machine shops, reducing the carbon footprint of their operations could reap financial rewards, too. 

For those doing business in carbon-intensive industries – such as aerospace, automotive, steel, oil and gas, and chemicals – the pressure to reduce the environmental impact of their operations is intensifying. In the UK, for instance, the government has recently launched its Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, through which it is challenging companies to cut their carbon emissions by approximately two-thirds by 2035.

With even more stringent legislation likely to follow, businesses are starting to put roadmaps to decarbonisation in place to demonstrate that they are heading in the right direction. Further, customers and investors are placing greater emphasis on the corporate environmental and social governance (ESG) of companies operating in these sectors. This stakeholder pressure is encouraging these companies to prioritise sustainability and decarbonisation initiatives, and to report on their progress.

Supply-chain pressure

While the success of such initiatives remains to be seen, it can be guaranteed that if the big players operating in these industries are feeling the pressure to do business in more environmentally friendly ways, they will make that pressure felt along the entire lengths of their supply chains. As a result, even the smallest and most specialised of machine shops will have to prioritise their sustainability efforts. Where once a shop could focus solely on getting parts out of its doors, in future it might also have to account for the materials, consumables and kilowatt-hours of energy used to produce them.


Of course, few would argue with the notion that pollution and wastefulness are bad, or that reducing the size of a given industry’s carbon footprint is a worthwhile endeavour. Further, as a machine shop interrogates its systems and ways of doing things as it looks to reduce waste and cut its environmental impact, it is highly likely that it will also identify ways in which it could be saving money.

Energy costs

Owners and managers might start by looking at the amount of energy their machine shops consume. Electricity costs rapidly add-up, especially for shops with dozens of machine tools running around the clock, and if the shop maintains a constant air temperature and humidity level at all times, the bill is likely to be a significant monthly expense. In recent years, builders of machine tools have focused increasingly on making their products more energy efficient, but if the money to replace the shop’s power-hungry systems with updated versions is not available, solar panels might be a reasonable investment. Certainly, choosing a supplier that sources its energy from renewables will have a big impact on the carbon footprint of a machine shop.


Reducing the environmental impact of a machine shop’s operations will require managers to look beyond their utilities, however. Changing the ways in which consumables, such as tools, are purchased and used will also play a key a role. For the sake of ease, some machine shops might change tools, such as end mills or drills, every shift—even though they might still be perfectly serviceable. Other shops might be using multiple tools for similar processes, when they could be using a single tool across multiple machines. Tools can be expensive and carbon-intensive to manufacture and transport, however, so it is vital that machine shops get as much use from them as possible before they are disposed of.

Changing wasteful working practices and consolidating inventory can be tricky tasks to carry out, but they can be simplified through the use of cloud-based inventory-management and tool-tracking software. Using such software, rules can be set that ensure that operators choose used and refurbished tools before they reach for new. Operations across the shop floor can be analysed, so that opportunities for tool-consolidation can be identified easily. The net results of these actions are reduced tool consumption, a lower environmental impact and, ultimately, less money spent on inventory.

Myriad benefits 

There are of course many other benefits associated with the use of such software, many of which will contribute to a reduced carbon footprint. It automates the tool-ordering process and enables tools to be tracked from their point of delivery to their destination on the shop floor—slashing administration costs. Expenditure can be controlled. Tooling can be marked as “in use” rather than “out of stock”, eliminating over ordering. Vitally, it ensures that the right tool is in stock at the right time, for the right job.

CRIBWISE is affordable, modular, customisable and easy to integrate, and grants machine shops of all sizes complete control over their tooling inventory. The software eliminates administrative hassles, eradicates production delays and cuts excessive – often hidden – expenditure, and could play a key role in helping machine shops to reduce the size of their carbon footprint.