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An investigation of the most important factors for sustainable product development using evidential reasoning

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    * Corresponding author 
This paper was prepared at the occasion of The 12th International Conference on Industrial Engineering (ICIE 2016), Tehran, Iran, January 25-26,2016, with its Associate Editors of Numerical Algebra, Control and Optimization (NACO) being Assoc. Prof. A. (Nima) Mirzazadeh, Kharazmi University, Tehran, Iran, and Prof. Gerhard-Wilhelm Weber, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.
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  • Those working in product development need to consider sustainability, being careful not to compromise the future generation's ability to satisfy its needs. Several strategies guide companies towards sustainability. This paper studies six of these strategies: eco-design, green design, cradle-to-cradle, design for environment, zero waste, and life cycle approaches. Based on a literature review and semi-structured interviews, it identifies 22 factors of sustainability from the perspective of manufacturers. The purpose is to determine which are the most important and to use them as a foundation for a new design strategy. A survey based on the 22 factors was given to people working with product development; they graded each factor by importance. The resulting qualitative data were analyzed using evidential reasoning. The analysis found the factors "minimize use of toxic substances, " "increase competitiveness, " "economic benefits, " "reduce material usage, " "material selection, " "reduce emissions, " and "increase product functionality" are more important and should serve as the foundation for a new approach to sustainable product development.

    Mathematics Subject Classification: Primary: 62C86, 62P12; Secondary: 90B50.


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  • Figure 1.  Generic framework to assess general property

    Figure 2.  Visual representation of ER steps

    Figure 3.  Diagram showing the importance of factors for sustainable product development

    Table 1.  Advantages and disadvantages of sustainable design strategies

    Eco DesignIncreased competitiveness [13]
    Decreased variable costs [32], [36]
    Less use of toxic materials [32]
    Increased product functionality [36], [46]
    Improved economic performance [36]
    Increased revenue [13]
    Increased sales volumes [13]
    Less energy usage [32]
    Prolonged product life [32], [36], [46]
    Improved company image [13]
    Reduced material use [7], [24], [32], [36], [46]
    Increased fixed
    costs [36]
    Only short term
    economic benefits
    Optimized operational practices [5], [17], [19]
    Reduced use of non-renewable resources
    [3], [19], [34]
    Waste minimized [6], [19], [34]
    Increased use of renewable materials [3], [34]
    Increased use of renewable energy
    [3], [19], [34]
    Social business strategies incorporated [10]
    Requires investment
    in new operating
    tools [5]
    Too many unclear
    suggestions [6]
    Waste eliminated [8], [9], [33]
    Products are biodegradable [9]
    Eternal recyclability [9]
    Increased economic activity [9]
    Increased job opportunities [9]
    Certification available [33]
    Might be
    overconfident [4]
    Design for
    Waste is reduced [16], [45]
    Improved material chemistry [39]
    Improved design for disassembly [16], [39],
    Increased recyclability [39], [45]
    Too many tools and
    techniques [45]
    Zero WastePollution is prevented [30], [55]
    Waste eliminated [18], [31], [55]
    Reduced toxicity [30], [55]
    Increased recyclability [18]
    Increased reuse of materials [55]
    Decreased costs of waste disposal
    [12], [18], [31]
    Increased revenue by selling used materials
    transformation of
    current systems [54]
    Increased short-
    term costs [14]
    Reduced long term environmental impact
    of the product [29], [38]
    Decreased costs for service [41]
    Increased environmental impact awareness
    Holistic approach [4], [38], [57]
    Often used in
    retrospect [28], [38]
    Cannot be used
    properly for reused,
    recycled and re-
    products [41]
     | Show Table
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    Table 2.  Factors identified in sustainable design and the corresponding strategies

    FactorsDesign Strategy
    Reduce energy usageEco-design
    Reduce material usageEco-design, Life-cycle approaches
    Reduce use of non-renewable resourcesGreen design
    Reduce wasteDesign for Environment
    Eliminate wasteCradle-to-cradle, zero waste
    Eliminate emissionZero waste
    Minimize use of toxic substancesEco-design, zero waste
    Minimize wasteGreen design
    Recycle materials/componentsCradle-to-cradle, design for
    environment, zero waste, life-cycle
    approaches, eco-design
    Reuse materials/componentsZero waste, life-cycle approaches,
    eco-design, cradle-to-cradle
    Increase product functionalityEco-design
    Increase product lifespanEco-design
    Increase use of renewable energyGreen design, cradle-to-cradle
    Increase use of renewable materialsGreen design, life-cycle approaches,
    Increase use of biodegradable materialsCradle-to-cradle
    Closed loop material flowCradle-to-cradle
    Holistic approachLife-cycle approaches, cradle-to-cradle
    Sustainable social standardsGreen design, cradle-to-cradle
    Economic benefitsEco-design, cradle-to-cradle, zero waste
    Increase competitivenessEco-design
     | Show Table
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    Table 3.  Assigned weights, belief degrees and calculated probability masses

    Evalutation GradeWeightBelief
    $H_1, H_2, H_3$ $\omega_i$ $\beta_{1, i}$ $\beta_{2, i}$ $\beta_{3, i}$ $\beta_{H}$
    Probability Mass
    $m_{1, i}$ $m_{2, i}$ $m_{3, i}$ $m_{H, i}$ $\bar{m}_{H, i}$ $\tilde{m}_{H, i}$
     | Show Table
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    Table 4.  Factors identified in sustainable design and the corresponding strategies

    Evaluation grade (%)
    Reduce energy usage51527241019
    Reduce material usage152231374
    Reduce use of non-renewable resources12121182316
    Reduce waste1428411016
    Reduce emissions1418382118
    Eliminate waste11143023139
    Eliminate emissions1052431822
    Minimize use of toxic substances008265016
    Minimize waste333037522
    Recycling components/ materials01729261810
    Reusing components/ materials11171234197
    Increase product functionality0229272616
    Increase product lifespan3193626142
    Increase use of renewable materials0820401022
    Increase use of renewable energy2820291922
    Increase use of biodegradable materials1133630515
    Sustainable material selection091547254
    Circular material flow072811549
    Holistic view469281637
    Sustainable social standards4321262026
    Economic benefits0126224011
    Increased competitiveness012731383
     | Show Table
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    Table 5.  Important design factors, relevant score and rank

    FactorsRanking score (%) Rank
    Minimize use of toxic substances821
    Increase competitiveness762
    Economic benefits753
    Reduce material usage744
    Sustainable material selection725
    Reduce emissions696
    Increase product functionality697
    Reduce waste648
    Increase use of renewable energy649
    Sustainable social standards6410
    Increase use of renewable materials6311
    Holistic view6212
    Recycling components/materials6113
    Reduce use of non-renewable resources6014
    Minimize waste5915
    Reusing components/materials5816
    Increase use of biodegradable materials5817
    Increase product lifespan5718
    Eliminate emissions5619
    Reduce energy usage5520
    Circular material flow5421
    Eliminate waste5322
     | Show Table
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    Table 6.  Important design factors and corresponding design strategy

    Most important identified factorsDesign strategy (%)
    Minimize use of toxics substances (82%)Eco-design and Zero waste
    Increased competitiveness (76%)Eco-design
    Economic benefits (75%)Eco-design, Cradle-to-cradle and Zero waste
    Reduce material usage (74%)Eco-design and life-cycle strategies
    Material selection (72%) $\cdots$
    Reduce emissions (69%) $\cdots$
    Increase product functionality (69%)Eco-design
     | Show Table
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