A computer-aided approach
to material selection and
Industrial Technology Area, Orfalea College of Business,
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an environmental-oriented material selection
methodology with two distinct features: it uses a computer-aided material selector coupled with
environmental auditing; and it provides a quantitative analysis of environmental impact of selected
Design/methodology/approach – A two-phase computer-aided procedure that considers material
properties, manufacturing constraints, and design and economic requirements is introduced with the
objective of ﬁnding the material with least negative environmental impact. The procedure is illustrated
for an industrial component.
Findings – The implementation of the proposed procedure resulted in screening of three feasible
materials from a database of 2,900 materials, among which cast aluminum exhibits savings in energy
consumption and CO
emission. This result shows the effectiveness of using a systematic computer-aided
method for a speedy selection of material and generating quantitative data to measure the environmental
performances and assess the product life cycle.
Research limitations/implications – Although the use of digital databases and material selectors
can increase the searching speed and efﬁciency, the user’s knowledge is still needed to achieve the
Originality/value – Consideration of eco-sustainability factors in product development may require
handling an overwhelming amount of data and performing a good many calculations. The literature
review also indicates the difﬁculty of incorporating quantitative data into environmental and life
cycle assessments of a product. As a ﬁrst step to overcome such challenges, the paper presents a
practicalcomputer-aided procedure that can assist product mangers or designers in quickly and efﬁciently
incorporating environmental and sustainability considerations into their business decision making.
Keywords Materials management, Product life cycle, Data analysis, Material selection, Decision making,
Environmental assessment, Sustainability
Paper type Research paper
Research and education in sustainability and saving the environment has been on the
rise in recent decades. As a report by the United Nations World Commission on
Environment and Development (1987) points out, the present wasteful lifestyle of the
developed nations is not sustainable because of their disproportionately large per capita
resource consumption that results in environmental degradation and societal inequity.
As an ethical responsibility, product engineers and managers must practice
sustainability in any product development in order to maintain the integrity of natural
ecological systems and to insure that resources continue to be available for human use.
This need is driven by the products we produce having a huge impact on the
environment of which we are all a part.
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Received 6 July 2011
Revised 3 August 2011
Accepted 19 December 2011
Journal of Manufacturing Technology
Vol. 23 No. 6, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited