Additive manufacturing has the potential to play a role in each step of the circular economy. What does that mean and in what ways can AM enable more sustainable manufacturing will be explored.
– Hello everyone, thank you for joining us for our “Fireside Chat” today with Marie Langer, the CEO of EOS joining us from Germany. And I would like to just remind everybody that there are Q and A opportunities to ask your questions. So please send those through and we’ll be sure to get to those at about the 20 minute mark on our conversation today. So welcome, Marie.
– Yeah, thank you, Sherry. I’m very pleased that you’re having me and looking forward to our conversation today.
– Yes, and we wanna definitely talk about how additive manufacturing can enable more sustainable manufacturing. So I have several questions prepared for you today and we’ll start with, well, a lot of people say AM has always enabled sustainable applications, but what really is sustainability from your perspective? And could you share some ways in which you’ve seen this realized in the industry?
– Yes, of course. So we really strongly believe that we can contribute as a company without technology to make the world a better place, because we see AM as a real responsible and sustainable manufacturing technology in production, which contributes to less material consumption, less overproduction and less waste overall. So I think being in AM, in this industry, it’s beautiful because every one of us can contribute so much. And we see at EOS actually that we can also influence here on three levels. So it’s technology level. So using the technology itself to look at resource efficiency, lightweight components, a very good example for that, but also extended product life and also inventory waste reduction. And looking at spare parts on demand is a very important area we concentrate on. Then we also have the humanity level where, especially in the medical field, we can do a lot with our customized individualized products that can be realized for patients, or also doctors, to improve the healthcare of the patients. And then also looking on a corporate level, how can we really reduce the ecological resource waste that we see. So also looking into how can we make sure that resources or materials are not wasted that much so we can reuse it and we can improve the whole waste management. So there are plenty of places where you can do a lot of course. And I think one really great example that we can see is here that for example, at Airbus, in a plane, the A350, we have this locking shaft for the aircraft door where we can actually really reduce weight by 45% while keeping the same robustness. And we can also save 25% in production costs by reducing material usage and assembly times. And there are many other things I could say, but I think that’s a very great example for an application which already is benefiting today to become more CO2 neutral.
– There’s a huge fuel savings too when you’re lightweighting aerospace parts. So you’ve got the fuel savings and then you’ve got the carbon emissions reductions, which are significant. And it’s a really great example of sustainability in the industry. So what are EOS’ corporate social responsibility goals? You talked about how you see sustainability in two ways, environmental eco benefits, and also in social impact. And how are you planning to measure your company’s performance in relation to your employees, customers, and other stakeholders?
– Yeah, that’s of course a huge topic. And I think everyone in the industry is looking into that right now and generally not only our industry, but in the world, how can we fight climate change there together? And to emphasize just at the beginning is that we really made sustainability our company purpose and calling that responsible manufacturing, because we really believe that we can establish responsible manufacturing as the new normal in a world that is still adapting to the realities of climate change and also pandemic threats. And we know that this needs a holistic approach. We actually started with hiring a sustainability manager to really make sure that we also put that topic on a strategic level and we are right now carrying out a comprehensive material analysis and also a life cycle analysis in the polymer field where we could see already with some numbers that AM is bringing much better results in terms of sustainability compared to conventional manufacturing. I cannot share the data right now, but we are planning to publish that within the next weeks. And of course we’re cooperating with partners on that. And we plan to bring out our first CR report actually next year with very clear KPIs, right now we really do our homework, and make sure that we set the right targets. And we really understand where we need to look at more in detail to really improve also in the industry, because I think we all know that we can achieve a kind of like a responsible manufacturing solution here, but we really need to do our homeworks, looking at material waste, looking at how to really leverage that technology. And that’s what we’re doing right now.
– So will next year’s sustainability report be your first one for, and that would be for the year 2021, correct?
– Exactly, so we had reports before already, and it’s also that from the beginning on, there were many employees of ours who really felt strongly about this topic, but we never really measured that on a KPI level yet. And that will be the first time next year.
– Great, great. And so the EU has some really interesting carbon emission reduction goals of at least 55% by 2030. And how does this new EU climate law impact EOS? What does it mean in terms of your goals and what you’re planning to actually initiate and to measure?
– Yeah, first of all, I want to emphasize that we’re really happy about this law. And we really feel it’s an important step towards the necessarily goals that we need to reach actually for climate neutrality. So, we really welcomed this development, because it’s providing a framework for all of us to really work towards. And now it’s really time to back up these ambitious CO2 reduction targets, with bold measures. So we really wanna make sure that we’re are also pioneering in the industry with that. We actually were also picked to be one of the 50 sustainability and climate leaders this year, which is very good. So I would just say that for us, this law is really important to also work towards these goals, and also making sure that our customers are setting the right targets with us together and we can move towards this climate neutrality altogether.
– And so in terms of the new, well, not so new really, but United Nations Sustainability Development Goals or Sustainable Development Goals, I should say, SDGs, how are you planning to tie your performance into those goals? And which ones have you identified as being of real concern? And where you really wanna focus your efforts?
– Yeah, so I think these goals, they’re a great starting point for every business leader to really make sure to, as you just said, to tie, like what do you do in the company to some overarching goals that we use in EU and in the world. And so we of course picked some of the topics where we feel these are very important for our industry, but also in general for what we wanna do, also looking at the culture and at the values that based we work on. And so of course gender equality is a very important topic for us, so we work a lot in the area of diversity to improve here, which is not related to sustainability looking at ecological goals, but of course at the social goals. Then, of course making sure that decent work and economic growth, we offer fair wages, secure workplaces, respect for human rights, and also not doing business only, but also business with purpose. That’s why for us it was so important. And then there are of course now the more concentrated ones on the technology, industry, innovation, infrastructure, but also responsible consumption and production, and partnership for goals is also very important topic for us because we really believe that this climate neutrality, and also establishing AM really as a responsible manufacturing technology, will be an effort of many different players and many different companies and initiatives. So you see, I mentioned a few of the areas on sustainability goals where we feel we can connect with very easily. And this is also of course integrated in the things we do.
– I think this is the big challenge a lot of companies have, is they’ve identified their SDGs like you have stated, EOS has done so, well, how will you measure, evaluate and report on them? How is that coming along and what do you see as being the challenges, specifically?
– So right now the challenge for us at the beginning was to really understand where do we stand today looking at clear data. Because I think only if you have the data of the status quo, you can really decide on, “Okay, where do we need to improve? Where are we really good already? And where do we maybe have opportunities to leverage even more?” So, really collecting the right data, making for specific applications and specific industries, life cycle analysis, and making sure that we really understand, where we stand right now is really important to then be able to set the right targets for the next year. So our sustainability manager together with a lot of cross-functional teams and functional areas within EOS and also with customers but also suppliers, is really working on making sure that we have the right baseline.
– Yeah, that benchmarking is really key. It starts-
– You’ve got to really understand where you are and how do you determine that? And once you figure that out, okay, this is your one and reporting for SDGs, and this is what we’ve identified, and this is what we know now. And then you can set your goals to how to improve on each of those, and then next year, your reporting will hopefully reflect improvement in each of those areas, is pretty much the way companies are handling this. When you look at it that way, it seems a lot less cumbersome. Is just that baseline is the hardest part I think for a lot of companies, is just to get to that point where they can really understand what it is that they’re doing now, and then they can make some decisions as to how they wanna improve upon those.
– Exactly and I think, having great visions and great ideas where to go to is always very important, but as you said right now, and outlined, you need to know where you are to then really decide the way forward to reach your goals. And so that’s why I think it’s really important for the whole industry, but also us at the EOS to do that homework.
– Well, we have just a few more questions before we move to the audience questions. So would the audience please, start thinking about if you haven’t already, what questions you’d like to ask Marie, and I’ll see those come through, and then we’ll start with those in about five more minutes or so. So next question, Marie, how did you initially gauge your employees in getting them involved with sustainable production and processes, and then moving into are there any lessons learned in building a culture of sustainability that you would like to share?
– So, as we were already, like I’m 30 years old, of course there were like different phases, how we tackled that. So right at the beginning, there was very early on a group of people that voluntarily scrambled together, in an area of a small scene our team, to really emphasize what we can do here. It was not really strategically, it was more like understanding really what can we do in the smaller spaces, but also life cycle analysis and these kinds of things by that time in the prototyping world, was something that we did. And then now of course with me taking over, I made actually for the other shareholders, so my family one condition, and I said, “I only will take over this company if I can make sustainability the core thing that we do.” Because I realized in a lot of conversations with my dad beforehand that actually this technology can be really a green solution in the manufacturing space, if we do it right and develop it into that potential kind of. So it’s kind of like a raw diamond right now. And we need to of course make sure, that it’s really unleashing all the potentials that we see and that we know can be there. And so when I started, one a half years ago, we decided that we really wanna work on our purpose and understanding better how we can weave in the part of sustainability in this core, and there we really made the whole company, so all employees part of creating this purpose together with us. And I think it was really interesting because we didn’t decide at the beginning the purpose will be focusing on sustainability, but it was from our employees, one of the strongest areas where we saw in our ideation sessions, that this has so much support and I was really happy about it of course, because, so for me, it made it easier to decide together with my other shareholders, my family, that we will really make this core, and we don’t need to convince our staff about that, but they are kind of actually really want us to do this. So we made sure that we had ideation sessions. So we launched then after a few cycles, the purpose together, and since then, we really have a sustainability sounding board, we have cross divisional corporations where people really work on very specific topics, so it’s of course sustainable applications, but it’s also a waste management. It’s the whole topic of spare parts, it’s green consulting. So there are a lot of different areas. It’s diversity where we look at, and yeah, trying and hoping that with this, we can bring that even more to life than it is already.
– Great, and we’ve got several audience questions, which tie nicely to what you were saying, cause it’s only possible through your employees to make all this happen, right?
– So how you engage them and keep them engaged is really key. So regarding industry standards, what are the industry standards to help with the effort, there’s the GRI, which is a European standard. There’s the SASB standards out. What have you looked at in terms of the standards that are available, and which have you chosen to use for your efforts?
– So right now, of course we are still under, as I said, evaluation, like what kind of baselines and targets and standards we use to really base our KPIs on. But of course everything that from governments and political areas is set already, we will make sure that we are connecting our goals to that because, they’re kind of like setting a great framework, but it’s not the one standard we decided to choose yet. But I’m happy to report on that once we set our first KPIs and did our report, how we deal with that more in detail.
– Yeah, that’s smart because these standards… These are for the really large companies, all the public companies, you are looking at these standards, again, the two I mentioned GRI and SASB are the two predominant ones, and those really are more targeted for ESG reporting for these really large companies. But when you have smaller companies that are really on the path to sustainability, do these standards really work well for them. And when you’re first starting out to go from A to Z, it’s not feasible, you have to start somewhere. And that’s the main point is that, it’s a journey. There is no destination because you can always improve. It’s just taking these steps to get on the path and to advance, and know that you’re making an impact because you have the KPIs and you’re measuring and you’re reporting on that, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a standard per se, although there are some of that level, but it may not fit every company.
– Yeah, and maybe also do just add at one thing that, of course, as our companies are often also big OEMs. I think it’s also for us as a company very helpful to work together with them who are using these kinds of standards. So it’s not always our choice what kind of standard are we connecting our goals to, but it’s more like really understanding. And that’s why we did this analysis also with our customers, what are the standards they are using? What are the goals they are having? To be able that we can be a technology provider for them. So I think it’s not that we can decide on the standards that we’re using, I think we need to make sure that we are helping the customers with the standards they have to achieve their goals.
– That stakeholder input is really key, the customer voice. What is the customer looking for? What’s important to them? And what transparency do they wanna see? And addressing those needs is really key. And then of course, employees love sustainability. They really wanna see that the company that they’re working for is making a difference. So it’s a really great way to have a come full circle, so to speak, and having these different stakeholders a part of the process, and you identify two primary ones. Okay, we’ve got another question here. Is sustainability a key part of the manufacturing device design process to ensure that the device itself is produced sustainably, and able to be disposed off at end of life in a sustainable way.
– That’s definitely one part we look at. So the one thing is of course, what can you produce without technology? But the other thing on what kind of waste management do we need to look at? But of course the system itself, we of course also are collecting data right now. Like how much energy is it using, but also how do we make sure that once it’s broken and cannot be refurbished, but we even introduced a refurbished machine business area actually now, we’re really wanna make sure also to look more at the life cycle, but that’s exactly one topic. What we’re looking at is how can we make sure also to print parts for the systems ourselves, with biodegradable materials, if possible, for example, and how can we make the system itself more part of the circular economy? So this is an area we look at, but also to be really honest, we haven’t figured out what to do in detail there yet, but there are different areas we collect data right now about.
– So this next question really ties into that last question. And I don’t know that you’d have any additional points to add to what you’ve already said, but just for the purposes of making sure, I’m going to read this question to you. And what opportunity is there to support the circular economy, for example, by switching from using new virgin materials in AMT, using recycled and up-cycle materials in AM, I’m aware of the US Navy using a PET from melted water bottles on aircraft carriers to print AM parts, but do you think there is likely to be greater uptake of this in the industry.
– Of course. So biodegradable and recyclable materials will be having a huge increase within the next few years. And I can tell you that because we are asked for that by our customers already. And we’re of course working with partners together on realizing these kinds of materials as fast as possible. And of course, material suppliers to look into that. But also we look into that to make sure that our processes and the systems are connecting with that smoothly. And yeah, so that’s one of the areas, which is like, when we look at our sustainability strategy right now, a very important priority.
– Well, this is generating some really good questions. So what opportunities exist to utilize more eco-friendly materials and still maintain superior part integrity and AM capabilities. And this is a really key question, cause it’s like really a great idea, the circular economy, we won’t have to waste all the waste. We won’t use that word anymore because it’s an input, it’s a new material. So we’re just gonna call it a material and repurpose it by having it be used again and again, and again and again. So it’s really, truly full circle, but we’re not there yet. And that’s a big, big goal. So how do you see, I’ll just read it again. What opportunities exist to utilize more eco-friendly materials, and still maintain superior part integrity in AM capabilities.
– So there are opportunities and we work for that together with our material suppliers to really make sure that the quality that our customers are used to can be achieved. So the PET bottles, the P-E-T bottles, actually, we also looked into some startups to do that. Like, these don’t have for our technology and our process right now, the right standards that we could use. So for that the quality would be not good enough and it’s just not possible without technology to use it today, doesn’t mean it cannot change over time, of course, with all this rapid developments we see, but we of course also look into not only recyclable materials, but we also look into material waste, because I think it’s also very important to understand that in conventional manufacturing, there’s a lot of waste of resources. And if we can make sure that in additive, we only use the material that we really need to create that part, and we can reuse everything around, again, this would be already, or is already a huge step towards a better cost per part. But of course also a better overall efficiency of the resource that we’re using here. And then of course, looking at polymers, we have a lot of innovation programs running for biodegradable materials. There are some available, but we need to make sure they’re on the right quality, but also looking at CO2 neutrality. So how can we also make sure that when we produce and develop that material, we are not creating too much energy waste, but are balancing that out. So these are areas that we are all working on and I’m happy to share more details or some of my material colleagues actually, in the details, what are these materials and where do we start to stand here today?
– So on the biomaterial side, there’s a lot of interest in PLA, because it’s truly bio-based, it’s made from plants. But the challenge with PLA is how do you recycle that? If it gets mixed into recycled other materials, then it can cause problems because it actually contaminates the entire recycling process. So that’s a really big challenge because it can be biodegradable, but again, it can’t just go into a typical landfill. It has to be in industrial type compost situation is my understanding, so it becomes a very big challenge because there’s some great advantages, but then there’s this big disadvantage.
– And yeah, and I think what we also need to be aware of that the real ecological impact in the manufacturing space that we can have here, the sustainable impact that we can have here, we only have if we can reach it at scale, and if we can go to a industrial great level with all of that, because if it works on an innovation, small kind of scale, that’s important and that’s where we start all, but we need to make sure we are able to scale it. And these also can sometimes be reasons why maybe you don’t scale a specific material, which would be biodegradable, but it’s just way too expensive to really make it available for everyone and customers would be interested in that. So we also need to make business decisions in a way that what can we really scale? And what is really available at that large numbers, at the quality customers need, that they can really make a difference, because otherwise customers will just not buy it, and we cannot achieve the transition to AM. So that’s I think something we also need to be aware of.
– Yeah, right. Exactly. So we are going to be moving into in a few minutes, the open discussion, but I have one final question. Do you have any advice for anyone looking to have more sustainable operations? What would you suggest be maybe perhaps their first or second step?
– So I think if you want to really do that, you need to get people in who understand what this means, because I think we all understand a little bit like, oh, sustainability, but there are experts in that field. I really would recommend to you like get involved with experts. You don’t need to of course recruit all of them right away, they can be also just freelancers or people that you know in your network, or some initiatives like the AMGTA, or these kind of organizations who also understand what it means. And we’re also very happy to be partner of this initiative. So and to really understand, “Okay, what are the lessons learned for a lot of companies? Where do I start?” I think collecting data is then the very important thing, but for that, you really need people who understand how to collect data, what to look at, because these are kind of like very holistic, complex things, it’s not functional, it’s really cross functional and cross interdisciplinary actually. So that will be just my advise and make sure that the people who’re on the company are really wanna do it.
– That’s great advice, Marie. And I look forward to you joining us for the open discussion that starting right about now. So with that, thank you everybody, and we hope to see you there.