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    Objective and meaningful: life cycle assessments for machines

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    04. June 2024
    4:10 min.

    Green countryside, blue skies: For many, the word “sustainability” automatically evokes images of nature’s beauty. Excel tables and rows of numbers likely are not the first thing most people think of. But that is precisely what it takes to do a life cycle assessment and, more importantly, improve a product’s environmental performance.

    Let’s start at the beginning: What is a life cycle assessment (LCA)? Generally speaking, it’s an analysis used to measure the environmental impact of a product, service or process across its entire life cycle – from the resources used to create the product or service, across its use phase, all the way through to its end-of-life destination (recycling or disposal).

    Why do an LCA?

    Like so many companies, Krones performs LCAs on its products and services because they are a valuable tool for … 

    1. Product development – to systematically reduce the environmental impacts of our machines and services and at the same time increase their efficiency.
    2. Our customers – to give them a solid set of data on which to base their investment decisions.
    3. Sustainability management – to  
      • measure and manage our progress towards achieving the goals laid out in Krones’ sustainability strategy and
      • ensure compliance with legal requirements such as the EU Taxonomy and the digital product passport (DPP), which is slated to enter into force in the coming years.

    What to expect: new rules in the EU

    The digital product passport (DPP) is an essential element of the EU’s new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation and is to be introduced across different industries in stages over the next few years. The idea is that manufacturers will collect relevant environmental data on their products in a standardized process and make that data available to customers in a transparent way. And although the details of what that will look like for the machinery industry are still being hashed out, Krones is being proactive in preparing for these future requirements by conducting LCAs on its products now.

    The EU Taxonomy is an EU-wide system for classifying sustainable economic activities. The associated regulation is part of the EU’s action plan on financing sustainable growth, which is aimed at directing capital from banks and investors toward sustainable businesses. The first set of Taxonomy requirements entered into force in January 2022, and additional rules are being rolled out in stages. Detailed disclosures on the taxonomy-eligibility and taxonomy-alignment of Krones’ activities can be found in our annual report.


    A product’s LCA includes everything that, over its entire life cycle,

    • is taken from the environment, such as minerals, crude oil and water, and
    • put into the environment, such as waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

    For products with a complex value chain and a long use phase, the whole thing can quickly turn into a labyrinthine thicket of details. That is why Krones has opted to partner with an LCA specialist, the Interdepartmental Center for the Packaging (CIPACK) at the University of Parma, Italy. The scientific research center has already conducted LCAs for several Krones products and has developed a calculation methodology along with the associated tool that we can also use ourselves to derive objective conclusions about the environmental impacts of our products.


    One of the most important indicators for Krones and our customers is the product carbon footprint (PCF), which measures the total greenhouse gas emissions of a machine throughout its entire life cycle.


    Copious data yields a comprehensive picture

    Before a machine’s LCA can be calculated, an extensive list of questions must be answered, including: What materials are used to build the machine? What distances must the materials and/or machine travel from suppliers to Krones and on to the customer’s site? How many hours per year is the machine expected to be in operation? What emissions will its operation generate? And what energy sources will be used to run the machine?

    These questions reveal an important idiosyncrasy of PCFs: two different machines of the same product type can have very different PCFs. That’s because a number of individual factors play a role in the use phase, which can have a material impact on the footprint. For example, a machine that is purchased by a company located within a short distance of our manufacturing plant and run on green power will have significantly lower emissions than the very same machine shipped to a different continent and run on brown power. And so, if we’re to get meaningful (that is, realistic) LCA results, we must use as many individual factors as possible. There are some exceptions, though, especially when it comes to the machine’s service life. Of course, it is not possible to predict how long an individual customer will use any given Krones machine(s), so Krones applies a standard use phase of 15 years for its LCAs.

    Which machines come out on top?

    Once the analysis is complete it’s time to evaluate the results. At Krones, we are not just interested in a single product’s LCA. Rather, we want to know how different machine types compare with each other. That’s because the Krones portfolio is divided into standard and enviro machines, the latter being developed specifically for outstanding energy and media efficiency. Their development is based on the TÜV SÜD-certified enviro sustainability program. For customers, that means that for every machine they can choose whether they want the standard version or the more sustainable one from the enviro line. And although the decision is ultimately the customer’s to make, Krones does everything it can to market the enviro products as the more attractive ones – after all, it’s in the interest of our own sustainability targets. And the LCAs are a powerful tool for that because they lay out the advantages of the enviro version in black and white, as this example shows:


    The calculation is based on the following parameters:

    • Volume of the bottles to be cleaned: 0.35 liter
    • Rated capacity: 45,000 containers per hour
    • Production hours: 6,000 hours per year
    • Use phase of the machine: 15 years 

    Our customers often find numbers like this very eye opening. Because even though most of them are familiar with the blue enviro logo, many are still surprised by the enormous scope of savings that can be achieved. And that is precisely why life cycle assessments are a critical tool in consulting and sales talks with customers – they provide concrete numbers and facts that make for the strongest arguments for guiding investment decisions in a more sustainable direction.

    04. June 2024
    4:10 min.

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