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Materials Flows through Industry Supply Chain Modeling Tool

NREL's Materials Flows through Industry (MFI) modeling tool tracks the material and energy demands from manufacturing supply chains.

Blue and green graphic with manufacturing related icons scattered across an industrial space.
The MFI tool models supply chains across different parts of the industrial sector.

Manufacturing is central to our nation's economy, and the U.S. manufacturing sector is continually evolving as new technologies and materials are developed.

To keep up with industry advancements, NREL is developing the MFI tool, which models U.S. industrial sector supply chains. From evaluating energy and materials inputs in the initial manufacturing stages to those of the final production stages, this tool informs the manufacturing process from resource extraction ("cradle") to the factory gate.

The tool is a linear network model of the U.S. industrial sector. It can model a range of manufacturing scenarios, including the effects of changes in production technology and increases in industrial energy efficiency. The tool performs supply chain analyses to quantify the impacts and benefits of next-generation technologies and materials at that scale.

NREL has enhanced several features of the tool. For instance, researchers added a sensitivity analysis module to the internal MFI codebase, making it easier to collaborate on NREL's techno-economic analysis projects.

Another update to the internal model has refreshed the calculation of transportation sector impacts in supply chains, using the most recent update of the Commodity Flow Survey. Both updates will be included in the MFI web app in a future update.

Additional, targeted improvements include:

  • Integrating additive manufacturing data into the MFI tool
  • Developing models to evaluate material and resource efficiency and recycling strategies
  • Incorporating additional life-cycle metrics for broader supply chain impact analysis.

Beta Testing

A beta version of the tool is available for testing by members of industry, academia, and the research community as well as the general public. To access the tool and provide feedback, simply request an account.

The MFI tool was developed with support from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office's Strategic Analysis team.

NREL released beta version 2.0.8 of the MFI public-facing web application, with several cosmetic upgrades to improve user-experience and functionality.

Impact

Next-generation technologies may be more energy- and emissions-intensive than current technologies. However, they have the potential for reduced material and energy consumption in upstream or downstream processing stages. Use of the MFI tool will help manufacturers evaluate this potential, leading them to fully understand the benefits and consequences of technology deployment.

Publication

Evaluating Opportunities To Improve Material and Energy Impacts in Commodity Supply ChainsEnvironment Systems and Decisions (2017)

Capabilities

Learn more about NREL's manufacturing analysis capabilities.

Contact

Scott Nicholson

Researcher II – Chemical Engineering

Scott.Nicholson@nrel.gov | 303-275-3897