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User Feedback Key to Supply Chain Modeling Tool Development

Oct. 4, 2019

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The U.S. manufacturing sector is steadily evolving as next-generation technologies gain traction and change the marketplace. Many of these technologies can reduce material and energy consumption, helping ensure the manufacturing industry stays efficient and sustainable.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has developed the Materials Flows through Industry (MFI) modeling tool to help manufacturers fully understand the benefits and consequences of next-generation technologies, which could have very different material and energy requirements compared to conventional manufacturing methods.

MFI applies a mine-to-materials analysis to a wide range of manufacturing scenarios, identifying and analyzing opportunities to reduce the energy and carbon intensities of the U.S. manufacturing sector. The tool builds a network of every necessary step of production, resulting in a full supply chain that could contain hundreds of small material inputs and energy flows.

“MFI is a powerful tool that can provide new perspectives and insights for manufacturers,” said NREL researcher and lead MFI developer Scott Nicholson. “It can help manufacturers estimate energy use and emissions occurring beyond the plant boundary.”

According to Nicholson, user feedback has played an important role in MFI’s development. NREL listened to user recommendations to recently upgrade MFI, making it easier to use and creating new video tutorials that help users better understand how to use the tool and interpret the results.

“Improving MFI is an ongoing process, and users are a key part of that. We’re always looking for new MFI users and their input on how to make this tool even more useful,” Nicholson said. “That’s why we invite users from the manufacturing industry, academia, and the general public to use the tool, learn from its results, and provide us feedback so we can keep making MFI better.”

Developed with support from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office, MFI is offered free of charge. Just create your account online to build and analyze your own customized MFI supply chain model.

For more information, read Evaluating opportunities to improve material and energy impacts in commodity supply chains or contact Scott Nicholson at scott.nicholson@nrel.gov.