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Sustainable Development Using The CADMID Cycle

Posted on February 17th, 2016 by in Chemical R&D


In my last post, we started to unpack some of the questions we need to be asking when embarking on any sustainable development program. Today, I’m going to take a closer look at a model that can be used to describe a product lifecycle and give a useful framework when considering sustainable development.

As before, if we define our understanding of sustainability to be the endurance of systems and processes, there are a lot of factors at play. We need to look at more than just the product or process we’re designing or manufacturing. We need to look beyond the system we’re focused on.

The CADMID Cycle

The lifecycle framework we’re going to look at here is the CADMID cycle. This is actually the acquisition cycle currently used by the UK Ministry of Defence for procurement, and in my experience can be a useful high-level view of the factors we need to consider.

The cycle is broken into 6 stages (as you might have guessed from the name) which I’ll explain below. It’s important to remember that this is a lifecycle for procuring or acquiring a product, rather than just designing or producing, so the stages span a much broader period of time.

It might not be immediately obvious how all of the stages fit with our aim of sustainable development. But the intent here is to use this framework as a way of considering all of the stages of the life of any product we’re designing or manufacturing, and so pausing to think about each stage can reveal some useful insights.

Here are the six stages

Concept – After working out a need you’re trying to fulfill, or capability you’re trying to provide, this stage is all about laying out an initial concept (or several). Consideration needs to be given to the rest of the cycle here, but only at a high level. This stage is about establishing the lines of inquiry for progressing towards a solution. What is the problem we’re trying to solve and what are the ways we can currently see to solve it?

Assessment – Now that there are several options on the table, this stage is concerned with down-selecting and identifying a single concept to take forwards. Consideration will need to be given to later stages of the cycle such as in-service support and maintenance, as well as manufacture and disposal. There is likely to be experimentation in this stage to gather data to allow trade-offs to be made between different concepts. The ease and potential costs of supporting each of the concepts over their lifetime will normally be a factor in the down-selection process.

Demonstration – This stage is focused on reducing the risks associates with development or manufacture, fully bounding the requirements and getting everything in place for the next stages. There is usually a major review before entering this stage so by now all stakeholders should all be on-board. As design decisions are made and the final product becomes fully defined, attention can turn more to the support and maintenance required to enable the product to endure over the whole of it’s intended life.

Manufacture – By now the product is fully defined and in the manufacturing process. Infrastructure to support the product is put in place here and everything is prepared ahead of the time the first units come off the production line and are put to use.

In Service – This is usually the longest stage and covers the whole period of time when the product is operational. As well as the actual product itself, the support and maintenance infrastructure will be in place and fully functional.

Disposal – Every product reaches the end of it’s life at some point. There should be well defined plans in place for how to handle this stage, which can be followed to ensure that the disposal of the product has minimal impact on any of the systems that it has been a part (this will usually include ecological systems, where the effect of poor disposal plans is usually most evident).

What Has This Got To Do With Sustainability?

If sustainability is concerned with the endurance of systems and processes, in order for something we design or produce to be sustainable, we need to understand what those systems and processes are. We need to look before the drawing board and beyond the end of the production line. In every one of these six stages we need to be thinking about how to make our work sustainable in this stage and also in all of the future stages.

We need to think about supporting and maintaining our product “In Service” when we’re still at the “Assessment” stage. We need to have a plan for disposal before we hit the “Manufacture” phase. The CADMID cycle can be useful in breaking down the stages of a product’s life and helping us to focus on the actions and requirements that each different stage brings.

This framework can be a helpful way of coming back to those questions from last time: What is the bigger picture, and how do we ensure the endurance of this and all connected systems and processes?

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