Extent and raw materials for future technologies

The extent of non-renewable raw materials is limited. This affects energy commodities such as crude oil, natural gas, uranium, coal and lignite. Whereas coal and lignite will be available for a long time to come, the reserves of some metals are already extremely low. As examples, the reserves of lead, zinc and tin are limited to around 20 years, chrome will only last 26 years and copper 32 years [Behrendt (2007)].

Future technologies require a huge diversity of raw materials, some of which are rare. Rapid technological development requires an equally rapid flexible reaction on the part of raw materials provision in order to avoid bottlenecks in supply. The number of materials used in the semiconductor industry has risen from 8 elements in the 1990s to around 50 elements since 2005 [Theis (2005)]. The availability of renewable raw materials is also limited. There are limits, for instance, in the land acreage available for biomass cultivation.

Price development on the raw materials market

For manufacturing industry companies it is not the abstract limitation of raw materials which is of interest, but far more the current market prices for materials, semi-finished products and primary products. Price fluctuations are extremely short-term and can be many times the initial price.

Cost structures in manufacturing industry

The Federal Statistical Office has determined that around 45% of costs in the manufacturing industries result from the purchase of materials [Staba (2010)]. Since the material costs not only comprise materials but also semi-finished products, structural elements and assemblies, costs for energy and personnel are also included as well as pure raw material costs.

However, it is still worthwhile for manufacturing industry companies to draw up possibilities for the reduction of material costs and to implement appropriate measures. This is because a decrease in material costs at the same level of output results in a direct increase in profit.

Benefits within the company

Direct and indirect benefits from increasing resource efficiency:

  • Lower manufacturing costs
  • Decreased dependency on the raw materials market (price fluctuations and availability)
  • Lower user costs as a market advantage
  • Better company image as a market advantage

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