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What is a Life Cycle Assessment?

Manufacturers have embraced life cycle assessments (LCA) as leading tools for optimizing processes.  LCAs are helpful for solving complicated issues in a systematic way. Analysts use them to target waste energy and resources associated with a product. They are easy to vary in length and format, so they are well-designed for improving many steps in production.

LCA: the Basics

Life cycle assessments combine qualitative and quantitative factors of analysis. A well-executed study describes the impacts of a product, service, or process. Experts can construct a detailed LCA model by considering the supply chains in place for a product. They can then build datasets by consulting many different industries worldwide. With this information, we can make decisions about optimizing our workflows.

What does an LCA do?

Often, we divide life cycle assessments into brackets of time. These brackets represent phases of a product’s life. A useful LCA requires a well-bounded scope alongside a thoughtful and detailed set of goals. Together, these will define the structure and approach of the analysis.

LCA drawing

Once data collection begins, experts conducting an LCA usually follow three main steps:

  • the Inventory Analysis, which lists all the inputs used for creating a product. Stocks and flows are defined here to create an overview of production processes.
  • the Impact Assessment, which targets those steps that show the most potential for optimization. The purpose of the assessment specifies which impacts are studied: human, economic, environmental, or otherwise.
  • the Interpretation Phase, which contextualizes the findings of the study and defines clear goals for mitigating waste and redundancies. Typically, analysts will create a proposal for action at this point while specifying timeframes for realistic and attainable execution.

Each phase plays its part in identifying gains and costs associated with a product. Life cycle assessments are particularly well-suited for collecting and organizing the information needed for such a detailed project.

Why do we use LCAs?

LCA and electronics
  • Identify supply chain inefficiencies, costs, and impacts
  • Discover product regulations applicable to your marketplace
  • Pinpoint processes with high waste or excessive transport
  • Explore solutions for reducing carbon footprint and unwanted by-products
  • Consolidate large amounts of information about your product


Internationally, LCAs fall under the ISO 14040 standards family. These documents describe the various parts of a life cycle assessment, how to construct it, and best practices for use. ISO 14040 certification is not mandatory, although it does have its advantages.

Moreover, LCA software is available to make performing life cycle assessments even easier. These specialized suites use your supply, transport, and disposal information to create custom analysis tools for your product. LCA software makes cross-sectional studies and cradle-to-grave assessments easy to prepare and share with your team or clients.

Are you ready to learn more about optimizing your product flows? Contact Enviropass today to discuss how life cycle assessments can help close the loop.