There are four different phases to product life cycle analysis: definition of goals and scope, inventory, assessment, and interpretation. This method can help a company to determine the environmental impact of a product from the extraction of raw materials to the end of the product’s life. The system can also be used to reveal the impact of providing a service. This process is typically used to aid in the decision making process in regards to a particular offering.
The goal and scope phase of product life cycle analysis is used to determine the specific focus of the study. It typically provides a description of the product and how it is used and perceived in order to give context to the following study of its inputs and outputs. The result of this process is typically a document with significant technical detail which explains how the analysis will be conducted.
During the inventory phase of product life cycle analysis, relevant inputs and outputs of the product are studied. This is essentially what is taken from and released into the environment as a result of making the product. Inputs include resources such as water, natural building materials and changes to land. Common outputs include emissions into air and water.
This data can be collected from internal or external sources. Often a combination of the two is necessary for a comprehensive review. There may also be other sources of information, such as databases, which give a regional or national perspective on inputs and outputs.
The next phase of product life cycle analysis is assessment. In this step it is determined how inputs and outputs can impact the environment. It is a process that includes listing all areas in which an impact could be made, categorizing and classifying these effects and then determining the impact of each element. This step may provide guidance as to which actions can be taken to lessen damage to the environment caused by manufacture of the product.
In the final stage of product life cycle analysis the data is interpreted. The goal is to match the results with the goals of the study. This review will also attempt to determine if the study was effective. By the end of this step, it will typically be clear what environmental challenges must be addressed. There should also be some clarity as to how the company should proceed and which actions should be discontinued.