What is a Material Flow Analysis?

Definition, goals & methodology

Material Flow Analysis considers data from all resource flows – including water & energy – and collects information regarding their impact on our environment and economy.

Nachhaltigkeitsmanagement Carbon Footprint

Material Flow Analysis - in simple terms

An Energy and Material Flow Analysis (MFA) is the target-oriented, responsible, and efficient analyzing of material and substance flows within your production systems.

The aim of Material Flow Management (MFM) is to use natural resources sparingly and to create a sustainable production. A distinction is made between the material flow management on a national or regional level, which focus more on creating ecologically sustainable cycles with the aim of environmental protection and efficient use of resources. Whereas in industrial or operational material flow management the consideration of energy and material flows should contribute to the optimization within production systems.

Target-oriented, responsible, and efficient - MFA

Goals & Methodology

National & regional MFAs

National & regional MFAs

  • Creation of sustainable cycles
  • Environmental protection and material efficiency at country level
  • Increase in regional value added
  • Promotion of new technologies and projects to reduce environmental pollution

➠ Predominantly ecologically motivated!

    Operational MFAs

    Operational MFAs

    • Optimization of production processes
    • Increased energy and material efficiency
    • Reduction of operating costs
    • Avoidance and reduction of emissions and wastes

    ➠ In spite of ecological relevance, predominantly economically motivated!

      System boundaries & object consideration

      • Spatial-material
        The spatial-material flow management deals with material  flow systems on a global, national level, e.g. with the global CO2 budget. In order to implement this approach, however, more concrete environmental policy requirements would be necessary, as would a closer integration of government, industry and NGOs.
      • Inter-company and stakeholder-related ➠ Regional ESSM
        Here the initiative comes from economic actors, e.g. municipalities, regional business development agencies or associations. For example, certain material flows from different companies in a region or from companies along a value chain are considered. More and more networks of this kind are emerging because it is a very promising approach.

      • Operational-process-related:
        Operational-process-related material flow management describes the balancing and optimization of the ecologically relevant material and energy flows of an individual process, process network or an entire company. Internal material flow management can thus also be described as process-related, since the focus is on the analysis and optimization of production systems.
      • Product-oriented ➠ Product life cycle assessment
        Product-oriented material flow management comprises the ecological analysis and optimization of a product. It is also known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) because it covers the entire life cycle from cradle to grave in terms of environmental impact.

      MFA – a development

      Material Flow Management is becoming more and more important as we use up the resources of our planet and companies increasingly reduce the vertical range of manufacture, thus raising material costs.  Therefore, companies are more and more interested in increasing resource efficiency systems. Previous cost-cutting measures have largely focused on personnel costs or on more efficient process organization but have not optimized the sustainable use of non-renewable raw resources and their material flows. There is great potential for improvement, particularly in terms of saving energy and environmentally friendly waste management and the disposal of the materials used.

      Therefore, the focus in ecologically motivated energy and material flow management is on the development of a system that promotes environmental protection. It aims for better waste management, the reduction of waste water, soil protection, decrease of substance disposal, and development of renewable energy solutions; the end goal is to achieve so-called "cleaner production" in order to protect our environment. The Material Flow Analysis is the key tool to this endeavor. Only by systematically inspecting and improving our material flows a "cleaner production" is achievable.


      MFA – a development

      MFA – definition:

      Within the framework of material flow management, one also works with the instrument of Material Flow Analysis (MFA). Material Flow Analyses have the goal of mapping, analyzing and evaluating all flows within a company. The focus is on energy and substance flows and their effects on the environment.

      The origin of the Material Flow Analysis (MFA) is to be found in waste management, since it became necessary to close cycles and reduce the amount of waste. The approach of Material Flow Analysis (MFA) is now established in many industries and is becoming more and more popular. With the software tool Umberto, you can easily create and communicate reliable Material Flow Analyses. Due to the variety of possible applications, our tool is used in many different scopes.

      We optimize your resource flow system and make it sustainable!

      Material Flow Analysis Software Umberto

      Umberto: Material Flow Management Tool

      Our software Umberto belongs to the leading software for Material Flow Analysis (MFA). Bring transparency into the material and energy flows of your production, calculate the associated costs and increase not only the efficiency of your production system but also sustainability.


      More about Umberto

      More about Umberto
      Institute of Environmental IT Hamburg

      Consulting for your projects

      Alternatively, our team with its 25 years of experience in questions of Material Flow Analysis and operational environmental protection is at your disposal. We are happy to support you individually step by step up to the complete analysis of your system of resource flows including environmental impacts.

      To the consulting team of the Institute of Environmental IT

      To the consulting team of the Institute of Environmental IT

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