How industry 4.0 is driving sustainable manufacturing
Sustainability has moved beyond token CSR to become an integral part of manufacturers’ business agenda. Manufacturing companies adopt sustainable practices not only because they have to comply with regulations or care deeply about the environment or want to save resources, but also because their customers, employees and investors expect them. âDo what is rightâ. Respect for environmental and social principles is at the top of the list.
According to a sustainability survey report According to the National Association of Manufacturing (NAM), 80% of its member companies in North America have implemented or are developing sustainability policies, and about 76% take a product lifecycle approach to sustainability.
Helping manufacturers implement their sustainable policies on the shop floor is a set of Industry 4.0 technologies.
Industry 4.0 – A catalyst for sustainable manufacturing
Industrial production consumes a huge volume of material resources, dangerous chemicals, energy and water. It also generates a significant amount of waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Manufacturing can be an example of sustainability by embracing Industry 4.0 towards decarbonization and building a circular economy.
Digital technologies, such as cloud computing, 3D / 4D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), allow manufacturing companies to reinvent their operations while achieving goals environmental, social and governance (ESG).
Basically, they can do this by:
Reduce the environmental footprint
AI and ML-based ESG systems provide real-time data gathered from all production operations that manufacturers can analyze to identify processes and practices that hinder the achievement of sustainability goals.
This visibility enables them to take green and lean steps to reduce carbon emissions in procurement, production, packaging, distribution, disposal and business support activities. For example, data on the high energy consumption of machines can help identify avenues for reducing waste.
Enable the design of sustainable products
Manufacturing companies need take a product lifecycle approach to decarbonization throughout the manufacturing value chain. They can then design products aligned with the 4Rs of sustainability – reduce, recover, recycle and reuse.
The production of these goods uses less energy, extracts upcyclable materials and components, and reduces waste, carbon emissions and pollution. Digital design tools further improve the sustainability quotient by allowing designers to test innovative concepts that reduce resource intensity, minimize product weight and volume, and improve 4R value, without significant capital expenditure.
Improve the use of resources
Reducing the waste of raw materials, energy and water is an essential part of an organization’s sustainable development policy. Several companies are taking advantage of new manufacturing methods to achieve their ESG goals.
For example, Pratt & Whitney eliminated 90 percent of the bullion used in jet engine blades. This has resulted in a considerable reduction in the waste of raw materials and emissions from factories.
In addition, an Industry 4.0 ecosystem allows manufacturers to collaborate within and beyond the company to make better use of natural resources and promote carbon efficiency.
AI-driven automation makes warehousing and logistics operations smarter by optimizing the delivery route of real-time transportation management systems; it also helps conserve resources and minimize waste.
Additionally, with AI systems, manufacturers can develop new practices and alternative models to maximize operational efficiency.
Finally, IoT systems enable a circular economy, based on the principles of reduction, reuse and recycling. With IoT-based solutions, organizations can not only reduce energy costs and carbon emissions, but also determine and extend the useful life of assets, thus verifying their reusability.
Sustainability is not just a social responsibility, but a key business priority for manufacturers today. With the help of Industry 4.0 technologies, manufacturing companies can drive sustainability along the value chain to serve their own interests as well as those of their stakeholders.
Jasmeet Singh is Executive Vice President and Global Head of Manufacturing at Infosys.