Can sustainable manufacturing be achieved through digital technology?

Harriet Lewis 01-Mar-2023 12:50:29

Manufacturers are continually required to look for ways to be more sustainable, not only to meet consumer expectations but due also to changing legislative and regulatory requirements. Sustainability has come to mean more than carbon offsetting and involves adapting production methods and processes. Of course, this can be a challenge to manufacturers, particularly those with legacy assets and infrastructure, but embracing innovative technology, even at a small level can be transformative. This blog looks at the potential ways digital technology can contribute to creating a greener manufacturing sector. 

Reduced wastage

With the help of enhanced data analysis tools from cloud computing, manufacturers can more easily identify inefficiencies in their operations and make necessary changes to reduce wasteful practices, such as landfill use, environmental contamination or even non-optimal use of machinery. Of course, this also makes good business sense, reducing unnecessary expenditure on materials as well as waste disposal costs.

Supply chain visibility

Another critical element in making impactful, sustainable improvements as a sector is within the supply chain. With better insight and transparency available from greater data collection and analysis, producers can understand the provenance of their components and raw materials with greater certainty. They are then empowered to make greener, more sustainable choices, working in closer partnership with their suppliers. It can also reveal how shipping and logistics can be conducted in a more environmentally friendly way – certainly, an area with scope for improvement given that complex and widespread supply chains account for a significant proportion of emissions for many products. 

Digital Twins

Using virtual reality and artificial intelligence to make better design decisions can drastically speed up efficiency and lower the cost of product development. It also enables remote collaboration, reducing unnecessary travel emissions and the expense of a team that would have previously needed to be in the same physical location to achieve the same outcomes.

Operational efficiencies

Processes and equipment supported by digital technologies are more reliable, consume less energy, and are good for both the planet and the bottom line. It can also better enable circularity (sharing, leasing, and reusing machinery rather than disposal and replacement) making machinery work harder, for longer. 

In conclusion, there are a number of ways in which digital technology can make substantive improvements to the environmental credentials of manufacturing businesses. Not only this, but it makes good commercial sense too. Digital change can be disruptive but doesn’t have to be. Those who embrace incremental innovation will be those who also recognise operational improvements and cost savings, whilst at the same time contributing to reaching net-zero targets. Find out more about our IT services for manufacturers for ways we can support you to make your business more sustainable and successful.