Digital Technologies that Increase Efficiency Can Also Improve Sustainability

Digital Technologies that Increase Efficiency Can Also Improve Sustainability

It’s no secret that companies across multiple industries are looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact as well as increase operational efficiency. A report by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), for example, suggests that 80% of its members are either creating or implementing sustainability policies.

But thanks to digital technologies, it’s not a “one or the other” scenario. In fact, leading organizations are discovering that environmental sustainability and operational competitiveness reinforce one another.

“The same digital transformation efforts that yield positive ROI also introduce a range of sustainability benefits,” according to McKinsey. “When companies optimize their operations—whether to increase productivity, improve quality, or reduce cost—better environmental performance can be a byproduct.”

Data that makes a difference

The data that helps organizations improve efficiency can be leveraged to develop energy and waste reduction strategies. Machine sensors, Andon systems and other in-plant data sources provide insight into the health of mechanical equipment and processes that could be draining precious environmental resources.

Consider the case of a machine on the shop floor that is experiencing an uptick in quality defects. That equipment will need to run longer to churn out enough flawless products to meet the plant’s production commitments—and will use more energy in the process. Improving the machine’s productivity allows it to produce the optimal number of perfect products in a shorter amount of time, with related reductions in energy consumption. Similarly, efforts to reduce the number of scrapped, defective parts means fewer raw materials are needed and less environmental waste is generated.

These are just a few examples of how efficient manufacturing processes consume less energy, use fewer resources, and produce less waste.

Better planning, less waste

Companies that want to improve sustainability by improving performance and reducing their resource footprint should use innovation, scenario planning and strategic analysis, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Industry 4.0 digital technologies such as Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) solutions can help.

APS transforms job shop scheduling into an agile process that anticipates and responds in real time to changing conditions within the manufacturing pipeline. Predictive algorithms in APS solutions take in live production data from the plant floor and use these insights to analyze equipment performance and optimize efficiency.

Through planning and sequencing, manufacturers will know how many materials they need, which equipment should be used, and the most optimal times to produce specific products. New incoming orders can also be optimally planned on a daily basis and in specified target weeks. Delayed raw material shipments and other bottlenecks are identified in real-time, allowing planners to adjust production programs and timetables. Rules, restraints, part availabilities and production facility capacities can also be altered at any point during planned production programs. As a result, no materials, labor or energy are wasted.

Sustainability across the supply chain

Efficiency solutions that can have a positive environmental impact aren’t just confined to the plant floor. Digital solutions that provide end-to-end visibility provide even greater opportunities for energy savings and waste reduction. Data-driven S&OP, for example, allows companies to improve productivity and minimize their carbon footprint by modeling and following data-driven ideal inventory levels. They can ensure their purchases align current production capabilities with projected sales, helping to reduce excess product and avoid shortages.

Industry 4.0 technologies can also optimize transportation routes, and even shift product mixes to prioritize sustainable products like hybrid vehicles to support sustainability objectives across the enterprise.

Companies that recognize the important link between improved productivity, energy efficiency and waste reduction have an advantage as they develop their sustainability strategies. Data and insights from Industry 4.0 technologies are powerful tools that can help speed their journeys.


If you want to learn more get your Guide to Production Planning

In this Guide you will learn:

  1. How to build resilience

  2. How to increase efficiency

  3. How to use integrated APS planning services for production planning

  4. What must-have features of an APS solution you need

  5. Which KPI’s you can expect