3. Process optimisation
Large-scale manufacturing is by nature resource intensive. This issue is exacerbated where the production processes are not effective, which can compound waste levels. For example, in the food and beverage industry, the high cleanliness standards expected by customers can push manufacturers to the extreme in purifying produce, which when carried out inefficienctly has implications for massive water waste.
Intelligent automation tools can play an important role in counteracting wasteful practices. Using technologies such as Digital Twins, leaders can better design and improve processes in order to identify potential inefficiencies and take remedial measures before they’re rolled out.
4. Carbon capture and recycling
There are certain ‘costs’ that have historically been accepted in industrial environments as they were viewed as unavoidable. Carbon emissions in heavy industries, such as metals and oil and gas, are a notable example. Leaders are now realising that by addressing these issues directly, they can score a double win – reduce carbon waste and recycle it into something useful.
The first step here is measurement of carbon emissions. By assigning values to materials, the carbon footprint can be quantified and benchmarked. To do this we use analytics software tools and emission modeling such as PEMS (or Software CEMS) to complement standard physical analysers (CEMS), which combined help to lower maintenance and improve measurement. With access to these sensor-based analytics, line managers and operators are able to identify where assets are performing below required standards. It’s at this point that strategies can be installed to improve performance and address the causes of inefficiencies.
In the case of heavy industries, there are opportunities to identify the areas that are contributing most to carbon emissions and apply CCUS practices to capture waste and avoid it entering the atmosphere.
For example, in Europe, we are working with steelmaker ArcelorMittal and biotech company LanzaTech on a project where the carbon output of blast furnaces is recycled into a more sustainable ethanol product called Steelanol. Creative solutions to deep-seated problems like these can produce more efficient and circular processes with massive environmental benefits.
5. Adding accountability to processes
If sustainability is seen as a secondary priority, it will almost always be discarded in difficult circumstances. The regulatory environment is helping to reinforce the fact that sustainable practices are an organisational obligation and plant managers today are increasingly bound legally to lower emissions. Moreover, their customers now want to see evidence that efforts are being made across the supply chain to lower emissions.
The best way to make processes sustainable is to make sustainability part of the process. This means installing parameters and alarms to control processes, alerting personnel to high carbon levels or even automatically reducing loads where set limits are exceeded. Such precautions offer efficiency benefits while keeping sustainability practices in check.
Getting to Net-Zero
On paper, this all seems simple and logical but, as we know, it can be difficult to make these changes in practice. We often see leaders introduce efficiency measures to a particular area, only to stop if they don’t see immediate results. The benefits can be gradual and so it needs a broad time horizon. It also needs a commitment to trialling different business cases – if you find a model that works, use that as a blueprint for applying to different parts of your operations and scaling based on positive proof of concept.
The goal for industrial leaders is to be proactive in looking for efficiencies across all areas of business and manufacturing operations. Starting from the lens of improving what you’re already doing through efficiency strategies will help to kickstart the virtuous cycle of more effective processes leading to lower waste, leading to better cost margins. This ultimately means more capital to reinvest for further process improvements and efficiencies. The cycle has a direct impact on ROI and a positive outcome for the company’s carbon footprint, something that benefits all stakeholders.
If you want to learn more about sustainability and efficient processes, visit the Management Perspectives hub.