Key takeaways:

Modernizing manufacturing processes reduces the amount of equipment, energy, and raw materials used in production and can significantly cut CO2 emissions.The factory floor can act as an important “command-and-control” point for a larger decarbonization journey, particularly now as the sustainability emphasis of firms expands to include Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.The key to overcoming sustainable manufacturing hurdles is to increase access to visibility through data analytics and digitally connected supply chains.  The circular economy is a progressive journey of many steps, which begins with viable business plans for managing materials and energy in the immediate term, and revamping “design-for-sustainability” manufacturing processes for long-term circularity.The primary goal of accelerating decarbonization in manufacturing processes is to increase efficiency, which requires both leaner processes and manufacturing facilities that can be segmented into smaller, more flexible, and modular components. This allows producers to adjust assembly lines, processes, and material inputs so that they are more precisely calibrated to better forecast data for on-demand customized manufacturing.

Sustainability and the factory floor

The carbon impact of the world’s manufacturing industries has held the imagination of climate change activists for decades. The belching factory smokestack was one of the first salient targets of the decarbonization movement, beginning with the passage of the US Clean Air Act in 1970.

Today, with ever-dire projections of the impact that global warming will have on sustainable life on the planet, the role that enterprises play in mitigating climate change has come into even sharper relief. Firms increasingly need to demonstrate concrete sustainability goals to maintain customer loyalty and investor confidence. Nine out of 10 Fortune 500 companies publish sustainability reports—nearly 100 have committed to carbon neutrality, and over 70 are committing to Science Based Targets, a greenhouse gas reduction framework established by the United Nations Global Compact and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Decarbonization in the manufacturing process, through improving equipment operations, reducing waste, and making products with less carbon-intensive inputs, is increasingly fitting into global firms’ broader green agendas. But, more work on this clearly needs to be done. In its 2022 Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor, the New Climate Institute reviewed the net-zero commitments of 25 large corporations and found their emission-reduction efforts would only achieve 40% reductions on average, and only three of the companies (none of them manufacturing firms) would achieve 90% decarbonization by their target dates.

Manufacturers have several levers to pull in their efforts to decarbonization. One is to diversify their energy sources away from fossil fuel-based electricity, purchasing from renewable energy producers or developing photovoltaic microgrids to produce their own green power.

Another lever is to accelerate the efficiency of equipment maintenance and process optimization, using improved data, analytics, and Internet of Things (IoT)-based sensors to identify production-asset faults and assess operating conditions with greater accuracy.

A third lever involves modernizing manufacturing processes to reduce processes and the amount of raw materials used during production, as well as decreasing the usage of machinery and improving the performance of existing machinery.

Castrip, a US-based flat rolled-steel processor firm, licenses technology that converts liquid steel into one- to two-millimeter thin strips for use in industrial, automotive, and construction applications. It has dramatically reduced the amount of CO2 emitted when converting liquid steel into thin steel strips by 80% to 90% over traditional methods, thanks to reduced machinery usage and fewer production processes.

Castrip’s director of technology, Walter Blejde, says his company’s core technology innovation, which is about two decades old, has transformed the emissions profile of steelmaking. “A conventional slab casting hot strip mill has massive structures on an energy-intensive production line some 800 meters long,” he explains. “We have

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By: Francesca Fanshawe
Title: Equipment management and sustainability
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2022/05/23/1052590/equipment-management-and-sustainability/
Published Date: Mon, 23 May 2022 07:43:10 +0000

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