Jason chester, Director of Global Channel Programs at InfinityQS, shares his thoughts on the future of sustainability in manufacturing
With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in early November, it is quite clear that the actions needed to mitigate climate change are now becoming a serious priority among world leaders. As the event made climate change headlines around the world, we must not lose sight of other environmental imperatives such as growing impatience with waste, ecological damage and the overexploitation of precious natural resources. caused by consumption and industrialization.
One need only witness the images of swathes of decimated forests, polluted rivers and burgeoning plastic waste piles to truly understand that the company is quickly heading for a rebellion in its attitudes, and the industry is going to be squarely in line. of sights. .
Thus, manufacturers must now be fully aware that the spotlight will be more and more focused on them. The blame will be laid on them, not only through the prism of governments, but also by consumers and society in general, as well as by their customers. Now is the time for every manufacturer – from global brand icons to small, single factory operations – to recognize that sustainable manufacturing operations are critical to their future success and their brand reputation.
Sustainability in the manufacturing industry
Over the past 18 months, manufacturers have experienced a period of uncertainty, with the pandemic and Brexit revealing widespread supply chain and demand fragility. With inflation starting to rise sharply, more uncertainty and volatility is surely still to come.
There is no denying that climate change coverage has dominated our TV screens and the front pages of newspapers in recent times. This has led both consumers and brands to pay more attention to the environmental impact of products and services. The rise of social media has made it easier for consumers to voice concerns about industries and businesses found guilty of environmental irresponsibility, with some activists even going so far as organize boycotts against organizations in extreme circumstances. This pressure for responsible and sustainable manufacturing will only grow and, as a result, it will become increasingly important for organizations to be transparent in their response.
Having a productive and efficient production system has always been an important aspect of manufacturing operations, with the goal of securing profits, growth and value for stakeholders. Yet if a product does not meet the correct specifications, it is scrapped, scrapped, or reworked. While many manufacturers recognize that this has a negative impact on performance, the unused resources that go into making this product in the first place are also wasted, be it human resources, wear and tear on machinery or tools, energy and natural resources or raw materials. While this approach to quality is important to ensure that organizations continue to function well and that their customers are satisfied, their mindset must evolve to also understand how this waste impacts the overall environmental footprint of their operations. . Efficiency and productivity in the manufacturing sector are now simply more a matter of corporate, social and environmental responsibility than of mere business performance.
Acting now will reap future rewards for manufacturers
As world leaders discuss and set goals on how to reduce the impact of environmental implications, the same can’t be said in the manufacturing industry. In fact, a recent poll revealed that two-fifths of the UK manufacturers operate without a sustainability policy. Often, manufacturers have cited cost and time as a barrier to a more sustainable operation, but with the right technology it is possible.
For manufacturers to truly have an impact, they need to rethink not only how they design their products, but also how they design, manage and monitor their end-to-end production processes. But they should also not neglect how, by optimizing their production processes, to minimize waste and maximize efficiency and productivity, they will also contribute significantly to the mitigation of any negative impact on the environment.
There is a major potential opportunity for manufacturers to use the technology to their advantage. For example, during the Covid pandemic, factories in many countries were closed or at reduced capacity due to lockdown restrictions. This has enabled manufacturers to invest in their digital transformation initiatives. Those who chose to invest did so because they knew it would improve operations and increase efficiency, which in the long run would increase profits. This same technology can and should now be used to make sustainable operational decisions. The use of new technologies will allow manufacturers to unravel the complexity of their processes and give them sufficient visibility to ensure that they can make decisions comfortably at all levels of their operations.
Profit is no longer at the forefront of digital transformation strategies
Digital transformation has become a major theme in manufacturing today, especially in shop floor operations where obsolete and legacy processes continue to dominate.
The drive to optimize manufacturing efficiency and productivity should no longer focus only on performance and profit, but also on sustainability, with sustainable practices at the forefront of any manufacturer’s digital transformation strategy.
The themes of climate change and environmental responsibility will not fade away, on the contrary they will become more prevalent and more urgent. The most important step for manufacturers is to take real action and change the way they operate. Reframing the way digitization and smart manufacturing is viewed through the lens of sustainability is, in my opinion, one of those critical steps.