People are doing what they can to help the environment. However, creating an impact takes more than installing a solar panel or swapping to energy efficient lightbulbs. Manufacturers should consider how making small, impactful changes in their facility can make a difference in the environment. In this article Neil Ballinger, head of EMEA sales at industrial automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains how we can create the green factories of the future.
Demand for resources is growing. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) the world is currently on track to consume four Earths’ worth of resources by 2050. Governments across the world have warned that everyone, from homeowners to large, global manufacturers must consider how they can reduce demand for resources such as energy and raw materials to cut carbon emissions and safeguard the planet.
Make it circular
Most facilities currently work following a linear model of make, use and dispose that creates a lot of waste because the product will only have one life and left-over energy or material will be wasted.
The circular model differs and encourages manufacturers to keep resources in use for as long as possible. Manufacturers should consider how they can design waste out of the production process, the goods manufactured and the everyday running of the facility.
For example, powering large facilities requires huge amounts of energy and water that can be very costly. Some of this energy will also be wasted during production. Manufacturers can look at redirecting this energy, such as wastewater, to help power the facility. Facilities that have high levels of automation can also consider reducing the lighting or heating in the facility in areas where there are no human workers to save energy.
Sophisticated assembly lines require automation and equipment that will use a lot of energy and must be regularly maintained to run efficiently. If any of the equipment breaks down, manufacturers must make quick decisions to return to production to avoid any financial losses due to downtime.
When a machine breaks down, manufacturers can choose to repair or replace it.
To extend the lifetime of the machine, reduce costs and reduce environmental impact, manufacturers should consider repairing the machine. Industrial automation parts suppliers can source the broken part if it is new, reconditioned or obsolete and deliver it to the facility quickly so it can return to production.
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Manufacturers are introducing more automation to their assembly lines to improve productivity and efficiency. However, some manufacturers do not realise the full potential of connected devices.
By transferring internal protocols from paper to digital, mobile devices facility workers can reduce their reliance on paper, in turn reducing their carbon emissions. Going paperless can also improve logistics of everyday activity. The ability to access real-time information about inventory, orders and administration from anywhere on or off site gives manufacturers the visibility they need to improve productivity.
Manufacturers cannot ignore the importance of reducing carbon emissions in production facilities. Investing in renewable energy and sustainable materials is important but not the only way to improve sustainability. By improving visibility of data and operations, extending equipment lifecycles and following a circular model manufacturer can improve productivity without a negative impact on the environment.
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