10 Reasons Why Industrial Data And Sustainability Are Intertwined

10 reasons why industrial data and sustainability are intertwined

April 5, 2023
Establishing a baseline and tracking progress toward better sustainability won’t be possible without data analytics.

The road to sustainable manufacturing will be paved in data. It will serve as the foundation to understand a facility’s energy usage and how to improve it, as well as many other aspects of sustainable operations. Technology will help understand data in real-time and store data trends for future improvements. Measurement will be key to decarbonization and widespread digital technology adoption for ESG tracking.

1. Manufacturers will need data to show progress toward decarbonization goals

“To meet future disclosure requirements, good data will be paramount. Good data means essentially more accurate, consistent, and reliable data, not only looking at organization-level emissions, but also granular emissions associated with manufacturing processes, the transport of raw materials and product, and the usage and disposal of products as they come to their end of life,” says Maggie Slowik, global industry director for manufacturing at IFS.

2. Poor data management is a huge production inefficiency

“Manufacturing is going to be challenged to be able to provide the very highly granular level of detail. We say start with the end goal in mind. Start with a notion that if you’re making nails or semiconductor chips, anything in between doesn’t matter. Start with a goal that you want to know what the carbon footprint of each of those is, and then, it’s going to lead you down a trail, where you’re going to say, I need to know the carbon footprint of every machine in the process. I need to know if there’s transport in between the steps, or building requirements for people that are operating the machines, and you put that all together. It’s daunting and it’s big. But that’s how we’re going to get to where we can achieve this vision of knowing, and then we can make great decisions based on that,” says Spencer Cramer, founder and CEO of ei3.

3. Data provides personnel, business and investment focus

“Simply put, you cannot change what you cannot measure. Gathered data, when put to work through powerful analysis and modeling tools, helps reveal the best opportunities for improvement, giving sharper focus to personnel and business decisions. In the absence of that clear data, investments will likely not yield the desired results, frustration will mount and momentum toward sustainable operations will stall,” says Seth Harris, director of sustainability for the Americas at Emerson.

4. Industry data is still lacking

“We always talk to our customers about the fact that digital transformation is a voyage. If you walk into a typical manufacturing facility, if you’re lucky, roughly 25% of equipment is connected equipment that produces data about what it’s physically doing. Then, probably another 25% of the equipment at least produces data, but the data goes nowhere. In other words, it’s modern enough equipment that it can produce data. Another 25% of the equipment out there will never produce data because it’s too old and it works fine. And 25% of things will never produce data, the human workers, the physical materials, the process workflows that are happening,” says Doug Lawson, CEO of ThinkIQ.

5. Sustainable manufacturing is a natural extension of predictive maintenance

“Using IoT-connected devices, manufacturers can retry a range of data about their assets and the factory, including air quality, temperature, and lighting, amongst other data generated. This then provides the opportunity to calculate energy usage, waste/scrap, air, and noise pollution, etc. Essentially, predictive maintenance informs manufacturers of the condition of their assets and their surroundings, and with that insight, they can ensure that assets are well maintained and performing at an optimal level to decrease energy use, minimize waste, and reduce carbon emissions,” says Slowik of IFS.

6. Data storage is as important as the data itself

“While ERP systems flooded the market, they failed to achieve their goal of bridging the divide between the back office and the production floor. In their place, MES systems were the tool of choice on the production floor, but integration between the two was elusive. The result was siloed systems and disparate data…Additionally, we found that many manufacturers, regardless of their end-user capabilities, faced a huge problem with how their data was being stored. An abundance of siloed databases, whether sequel or access, made it very difficult and time-consuming to pull together daily reports and quarterly/yearly analyses,” says Terri Ghio, president of FactoryEye.

7. Remote monitoring is a window into the shop floor

“IoT-enabled remote monitoring technologies enable manufacturers to attain a constant real-time picture of any given equipment or factory, down to a granular level of detail. In developing this real-time picture, it’s then possible to adjust, for instance, energy consumption levels according to a production’s need at a specific time, meaning the manufacturers can address any wastage at the source and tweak the supply accordingly. Another benefit of mobile services and remote monitoring is that it eliminates the need of moving people physically from one location to another, which reduces carbon footprint,” says Slowik of IFS.

8. Data makes maintenance personnel more effective

“Maintenance personnel are among the most precious resources producers have, and they are increasingly in short supply. When personnel are following outdated reactive maintenance practices and not following condition-based monitoring practices, their availability to discover and correct environmental problems like leaks is severely impacted. Having the data gives you clarity and even prioritization, but if personnel are saddled by wasted time due to outdated practices, they won’t have adequate capacity to fix the problems that are identified,” says Harris of Emerson.

9. Data can improve safety

“We’re able to answer questions like: is the operator present? Is that machine running normally? How many widgets are coming out of that machine? Is it staffed because there aren't materials? Is it not running because there's a maintenance problem? So being able to do what humans have always been able to do very well in factories, which is stand on a factory floor, and look and see what's happening by walking around…This ended up with almost a side effect of us looking and saying, we can use cameras to look at a machine and tell you what it's doing and tell you what the people standing in front of the machine are doing and what the materials going into the machine and out of the machine are doing. And it was inevitable that the cameras started picking up, people doing dangerous things,” says Lawson of ThinkIQ.

10. Sustainability will require accountability backed by data

“If you look at the role of electric utilities in developed and developing economies, the leadership of the utility industry needs to be highlighted because no other industry has decarbonized more than the utility industry has in the last 20 years. And the utilities instead are in a thought leader mode for the transition and are helping the plant owners in their service territories to make a better transition. In the U.S., there are utilities whose industrial customers are raising the bar beyond what regulations in the U.S. require currently. There are plants in the U.S. that are owned by European companies, which want all of their facilities in the U.S. to meet current and upcoming EU requirements when it comes to sustainability and ESG. And, in some cases, that's because what's being manufactured is in supply chains that ended up back in Europe anyway. But in other cases, it's because they see it as a competitive advantage going forward to do that,” says Peter Manos, directory of research for ARC Advisory Group.

About the Author

Anna Townshend | managing editor

Anna Townshend has been a journalist and editor for almost 20 years. She joined Control Design and Plant Services as managing editor in June 2020. Previously, for more than 10 years, she was the editor of Marina Dock Age and International Dredging Review. In addition to writing and editing thousands of articles in her career, she has been an active speaker on industry panels and presentations, as well as host for the Tool Belt and Control Intelligence podcasts. Email her at [email protected].

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