Sustainability 4.0: here are 5 examples

sustainability 4.0

For a manufacturing company, sustainability has now become not only a necessity, but also an opportunity and a duty. A necessity because local, national and international authorities impose increasingly stringent regulations in terms of environmental impact. For example, in the NextGeneration EU plan, 30% of European funds will be reserved for the fight against climate change, the highest percentage ever for the EU budget. An opportunity, because consuming less and more efficiently means reducing production costs, disposing of less waste and using fewer resources. A duty, because climate change is now a scientifically proven fact and it is everyone’s duty to do our part.

In this post, we will look at 5 ways in which new technologies can make a substantial contribution in reducing the environmental impact within our production plants.

#1: Cloud and Home Office

Home Office is with no doubt the best known way of working and has helped many companies to reduce not only the environmental impact, but also business costs and in some documented cases improve productivity. In fact, working remotely means:

  • no use of offices, which leads to a reduction in consumption related to heating, air conditioning and lighting in the workplace;
  • no moving, which implies not using transportation, therefore reducing the CO2 emissions.
  • to reduce air travel, which have a huge environmental impact due to greenhouse gas emission in the upper layers of the atmosphere

#2 Cloud and IaaS solutions

The Cloud also allows us to use of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions, i.e. the use of common and therefore optimized IT infrastructures. In this sense, the most common example is the use of Cloud Server services such as Amazon Web Service (AWS), through which it is possible to rent a server located in a so-called Server Farm. The advantage from the environmental point of view is clear: the company servers are responsible for consuming a large amount of energy for air conditioning. Server farms, on the other hand, make it possible to optimize this consumption by grouping the servers and therefore using a single system for air conditioning. Furthermore, Server Farms can be built in naturally cold regions (e.g. Iceland), where energy consumption for air conditioning is no longer necessary. Obviously, in this sense, the availability of areas cabled with a fast and reliable internet connection becomes a fundamental requirement for its use.

#3: IoT and energy optimization

The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly establishing itself as a technology capable of reducing the environmental impact of buildings, and therefore of offices and factories, as well as urban infrastructures with the birth of the so-called Smart Cities. The IoT basically consists of a network of interconnected sensors capable of monitoring and therefore controlling the control parameters. Some examples are:

  • smart lighting systems: through sensors, they are able to identify the presence or absence of people and then switch on and off accordingly, optimizing their energy consumption
  • Similarly, temperature sensors allow you to optimize energy consumption due to heating and air conditioning inside buildings. In combination with appropriate algorithms, IoT systems are therefore able to automatically activate the appropriate countermeasures to reduce energy consumption or dispersion (e.g. automatic closing of the shutters)

#4: Additive Manufacturing

Traditional subtractive manufacturing solutions basically consist of removing excess material from the raw material. Many times, the material removed is greater than the material left behind. The excess material must therefore be disposed of, which implies collection and transport to the appropriate disposal sites.

With additive manufacturing, on the other hand, only the necessary material is used, while the excess is reused in the next print. Basically there is no waste. Furthermore, the process does not require any tooling (and therefore material and energy) unlike other production technologies. A further advantage consists in the fact that, depending on the availability or not of the process, the print files can be shared and therefore the part is produced exactly where it is needed, substantially eliminating the entire intermediate chain, including transport.

#5: Paperless solutions

For paperless solutions we mean the use of commonly used smart media for the creation and display of work instructions, thus eliminating the need for paper and printing. Solutions of this type essentially require 2 supports:

  • a smart device, which can be, in addition to the PC, a smartphone, a tablet, a smartwatch or smart glasses, depending on the human-machine interface to be exploited and the budget available;
  • Software, mostly in the Cloud, capable of managing the creation and sharing of such work instructions within one or more factories, between customers and suppliers.

Additional advantages of this type of solutions instead of paper solutions are:

  • Use of digital media, such as videos and links to other documentation or images, which improves and optimizes the usability of the necessary information;
  • Traceability of changes and of the formalization flow
  • Better communication between the instruction creator and the user. In fact, many of these solutions give the possibility through appropriate fields to provide feedback and suggestions to improve the information provided.

#6: RTLS

We said 5, but we actually meant 6! In fact, it is worth mentioning RTLS (Real Time Locating Systems), i.e. systems capable of tracking the position of company assets in real time, whether they are people, forklifts, materials, tools, etc. In fact, real-time monitoring allows you to automatically generate Spaghetti Charts capable of providing all the necessary information about the movements of the various assets, thus providing the necessary input to optimize the flow, therefore possibly the factory layout, reducing movements, hence the required energy consumption.

Where to start to make your workplace sustainable?

In this post we have described 6 ways in which new technologies related to industry 4.0 are able to reduce energy costs and therefore the environmental impact of production sites, but there would be many and many more. In fact, sustainability is already a fundamental requirement for companies, but it will certainly be increasingly so in the near future.

In this sense, Accialini Training & Consulting is able to provide you with adequate support in the various stages of implementation of intelligent technologies for reducing the environmental impact of production processes, but not only:

  • Definition of a technology strategy for reducing environmental impact
  • Identification of the proper technologies
  • Planning and implementation of the identified solutions

For more information, contact us to discuss your needs together in detail.

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