The way technology has developed throughout the years is astounding. Older generations – even just 50 years ago – would find it hard to comprehend the technology available today. From smartphones to life-saving healthcare devices, advances in electronics have made lasting impacts on the future.
One of these impacts is on the environment. Tech development has also led to an increase in necessary output, with consumers demanding more than before. However, companies can offset this effect with sustainable manufacturing and move towards improvement and efficiency. Here are some of the top tech trends of 2022 with sustainability in mind.
Why Sustainable Manufacturing?
The biggest reason is to help the environment. Climate change is already having significant effects on global weather, and pollution is to blame. Manufacturing produces about a quarter of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. While companies have done a lot to make the total amount of pollution fall, others should keep striving to match their efforts. The Earth is still heading towards a point where climate change will be irreversible, so anything businesses can do is an asset.
Part of this problem is the strain on companies to manufacture more than ever before. Supply chain management has become crucial as making a single product requires multiple companies to create parts. The demand for more advanced features and higher amounts has made manufacturers experience a slowing in production. As remote subcontractors and suppliers become more involved, mistakes have more of an impact on manufacturing.
Another reason companies might be interested in sustainability is to raise brand awareness. In a global survey, almost 80% of global consumers said sustainability was important to them. Another 70% would be willing to pay more for products that companies assured them were kind to the environment.
Customers are flocking to brands that are transparent about their manufacturing process and are eco-friendly. Prominent corporations are experiencing billions of dollars in growth with sustainable practices.
All in all, sustainable manufacturing can reduce emissions, increase brand awareness and sales, and create a more efficient supply chain.
The Sustainable Trends
Because of the many benefits, companies are now looking at ways to become greener. But this can seem like a bit of a mystery. How can they be expected to produce products that make a profit while appeasing consumers and investors?
Here are a few of the latest tech trends making companies more efficient and thus more sustainable.
AI — or artificial intelligence — is one of the top trends for sustainable tech. AI has been able to keep business flowing and workers healthy. Many employers have found that instead of replacing jobs, they can implement AI in their workplace without losing employees. These intelligences are working hand-in-hand to protect workers from dangerous conditions and help them work more efficiently. AI can detect maintenance problems and needs for new parts, which saves employees time and potential harm.
By preventing possible supply chain issues and increasing manufacturing speed, AI can help manufacturers become more sustainable.
2. Industrial Internet of Things
The IIoT is helping manufacturers keep their day-to-day operations running smoothly. This means creating a closed-loop control system consisting of:
- Supply chain
This network can track all of these components and help manufacturing become leaner. It can monitor trillions of factory operations and make decisions based on the data it has collected. Being able to synchronize an entire production floor is finally achievable with IIoT. This will aid the production of higher-quality outputs.
The Industrial Internet of Things can help sustainability in many of the same ways AI can. It can alert workers of a problem before it happens and increase efficiency and productivity.
3. Variable-Frequency Drives
VFDs control how fast an AC motor rotates. When connected to a motor’s electrical supply, it can vary the frequency of electricity used to turn it. These are most often used to provide considerable savings on electrical costs. Using less electricity helps reduce carbon emissions and offers massive cuts on electricity bills. Companies experiencing a 20% reduction in electrical use saved $80 million dollars each year.
Electricity is a huge cause of emissions because burning fossil fuels is often what creates it. Companies relying less on gas and coal to power their factories will become more sustainable and save a lot in a year.
4. Big-Data Analytics
Manufacturing companies have to analyze tons of data each day to ensure everything is running according to plan. Big-data analytics is how these companies can find patterns, correlations and trends in their information to make more informed decisions. This will permit companies to be more transparent about the supply chain and make more quality products.
When going over a large amount of data from machines, sensors and manufacturing systems, manufacturers can see where things can be changed and make quick quality improvements.
When manufacturing companies utilize big-data analytics, they can become more sustainable by addressing possible energy deficiencies and improving their transparency.
5. Digital Twins
Simulation software creates digital twins with high fidelity to view complex components and systems. These programs can create three-dimensional models that show how a piece of equipment will experience wear and tear in different environments.
Boeing believes digital twins will be the most significant proponent of production efficiency, with the company able to attain a 40% improvement in the quality of first-time parts. They can see how a piece performs in different elements and how long it will last.
With these advanced simulations, manufacturers can achieve less waste and use less energy. They can see how stable the production floor is and what may need adjusting. Additionally, they’ll be able to judge the quality of a product before it’s even made. By using digital twins to discover these things, companies can reduce both costs and potential waste.
Industry analyst and automation consultant Rajabahadur Arcot believes automation is necessary for sustainability — and he makes some intriguing points. Manufacturing uses resources that can be polluted or even depleted, so being efficient will use less and create less waste.
When powered by renewable energy sources, this could be a very effective way for businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. Years ago, Google started using robots to clean its solar panels. This resulted in a 36% increase in the panels’ ability to produce energy.
Many in the agricultural sector also use automation to manage their indoor farms, reducing water usage. Others have used robotic process automation (RPA) to perform invoicing or data entry. In turn, these robots allow employees to do more meaningful work.
Automation has become more affordable as the technology has improved. It’s now becoming a much more accessible option to a lot of companies. When using automated tech, employees have more time to do the jobs requiring more thought and effort. Automated technology can be both energy-efficient and improve how companies use resources. This will help manufacturing become sustainable.
7. Additive Manufacturing
Also known as 3D printing, this manufacturing process can help manufacturers do a lot more product customization and allow production almost instantly. The German Federal Environment Agency is even looking at using old printed parts for new filament, creating a recycling system within production. Then, 3D printers could create complicated designs with almost no waste. Recycling the materials would help cut costs and provide quicker alterations. Companies can print entire products as a whole instead of taking the time to assemble them.
While 3D printing is new, it is already showing promise for sustainable manufacturing. By integrating recycling into the production process and reducing energy consumption from the assembly, additive manufacturing could help manufacturers in their green mission.
8. Circular-Economy Model
This sustainability model aims to reduce or eliminate the production of waste. In a circular-economy model, products are created and then recycled into new products. Once the original product has reached the end of its life, customers return it to the manufacturer and they break it down to reuse.
Many companies currently use a linear economy model, enabling consumers to throw away their purchases once they’re done with them. This is a massive waste of resources and energy.
Circular-economy models offer many benefits to manufacturers and the environment. They reuse products manufacturers have already processed, which results in lower energy use. Also, companies will use fewer raw materials, increasing the longevity of Earth’s resources. By doing these things, manufacturing will produce cleaner air, sustain habitats and reduce their carbon footprint.
9. Virtual and Augmented Reality
It’s no longer just for video games. More companies are using virtual and augmented reality to train their employees and display prototypes. Workers are able to train using AR and VR and better grasp how to fix problems and go through visual guides. In addition, manufacturers can now produce prototypes without physically making them. All it takes is CAD software and they’re able to display projects. This saves on energy and resources – both necessary for saving the planet.
This is also a relatively new concept, but it has easily perceivable benefits. Employees will be able to train more comprehensively and learn about maintenance in VR. It will help them to understand the machines more, improving efficiency and repair quality.
Manufacturers will also no longer need to produce a physical prototype to display. They’ll be able to showcase it in AR, which reduces energy consumption and raw material use. Using this technology can aid the journey to sustainable manufacturing.
10. Renewable Energy
Because of consumer influence and environmental demands, many organizations are looking at renewable energy sources. This energy can increase savings for companies in multiple ways.
Governments are expressing interest in turning to sustainable energy. To initiate that change, they offer certain tax incentives. Companies are one of the many entities that can receive these deductions and credits, earning them a bit extra just for switching.
Additionally, consumers are more willing to convert if they see a business making greener efforts. Of those surveyed by IBM, 79% said they want companies to prove their authenticity when advertising sustainability. By genuinely making a change, businesses could see an increase in customer conversion and loyalty.
Renewable energy can save on energy bills as well. Current electricity prices can be high due to fuel prices and how much the power plant charges for distribution. The transmission technology itself costs money in maintenance, construction, and operation. By using renewable energy sources, businesses can become energy independent, reducing these extra fees for electricity.
More Businesses Are Looking at Eco-friendly Technology
Harvard Business Review named 2021 as the year big corporations saw a boom in green technology. Along with releasing reports on their environmental impacts, over 2,000 businesses have set targets to reduce their emissions. These reductions will come with an increase in sustainable tech. Companies will start looking at these technology trends as they increase their desire to create less waste and burn fewer fossil fuels.
These changes are essential now more than ever. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change anticipates global temperatures will rise by over 3.5 degrees Celsius before the end of this century. To reach the goal of not crossing that threshold, consumers and companies must work together to become environmentally friendly. The reward for such an accomplishment is increased biodiversity, less severe weather, and the preservation of life on Earth.
Companies are growing more interested in sustainability as time goes on. They can see how it encourages customers’ interest in their products and how necessary it is for the planet. This technology will take time to integrate, but the benefits are immense. By wholeheartedly committing to eco-friendly practices, businesses can make a tremendous impact on preserving the environment. They could even see some extra profits. It’s an exciting time for organizations to start making strides toward sustainability as new technology continues emerging.
The New World of Sustainable Tech
Technology is an ever-changing industry. While it can create problems, it can also create a multitude of solutions and opportunities. Manufacturing should heed the call of sustainability to help the Earth because it is an industry that consumers will always need. By making efforts to go green, manufacturers will reduce both their own spending and their carbon footprint. With all of the advancements in sustainable technology, companies should look to the future and make a change.