Airplane Manufacturing


How transformative engineering and sustainable manufacturing can impact the environment

Ramya Kannan, Industry Leader – Manufacturing at UST

Consistently monitoring energy consumption with smart sensors helps us identify patterns and ways of optimizing it through varying other factors in production.

Ramya Kannan, Industry Leader – Manufacturing at UST

Ramya Kannan, Industry Leader – Manufacturing at UST

In an era of digitization, we are surrounded by innovative technologies that are already changing our reality as we know it. Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, virtual reality, and immersive experiences are an intrinsic part of our lives.

Today, data is the new oil and the most valuable commodity available. SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) technologies are yesteryear buzzwords. While the SMAC ecosystem drove business innovation and transformation, we have moved into quantum computing. Distributed ledgers are changing the security paradigm impacting how we store and disseminate data.

All these changes in technology also bring irreversible changes in our physical world. Global warming, shortage in non-renewable resources, and high demands on energy are taking a heavy toll on our planet. The advent of all these connected and digital devices that need to be available and online all the time has increased communication bandwidth consumption.

Companies are under pressure to reduce their emissions and carbon footprints. Some industries are tackling these challenges while improving efficiency and reducing costs. Others, like the manufacturing sector, are facing more of a challenge though they, too, are focused on increasing sustainable practices.

Stakes are high because success will permeate beyond the shop floor through the entire value chain. There will be changes along nearly every value chain to create a low-carbon manufacturing and industrial system. These changes will accelerate the shift toward digital supply networks and smart factories.

Adopting sustainable practices is the way to drive quantifiable improvements across the value chain. With demands for higher standards and transparency from all stakeholders, be it regulators, investors, or customers, companies that fail to act will be left behind and at risk of penalties.

This leads us to question whether this is sustainable in the long run. How do we strike the right balance between consumption and long-term sustenance? Before we answer that question, let’s take a quick look at what sustainable manufacturing is.

On site construction worker

What is sustainable manufacturing, and why is it important?

According to the EPA (the United States Environmental Protection Agency), sustainable manufacturing entails economically-sound processes to minimize adverse environmental impacts while creating manufactured products. A growing number of manufacturers are focusing on conserving energy and natural resources through their value chain as they realize the substantial financial and environmental benefits of sustainable business practices.

The climate crisis is growing worse. Sustainability must be prioritized to save the planet. Governments around the world are pushing for sustainable practices across industries. In Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other regions, industries and governments are pursuing sustainable manufacturing practices that will contribute to the re-growth of resources. Lesser use of fossil fuels, prevention of deforestation and environmental pollution, and reversing the extinction of animal species will all lead to a cleaner, greener Earth.

Sustainable manufacturing is good business. Companies focused on this can boost brand affinity and increase profits by up to millions of dollars annually. Other benefits include:

Sustainable manufacturing approaches

There are essentially four sustainable manufacturing approaches:

In this blog, we will focus on the energy consumption aspect of sustainable manufacturing and how we optimize it.

Engineer holding tablet

Transformative engineering can aid sustainable manufacturing to optimize energy consumption.

We need to start with identifying challenges.

How do we achieve environmental sustainability through optimized energy consumption?

Energy consumption is one of the most significant factors in all manufacturing processes and is a key cost component. Energy-intensive industries like mining, metallurgy, and extraction may have up to 50% of their production costs attributed to energy consumption.

In the case of automotive manufacturing, energy consumption is perhaps the second highest-cost component. The transportation sector accounts for 25% of global energy consumption. Improving energy efficiency, thus, has been a key initiative in many manufacturing sectors, especially automotive.

Sensors and Digital Twins to measure and improve

Benefits of sustainable manufacturing

It is a no-brainer that reducing energy costs lead to reduced manufacturing costs. From an environmental view, organizations stand to gain in terms of valuation and fundamental financial strength by switching to more sustainable forms of energy and reducing energy expenditure.

Optimizing fossil fuel-based energy sources and switching to green energy, be it solar, hydroelectric, wind, or other sources will be vital to increasing greener production processes.

Digital twins and simple energy monitoring solutions can help measure, track and report metrics around the reduced consumption of non-renewable energy and increased consumption of sustainable and green energy sources. This also helps report and track strong progress on ESG metrics for organizations to reduce carbon footprint, get a better financial valuation, and support from investors and the communities in which they operate.

Sustainable manufacturing is important for the future. Adopting transformative engineering and green manufacturing practices can benefit many areas within manufacturing. Better resource utilization, more reduction in all forms of waste, using environmentally friendly materials, reusing, and recycling are all ways to help the planet.