Sustainability has become a key business driver for all industry sectors. To remain competitive in changing economic conditions, businesses must balance the three facets of energy usage, resource consumption and safety. Michael Loke* discusses the implications for business.
SUSTAINABLE production has never been a more important goal for industry. As new demands for environmental accountability are made, today’s manufacturers must monitor raw material usage, power and water consumption, and generation of waste, in order to operate their facilities in the most environmentally sustainable way possible.
Integrated control solutions
Sophisticated, integrated control solutions – paired with production intelligence software – are essential to balancing the demands of environmental and economic imperatives of operating a business. Systems of this kind give companies the ability to collect data, process it and distribute it to the appropriate people at the right time.
The cost of energy is a significant business outgoing and a key environmental and sustainability metric. Knowing the amount of energy used in the production process is an important factor for any manufacturer.
Monitor energy usage
Implementing systems to monitor energy usage at all stages of the production process can identify savings. It is important to know not just how much energy is used but also when it is used. Integrated information-enabled control architectures, that monitor all stages of production, can be used to optimise the processes and manage energy usage to take advantage of off-peak supply and deliver cost reductions.
Such systems can transform a company from a passive energy consumer to a strategic manager of energy resources.
A by-product of utilising energy and consuming natural resources is the generation of waste. Therefore, the amount of waste being sent to landfill is another factor driving the adoption of sustainability strategies.
Monitoring emissions and waste generated during processing is integral to a company’s ability to comply with the reporting requirements of government, along with new regulations that might be introduced in the future. For example, the waste created by the manufacturer during preparation and application of the packaging could be reduced. Such designs would reduce the landfill requirements of end-users.
Re-use and recycling
There are also processes – both internal and external – that manufacturers can implement to reduce waste. A comprehensive internal waste segregation system – which encourages re-use and recycling – and training staff to follow it correctly, can minimise the amount of material sent to landfill.
Sustainability needs to be driven from a company’s highest levels. Senior managers who appreciate that there are financial benefits in a sustainability strategy; that companies that do not implement progressive changes are taking bigger economic, brand and regulatory risks, are central to a company’s success.
Integrated automation control solutions can enable manufacturers to operate cleaner, safer and more efficiently, helping to continuously protect and fortify their brands, and improve the bottom line.
[Michael Loke is industry manager, Sustainability, with Rockwell Automation.]