Though the main objective of Industry 4.0 is to help improve productivity, capacity, efficiency and quality, it can play a major part in helping achieve environmental and sustainability goals.
When it comes to environmental sustainability, the manufacturing sector is feeling the heat like no other. The scale of the challenge is formidable, with 88 percent of total emissions and 90 percent of world GDP bound by net-zero government pledges. This leaves industrial companies with no choice but to act now to future-proof their business.
And manufacturing companies are well aware of the seriousness of the situation: 92 percent of respondents in the Cognizant/Economist Impact executive survey say that becoming environmentally sustainable is crucial to being future-ready.
Beneficial to both business and environment
The good news is that the new capabilities brought about by Industry 4.0 and its technology stack while improving productivity, efficiencies, and quality, also affect the carbon footprint and environment positively. The benefits of Industry 4.0 in the factories and supply chain, as covered in this panel discussion through activating Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, are well known. For example:
• Organizations have seen a 15–30 percent improvement in productivity and almost 20 percent improvement in quality.
• By using IoT, advanced sensors, and AI/ML to ensure predictive maintenance, companies can reduce machine downtime by up to 50 percent.
• Factories have seen up to 25 percent reduction in energy consumption by using adaptive process control.
So, let me elaborate further on the link between Industry 4.0 technologies and achieving environmental and sustainability goals.
In 2021, the biggest increase in CO2 emissions by sector took place in electricity and heat production, where they jumped by more than 900 Mt. This accounted for 46 percent of the global increase in emissions since the use of all fossil fuels increased to help meet electricity demand growth.
By optimizing energy consumption in factories with the help of technology, and ensuring that the energy comes from renewable sources, emissions can be reduced. And with improved productivity and capacity thanks to Industry 4.0 technologies companies don’t need to open new factories as demands grow, something that reduces the carbon footprint further.
Quality improvements thanks to Industry 4.0 imply there is less scrap and waste, which leads to less use of materials and energy to re-produce the same product or part. With more sustainable factories, the overall impact on the environment is reduced.
Improved forecasting and logistics
Further, Industry 4.0 plays a big role in improving forecasting and logistics, which is important since more than 24 percent of CO2 emissions come from transport and logistics. Less waste in transit and better material usage also help organizations be more sustainable.
• Organizations have been able to improve forecasting accuracy by up to 85 percent.
• Real-time route optimization can reduce delivery times and fuel consumption.
• Material losses have been shown to reduce drastically due to better Bill of Materials (BOM) management.
• Real-time location, temperature and humidity tracking and management have improved reliability and quality whilst reducing waste (e.g., billions of vaccines had to be transported at >-50 degree Celsius for fighting the pandemic).
• Inventory across factories has been reduced by 15–20 percent.
Industry 4.0 tech in use
Any good examples? Swedish networking and telecommunications company Ericsson is using IoT technologies in a Texas plant to track its machinery’s energy consumption. French personal care giant L'Oréal is using AR to reduce equipment downtime by connecting employees to remote engineers. Carmaker Renault is developing Europe’s first factory that’s dedicated to the circular economy in the auto industry – Re-Factory.
Once manufacturing companies set up their ESG goals, they can rely on the Industry 4.0 framework to help reliably achieve them. Energy management, improved productivity, forecasting and planning, as well as optimization of transportation and logistics, will benefit both business and the environment.