In an era where environmental concerns are firmly centre stage, industries worldwide are stepping up their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint and adopt more sustainable practices. Among these industries, manufacturing is a significant contributor to economic growth and environmental impact. Enter automation systems, a transformative technology that is revolutionising manufacturing processes by optimising energy consumption, reducing waste, and driving sustainable practices.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into how automation systems and the people who implement them are pivotal in reshaping the landscape of green manufacturing and helping deliver the goal of net zero. While the debate may rage over the feasibility and cost of net zero the world of automation is rolling up its sleeves to improve what they do.
The Intersection of Automation and Sustainability and Skills
Automation systems powered by cutting-edge technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and digital twin technology, are at the forefront of the sustainability movement within manufacturing. Industries are realising significant gains in energy efficiency and waste reduction by seamlessly integrating these technologies into production processes.
With the rapid advancement of technology, however, come challenges of implementation. No matter how advanced the technology is, it needs people with skills to shape the technology implementation and application to ensure that the best results are achieved. Core to this is reaching out to talent with the capacity and capability to deliver.
Optimising Energy Consumption
Traditional manufacturing processes often involve inefficiencies, where energy is used wastefully due to a lack of real-time monitoring and optimisation. Automation systems address this issue by continuously monitoring energy consumption and adjusting operations in response to real-time data. Automation analysis can also look at production steps and processes to reduce time or energy expended in production and assembly. These systems use smart sensors and predictive analytics to identify energy-intensive phases and optimise parameters to minimise consumption without compromising output quality. John Lee Recruitment also has a wider track record of providing staff to the energy sector means we have the capacity and capability to find people with unique skills and abilities.
Waste is a significant challenge in manufacturing, resulting in both environmental harm and financial losses. Automation systems aid in waste reduction by enabling precise control over production processes. By analysing data from sensors and other sources, these systems can identify potential defects early on, allowing adjustments to be made before defects escalate. Additionally, automation helps ensure accurate material usage, reducing overproduction and waste. Staff with a positive focus make a big difference in the delivery of waste reduction projects. Often the mundane can be seen as a thankless task which is why we will help clients find candidates with positive attitudes which can help carry positive change.
Sustainability in manufacturing goes beyond energy and waste reduction—it encompasses a holistic approach to resource management. Automation systems facilitate the adoption of sustainable practices by enabling the implementation of eco-friendly alternatives, such as the use of recycled materials or the development of more efficient supply chain networks. Automation contributes to leaner operations by streamlining processes, thereby reducing environmental impact. In short by building sustainable practices shifts the mindset of companies to seek and deliver more measures that will help, including materials and, where possible, any waste material generated is either reused in processes or re-processed elsewhere for reuse.
Advice to build automation and controls into a business
The first steps for building automation and controls to improve your sustainability may seem like a daunting task, but the task can’t fall on the lone manufacturing engineer. The company as a whole needs to participate in identifying systems and processes, direct and indirect. For example – it will mean input from Health and Safety on accident rates to identify areas where injuries and risk have been seen so that areas of repetitive tasks could be automated. Finance to help identify where they think the expenditure of a company budget could be best deployed and to seek out grants and low-cost loans; quality to help identify areas of production that often fall short and automation could improve. Facilities – often, dedicated space planning will be needed to understand where extra equipment for automation can be housed in a facility. At the head of this will need to be a project manager. If you need specific advice on how to start your automation journey, Jonathan Lee has a dedicated team ready to help. Our network is large, and the solutions we provide focus on your business and what you need to achieve.
Benefits and Success Stories
The benefits of integrating automation systems into manufacturing for sustainable practices are substantial:
Resource Optimisation: Automation enables manufacturers to make the most of their resources, reducing over consumption and conserving energy and raw materials.
Cost Savings: Energy-efficient operations and waste reduction translate into significant cost savings over the long term. Giving companies the options to remain competitive in their space or reinvest in new systems to drive down waste further and invest in people who can build the all-important levels of changes required.
Emission Reduction: As energy consumption decreases, so do greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the fight against climate change. Every step that improves energy consumption also helps upstream energy production to switch to more sustainable sources.
Enhanced Data-Driven Decision-Making: Automation systems provide real-time data insights, allowing manufacturers to make informed decisions that align with sustainability goals. Any new processes introduced or new products launched will benefit from the knowledge gained from the production of previous models and types.
Several real-world examples illustrate the positive impact of automation on sustainable manufacturing:
General Electric: GE adopted automation and digital twin technology to improve the efficiency of its gas turbines for manufacturing aluminium, resulting in significant energy savings and reduced emissions.
Toyota: Toyota’s advanced automation systems have enabled the automaker to optimise its production lines for reduced energy consumption and minimised waste, aligning with its commitment to environmental sustainability.
Automation systems have emerged as a beacon of hope for the manufacturing industry’s journey toward sustainability. These systems are revolutionising manufacturing processes by optimising energy consumption, reducing waste, and fostering green practices, benefiting the environment and bottom lines. As industries continue to embrace automation’s potential, the path toward a more sustainable future becomes clearer and more achievable. Manufacturers contribute to a greener, more sustainable world with every energy-efficient operation and waste-reducing initiative. At the heart of this are people with the energy and drive to take steps to improve what they do.
We’re here to help
Jonathan Lee Recruitment is particularly adept at understanding these requirements. We have consultants who have had roles in the industry and understand your sector and, most importantly, how to find skilled and qualified staff for the challenges ahead. For example, we have a rich track record of providing highly skilled contract project talent into manufacturing for timebound projects that can help companies start down the road, which can be a cost-effective and focused way of delivering the changes required. They are also a great way for existing teams to learn and develop their skills from industry-leading experts.