Manufacturers need to give sustainability the ‘green’ light

With the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in early November, it is abundantly clear that the actions needed to mitigate climate change are now becoming a serious priority among world leaders.

The metaphorical clock has been ticking for leaders in the manufacturing industry, as they should by now be acutely aware that the spotlight has been turning on them. Blame will be directed at them, not only through the lenses of governments, but also by consumers and society at large, as well as by their customers.

Now should be the time that every manufacturer (from global brand icons to small single plant operations) recognises that sustainable manufacturing operations are critical to their future success and brand reputation.

Sustainability within the manufacturing industry

Having a productive and efficient production system has always been an important aspect of manufacturing operations, with the aim being to secure profits, growth, and stakeholder value. Yet, if a product does not meet the correct specification it goes to scrap, waste or for rework. While many manufacturers recognise that has a negative impact on performance, the unused resources that go in to making that product in the first place is also wasted, whether human resource, machinery or tool wear, energy and natural resources or raw materials.

While this approach to quality is important to ensure organisations continue operating well and keep their customers happy, their mindset must evolve to also understand how that waste is impacting the overall environment footprint of their operations.  Efficiency and productivity in manufacturing is now quite simply becoming more about corporate, social and environmental responsibility than just business performance.

Acting now will allow manufacturers to reap future rewards

A recent survey revealed that two-fifths of UK manufacturers are operating without a sustainability policy. Often manufacturers have quoted cost and time to be a barrier to achieve a more sustainable operation but with the right technology, it is possible.

For manufactures to truly make an impact they must rethink not only how they design their products but also how they design, manage and monitor their end-to-end production processes. But they also must not overlook how by optimising their production processes to minimise waste and maximise efficiency and productivity will also contribute significantly to the mitigation of any negative environmental repercussions.

Profit is no longer at the forefront of digital transformation strategies

The drive towards optimising manufacturing efficiency and productivity should no longer centre solely around performance and profit but equally revolve around sustainability, with sustainable practices being at the forefront of any manufacturer’s digital transformation strategy.

The topics of climate change and environmental responsibility are not going to fade away, instead they will become more prevalent and more urgent. The most important step for manufacturers is to take real action and change the way they operate.  Reframing how digitalisation and smart manufacturing are perceived through the lens of sustainability is, in my view, one of those critical steps.

By Jason Chester
Director of Global Partner Programs, InfinityQS
December, 2021

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