Smart manufacturing helps reduce industrial emissions




March 27, 2019


Advanced technologies are helping manufacturers to increase productivity and energy efficiency -- with the added bonus of cutting emissions from the industrial sector.
That's a significant bonus, bearing in mind the warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels requires rapid transitions in industrial systems around the world.

Smart manufacturing uses internet-connected equipment to monitor the production process and make this data available wherever it is needed across the supply chain.

Using 'Industry 4.0' technology combined with data analytics, firms can identify opportunities improving manufacturing performance and for reducing energy waste.

US environmental advocacy group the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) cites the example of engine manufacturer Cummins, which has invested in technology to convert energy from its engine testing facilities into electricity for its buildings, helping to reduce the company's energy intensity by 20% since 2010.

Efficiency savings also come from continuous monitoring. For example, if a machine is slowing down production, the data will highlight this and artificial intelligence (AI) systems can respond automatically to resolve the issue.

Manufacturing downtime can also be reduced, with remote sensors and diagnostics alerting operators to problems as they happen. Predictive AI technology can even highlight problems before they occur and take appropriate action.

Additionally, as a report by UNIDO points out, Industry 4.0 could lead to an increased uptake of renewable energies by enabling companies to harmonise their production with peak generation times to better match demand for power with the actual supply.

However, NRDC says that so far only large companies have the scale, budgets and resources to implement smart manufacturing technology and practices -- and smaller manufacturers would benefit from support to make the same transition.

The organisation backs a recently introduced bipartisan bill which would help small and medium-sized manufacturers in the US optimise their energy performance with technical assistance from the Department of Energy. If implemented, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Act is estimated to save consumers $5bn (€4.4bn) in energy costs by 2040 and reduce carbon emissions equal to the pollution coming from 116 million cars in a year.


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