Sustainability and digital transformation for factories

We’ve reached a unique moment in the history of manufacturing.

Just as the need for more environmentally friendly practices increases, so too has the power of technology.

It makes sense to think of how you can achieve both a more sustainable and more connected factory at the same time.

So, how can you digitally transform your plant while safeguarding sustainability?

In this article, we’ll cover:

What is sustainable digital transformation?

Each industrial revolution so far has caused an explosion of productivity. 

From the discovery of coal power in the 18th century to the combustion engine in the late 19th, through to nuclear power and now the digital revolution, the history of manufacturing is marked by a series of leaps forward that make goods cheaper and shareholders money.

And now, we’re on the edge of yet another revolution.

Digital transformation is the blending of digital technology with existing systems. It’s often considered part of the movement towards an ‘internet of things’; essentially, intelligently connected hardware.

Thanks to AI and smart digital technologies, the ability to connect, monitor, analyse, and adjust every part of the production line is here. 

Yet, due to an excess of caution, many factories have been trying to avoid digital transformation. But like the advancements of the past, it’s unavoidable.

Sustainable digital transformation is about balancing the introduction of this technology with the need to reduce manufacturing’s environmental impact.

So what’s the problem with current systems?

Why analogue systems aren’t sustainable

The reason manufacturers are reluctant to adopt digital transformation is also one of the reasons it lacks sustainability. 

A production chain that depends on outdated, unconnected parts with inefficiencies and skills imbalances baked into the system, lacks responsiveness. Trying to change it risks exposing vulnerabilities, and making already exacting targets harder to reach.

So the question then becomes, for plant managers and other leaders throughout the organisation, ‘why bother?’

It’s natural to procrastinate on big projects if your targets are monthly or quarterly. The fact it’ll pay off down the line can feel less important than the initial investment of time and money.

The problem with this attitude is that legacy systems also pose an environmental and legal risk.

Think about it this way: If your factory must comply with new emissions regulations and is currently failing to do so, how can you quickly find, diagnose, and fix issues causing waste?

If you must rely on an unconnected paper trail handed across the line to different stakeholders and owners, it’s easy to see how vital information could become unclear, hard to find, or lost.

And if your factory is externally audited, good luck trying to make this clear to an outsider.

This leads us to our next question.

Why now?

So far we’ve mostly focused on the drawbacks of not adopting digital transformation. But there are some potentially massive gains in doing so as well.

If you get ahead of the competition, you’ll pick up crucial momentum that could help you really sharpen your competitive edge. And as we wrote in a previous blog, the numbers look great.

Think of how an upgraded production system could benefit your bottom line once bedded in. Not only would it solve immediate problems on the shop floor, but it would also give you a better chance at finding and solving future problems as they develop.

This would make your new system sustainable in more ways than one. By helping you continuously improve, it’d earn its keep well beyond the initial gains you get from implementation.

For the automotive sector, for example, the drive towards more sustainable practices is affecting the end product itself. Over the next 10-15 years, combustion engine vehicles will be phased out in the EU and across much of the world. 

The need to produce cleaner electric vehicles to replace traditional cars will cause some upheaval. But by embedding digital systems across production lines and following lean manufacturing best practices associated with the industry, plants can ensure a smooth transition.

So, what’s the best way to make this possible? Connective software.

How software can help your factory become more sustainable

Software on the market today can help you connect your factory seamlessly. 

By creating a point of access and data store that all parts of your line feed into, you suddenly have a reliable source of truth across the plant. You also have an immediate time-saver on low-value admin processes.

You’ll also have a tool that notices important things about your factory, including the skill levels of your team, your efficiency ratios, and more. You’ll even get action plans to deal with all this in real-time.

This software will help you standardise your processes and make them intelligible to whoever needs to see them.

And it’ll mean the total elimination of paper-based practices.

We call this software the mlean Production System (mPS).

See how the mPS works

To see for yourself how the mPS could help your factory both upgrade its current processes and become more sustainable through digital continuous improvement, book a free demo today.

Our team will run you through how a tailored package of modules and tools could be just the solution for your factory to face a connected future.

And they’ll show you that, no matter what issues you’re dealing with, there’s never been a better time to make digital transformation a reality.

 

Book your free demo here!

Seeing is believing

Book a demo to see the full power of the mPS.