Nowadays, impact and severity of global warming or climate change has increased gradually. This has led to a global shift towards clean energy and using natural resources more efficiently. The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which is a key factor causing global warming. The public sector, private sector, and related agencies in Thailand also give precedence to energy conservation and the use of clean energy as they are actively accelerating their efforts to adapt to these changes.
Climate change is a crisis for the manufacturing business because it requires investment in many things, for example, changing production processes and machines to reduce carbon emissions, investing in carbon dioxide capture and storage. These methods require high investment fund, causing the production cost increase accordingly. Thus, the concept of sustainable manufacturing was born to solve this problem.
According to the United States Department of Commerce, “Sustainable manufacturing” is the manufacturing process that minimizes negative environmental impacts by emphasizing conservation of energy and natural resources and the safety of citizens, communities, and consumers at a low cost.
Steps towards sustainable manufacturing
1. Applying digital technology to the production lines
Collecting and analyzing smart data from machines using digital technology in the production line to visualize inefficient production processes. As a result, you can use them to improve the processes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Manufacturers can attach a QR code or RFID tag to the product so that customers can scan it to see the product information such as place of production, manufacturing process, carbon footprint*1. This is an alternative for consumers to decide on purchasing products that emit fewer greenhouse gases.
*1 Carbon Footprint refers to the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted throughout a product’s lifecycle, from raw material sourcing, production and assembly processes, distribution, use, and waste disposal after the end of its life.
2. Reducing pollution emissions with digital systems
Converting systems and equipment in your factory into digital systems allows you to quickly access the required information. You can analyze the data and make use of them to develop a computer system, so it can make your work easier and faster. This helps your factory to produce high-quality products in massive quantities and reduce unnecessary resources, energy use, and pollution emissions. The following are examples of solutions that reduce pollution emissions:
- IoT solution (Internet of Things)
IoT is a network of electronic devices that connect and exchange data with each other over the internet. Today, many plants have applied IoT technology to help the production process run smoothly and quickly. In addition, users can view production data from machines at any time, whether on-site or not. Therefore, when production issues occur, they can be quickly solved, resulting in machine downtime reduction.
- Smart systems
Installing a smart system to monitor various equipment in your factory, such as checking the electricity consumption of machines and office equipment. This can help you to effectively control electricity consumption, leading to efficient use of resources.
In addition, smart system can collect all data regarding carbon dioxide emissions, so it is easy to trace back.
Many factories applied robots and automation to their production lines, for example, using robots for parts assembly, picking up work pieces, moving products, arranging products, etc. Robots can work instead of humans without getting tired and no error. This contributes to high-quality work and reduces labor costs.
In addition to hardware robots, you can use robotic process automation, or RPA as a software program to help with document-related tasks, especially repetitive tasks such as inputting data into a computer system or extracting data from file to file. Applying RPA to help with these tasks will give employees more time to do other valuable tasks.
Digital technology is the key to sustainable manufacturing. Entrepreneurs can gather insights from smart systems and leverage those data to enhance designs, production, and evaluations. These will improve operational efficiency, reduce unnecessary energy consumption, waste, and environmental pollution emissions during the production process.