Besides the adoption of robots and cobots, manufacturers need to tackle sustainability in multiple dimensions. Here are the four ways involved…

From fashion to food, energy to transport, sustainability is the buzzword that has become a pressing concern in all areas of life, including the manufacturing sector.

Improving sustainability in manufacturing is crucial for reducing the environmental impact of industrial processes and safeguarding the planet for future generations.

Following are four key considerations for businesses to improve their sustainability efforts within the manufacturing sector.

    1. Reducing manufacturing waste
      Manufacturing processes often generate a significant amount of waste, which has a negative impact on the environment. For example, producing more than the demand levels required, or having products rejected due to unacceptable quality, are some of the reasons for wastage in manufacturing.

      In Singapore, the amount of waste generated locally has increased sevenfold over the past four decades, with the nation’s only landfill – the Semakau Landfill, estimated to run out of space by 2035.

      Tech solutions:

      • Adopting flexible and adaptable manufacturing solutions that allow manufacturers to shift towards made-to-order production without committing to large quantities
      • Adopt manufacturing solutions that deliver consistently high quality products with the highest production yields. Bajaj Auto Ltd, a leading manufacturer of motorcycles and three-wheelers in India, uses cobots to carry out repetitive tasks with faultless precision.
      • Optimize production processes to reduce waste creation at the point of manufacturing.
    2. Optimizing energy usage
      Manufacturing processes are often energy-intensive, and reducing energy consumption can help improve sustainability. Implementing energy-efficient practices such as using renewable energy sources, optimizing production processes, and investing in energy-efficient equipment can help reduce energy usage and improve sustainability.

      Digitalization of manufacturing processes supports sustainability by reducing travel costs, optimizing energy consumption. It also provides tools that manufacturers can use to streamline their automation deployment, making it a win-win for both the environment and the business.

      For instance, businesses can install solar panels to be placed on the top of their building in for alternative sources of energy.

    3. Improving supply chain sustainability
      Sustainability in manufacturing goes beyond the factory walls. Manufacturing firms may not have direct control over their entire supply chain, which can make it difficult to ensure that their products are sustainably sourced and produced.

      However, firms can have direct control in certain areas, such as how the manufacturing line operates. Through effective robotic process automation, manufacturers can compete with lower-wage countries offering better rates, keeping production closer to home. In turn, this minimizes the distances involved in supply chains by reducing transportation costs, which is better for the environment.

      Even though it is difficult, ensuring that the entire supply chain is sustainable — from raw material sourcing to distribution and disposal — is essential for improving sustainability in manufacturing.

    4. Ingraining the sustainability mindset
      Creating a culture of sustainability within the organization is essential for improving sustainability in manufacturing. Encouraging employees to adopt sustainable practices and providing training and education on sustainable manufacturing can help promote a sustainable corporate culture.

      Fostering a culture of sustainability is a collective effort by a business. This starts from the top down, and if businesses prioritize sustainability there will be a trickle-down effect throughout the organisation, which would lead to results.

      For example, businesses such as Universal Robots promote alternative means of transportation and flexible work arrangements in their effort to combat climate change. Flexible work arrangements allow employees to travel during off-peak hours and to work from home, further supporting efforts to mitigate activities that contribute to climate change. Other efforts include encouraging green transportation such as carpooling, biking, public transport and electrical cars; investing in EV charging points in the premises; and organizing regular eco campaigns and events for employees and their families.

Earth first, profits second

Chasing bottom lines is important, but investing in the planet has never been more crucial. Choosing the more sustainable options have always come with the connotation that it costs more. However, improvements in technology mean that this is no longer the case, with options that help the environment also helping businesses and their bottom lines. Compared to our predecessors years ago, we have the information, resources, and ability to make the changes needed to go green.

It is now up to us to make the change.

Adam Sobieski, Regional President (APAC), Universal Robots