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Sustainable Manufacturing

Intelligent automation as an agent of change

Published on 31 May 2024 in Sustainable Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry is responsible for around a quarter of global GHG emissions¹, which puts it on a par with transport as the second biggest contributor to carbon emissions. This means that reducing the manufacturing sector’s carbon footprint will play a vital role in mitigating our impact on climate change.

It’s time for the manufacturing industry to stop being a source of problems and start living up to its potential by being one of the sources of solutions, addressing climate change and utilising automation as the agent of change in the process.

This reflects our founder’s belief that, as a business, we have a responsibility to give back to the society in which we operate. Over 90 years ago, OMRON was born out of the vision of its founder, Kazuma Tateishi, of using technology to create a better world.

Tateishi’s ethos of “improving lives and contributing to a better society” has never been more relevant than in the present day, given the climate challenges we face as a society. But how can manufacturing make a positive difference?

Intelligent automation framed by sustainability

I believe that one of the most powerful tools the manufacturing industry has to mitigate the impact climate change is intelligent automation. Through the integration of automation and digitalisation, businesses can optimise operations, and enhance resource efficiency. Our goal is to help our customers create resilient manufacturing sites through reduced energy consumption while ensuring sustainable business growth through improved productivity. In addition to providing solutions that improve energy efficiency and reduce waste, we are working towards this by collaborating with our partners to discover sustainable practices across the manufacturing sector, sharing knowledge and embracing new initiatives within our industry.

In my opinion, the following are the first key areas of improvement manufacturers should look into when implementing innovative automation solutions and moving towards more sustainable production processes.

Energy Efficiency: Industrial automation can significantly improve energy efficiency in manufacturing processes. Thanks to automation, manufacturers can optimize energy consumption and minimize carbon emissions. Some examples of solutions include the use of smart sensors, advanced control systems, and real-time monitoring to optimize energy usage and identify areas for improvement.

Waste Reduction and Recycling: Industrial automation can help manufacturers implement effective waste reduction and recycling programs, for example with the help of machine vision and traceability solutions. By automating material handling and sorting processes, manufacturers can accurately segregate and recycle waste materials, reducing waste and promoting a circular economy. As in the previous point, automation also enables real-time monitoring of production processes to identify and address inefficiencies that lead to waste generation.

Predictive Maintenance and Data Science: Predictive maintenance strategies can help manufacturers reduce equipment downtime, extend the lifespan of machinery, and minimize resource consumption. Thanks to smart sensors, monitoring devices, and data analytics, manufacturers can monitor equipment performance, detect potential failures in advance, and schedule maintenance activities proactively.

Handling of Sustainable Materials: The latest innovations in industrial automation solutions, such as sealing and robotics solutions, can help manufacturers handle more sustainable packaging materials, and reduce the amount of plastic. Production lines can become more flexible to change over to new materials.  Automation also contributes to accuracy in sorting and processing, and enhanced product quality and consistency.

While the industry still has a long way to go, fundamentally it comes down to making people and planet the focal point of decisions and actions, whether that is implementing automation that empowers people or striving for more energy-efficient manufacturing processes - all whilst ensuring ethical practices are adopted and adhered to throughout the value chain.

I look forward to a future of industrial automation innovation framed by sustainability as we aim toward shaping a manufacturing sector that is both competitive and carbon-neutral.

¹ Global GHG emissions

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