On a recent visit to Schneider’s machine solutions plant in the heartlands of industrial Germany, we saw the possibilities for revolutionizing machine-building to respond to increased demand. All the moving parts of machines are now redesigned to perform entirely new functions, avoiding stoppages and digitally empowering subsequent production cycles, using data.
These types of changes used to take hours. Now, plugging together apps in just a few clicks automates operations and requires zero engineering. This unlocks not only industrial innovation but also potential revenues of $70 million for a $10 billion manufacturer, according to McKinsey.
Improving industrial production and efficiency with advanced automation and robots—or what we now call Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies—promises smarter operations, stronger business outcomes and could help preserve the planet.
Industrial revolutions: past and present
Following the early mechanized steam-powered devices that revolutionized cottage industries in the 19th century, Henry Ford’s automotive production lines changed worldwide manufacturing operations. His innovations made volume manufacturing possible, bringing cost competitiveness to the masses. Since then, high precision and high-performance manufacturing associated with computing and IT has progressed, while other industries remained saddled with traditional manufacturing methods, such as machining and molding.
The post-COVID economy’s volatile market demands emphasize the value of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage for the future of advanced manufacturing. This means reshaping industries for greater productivity and flexibility, getting rid of waste from the value chain and pushing technologies for better process control and resource management.
Critical decarbonization action
The industrial decarbonization challenge we face is immense. The IEA’s sustainable development scenario establishes realistic conditions to reach the UN’s energy-related sustainable development goals—that is, promote access to energy, reduce air pollution and tackle climate change. To meet these goals, industry emissions must drop 1.2% each year to put us on net-zero pathways by 2030. Greater energy efficiency, increased uptake of renewable fuels and lower-carbon processes will be critical.
It all seems overwhelming. Yet if we take small but decisive steps while thinking big and scaling fast, a greener industrial future is within our grasp. Reducing the size of the issue by optimizing energy use while systematically improving process and resource efficiency will transform operations and deliver low carbon outcomes.
We can no longer ignore the environmental price we pay in the quest for productivity. Industry’s fossil fuel legacy, its drain on natural resources and toxic air and water pollution, can no longer be inevitable costs of progress.
We know that under our influence, the industrialized world has produced the rapid changes we’re seeing in the world’s climate. We’ve seen rising oceans, melting glaciers, hotter and more frequent heatwaves, sudden floods, and longer droughts. Only through deep and sustained emission reductions can we slow climate change.
Scaling up adoption of green technologies and digital innovation to support greenhouse gas reduction this decade is the single answer to ensure that industries thrive while complying with our net-zero ambition.
Industrial sustainability isn’t about doing less. It’s about greater operational efficiency, conserving energy and resources to shrink industry’s environmental footprint. Starting now, we can build a stronger, low carbon industrial future with smart, green electricity and next-generation automation.
Three digitized strategies for more resilient, agile and eco-efficient operations.
Industrial sustainability is achievable through the interplay of software with automation and energy optimization. Put together, the three elements of this sustainability triad deliver positive outcomes that are greater than the sum of each part.
- Automation unlocks production and sustainability by optimizing process, energy and resource use, cutting operating costs, and liberating workforces from avoidable safety issues. Automation that powers remote operations proved highly effective in overcoming recent pandemic challenges. Software-centric automation built on open standards can boost interoperability and digital collaboration, allowing industries to bring products to market sooner, increase competitiveness and turn IoT data into bottom-line value. Automation saves time and money while developing new skills.
- Software and digitization can provide data-driven insights so that industrial operations run efficient processes with digital transparency and unified control that can unlock smart scheduling and visualization. Using a full suite of digital tools and end-to-end software transforms information by combining artificial intelligence, digital twins and human insight, to unlock higher levels of performance. Deeper analytics optimize assets while real-time data management ensures resilient industrial ecosystems and digitized traceability that supports circularity.
- Energy optimization can propel industrial decarbonization at scale. Increased electrification and other fuel-switching strategies, alongside the convergence of power and process energy, can rapidly reduce industrial waste. Recycling also promises to lower energy demand. Smart and green electricity with renewables and storage can alter how we power machines, processes and plants and tackle resource use across industrial value chains.
Getting down to business
Nine out of 10 of our industrial customers recognize that by adopting digital technologies and software, they can drive CO2 reduction, transition to a more circular economy, and reassess their resource footprint.
Industrial leaders can leverage data management and real-time decision-making today to improve the sustainability performance of supply chains, assets and production cycles. Tomorrow’s industries will need to think digitally so that software and data can improve the visibility and management of power, fuel, water, raw materials, product quality, and equipment utilization. Join us for Schneider Electric’s Innovation Summit to learn what companies are doing today to accelerate the green industrial revolution.