Various industries around the globe are beginning to understand the positive financial and environmental impacts of turning to cleaner, more sustainable energy alternatives, especially as the effects of climate change are worsening each year. As the green energy initiative grows, manufacturing companies are also becoming aware of their role in contributing to cleaner energy practices and reducing damaging emissions by utilizing alternative energy solutions. This article will discuss the environmental impact of existing manufacturing processes and the potential benefits of integrating alternative energy initiatives into manufacturing processes to protect the environment.
Not only is the manufacturing industry the leading consumer of natural resources, but they are also considered the second highest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts. Further contributing to this is the fact that, as the population grows and changes, so does the demand for rapid mass production of goods. The medical manufacturing industry, for example, experienced this firsthand during the COVID-19 pandemic, when medical companies required an urgent need for PPE for millions of consumers worldwide.
While modern industrial practices have allowed manufacturers to quickly manufacture and deliver products to market, many of the current manufacturing processes rely heavily on energy sources that deplete environmental resources. This is exacerbated by high consumerism and the demand our society places on cheap and accessible materials, which has led to a fossil-fuel-dependent economy. This has been the case since the first industrial revolution when factories turned away from the previously-used windmills, water mills, and wood for energy that were simply too limited in range and scope to keep up with the increased demand for goods.
While new technology can undoubtedly have a negative impact the environment, the good news is that technology is working on our side this time with what’s called “sustainable manufacturing”. As a result, manufacturing companies have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in their carbon footprint just by integrating the power of new technology such as energy-efficient automation.
Thanks to the emerging technology incorporated into automated machines, manufacturers are finding ways to get a handle on uncontrolled environmental pollution by minimizing the cost of labor, improving productivity and manufacturing time, reducing waste, and consolidating tasks into smaller, more compact robots that take up less space and resources. All of this has a compounded positive effect on reducing emissions. In addition, when manufacturers can reduce antiquated and environmentally inefficient manufacturing processes, it can pave the way for alternative energy solutions that can further help the environment, such as solar energy and wind turbines.
The below points highlight the ways automated equipment can contribute to using more green energy and reducing the carbon footprint for manufacturing:
Combining processes is one of the best ways to develop efficiencies in the product development lifecycle. Not only is this great for lean manufacturing, but also for environmental improvements. For example, automated robots can do tasks quicker and with less error than their human counterparts and allow manufacturers to remove unnecessary items, processes, and resources from the lifecycle that do not add to the product’s overall value. What this means for the environment is that this leads to lower cycle times and increased production, leading to less energy output. In this way, product volume can increase without increasing toxic emissions. Furthermore, automated robots utilize greater precision, control, and versatility, allowing for less product waste, human errors, and energy consumption due to reduced material usage and energy needs.
Automation machines, such as a servo-controlled pick and place machine, can often be customized to fit a smaller space and do more complex and precise tasks than the machine it replaced; therefore, they take up less room on the factory floor use less energy. This is substantial for industries such as the pharmaceutical industry, which often have to allocate massive amounts of energy and cost to HVAC systems used to keep labs and factories at optimal conditions for drug production and the off-gassing of toxic fumes. To add, these companies can further save on other energy-depleting costs such as lighting, which could reduce energy consumption by 2-3% alone.
The greatest advantage to using automation equipment for the environment is when you combine it with analytics. For example, the IoT (Internet of Things) has encouraged the use of sensor-enabled devices such as smart sensors and cameras that can monitor and report machine performance and diagnostic information. This cloud-based data can drive improvements in system optimization, including machine rate, running performance, and production capabilities and output, allowing manufacturers to continually monitor the equipment and environment, adjust energy loads on machines, minimize waste, and by extension, reduce energy consumption.
It is increasingly evident that society will continue to demand greener energy solutions from every level of the supply chain. The fact is, green automation equipment is at the forefront of impacting the environment and potential consumers, and robots will help us repair the damage done from decades past. As you work to integrate greener solutions into your factory’s ecosystem, SDC is here to help. We understand the varying needs of different sectors and work with manufacturers to develop unique solutions that can solve problems across various industries. Contact SDC today to find out how our expert team can use an innovative approach that will streamline your processes, reduce your carbon footprint, and help you commit to reducing environmental emissions.
- What Effect Will Automation Have on the Environment?
- The Environmental Impact of Manufacturing from the Industrial Revolution to Automation and Everything In Between
- Cost and Environmental Impacts in Manufacturing: A Case Study Approach
- Protecting the environment with automation and robotics engineering
- Industrial Waste: Management, Classification, Causes, Effects
- The Correlation Between Automation and Green Manufacturing
- Green Manufacturing: Industry 4.0 and the Sustainable Future – Sealevel
- 5 Ideas to Help ‘Green’ the Automation Industry—and Make Some Green