It’s an interesting parallel: the global drive toward sustainability may directly improve carbon emissions and help slow climate change to the benefit of all. And correspondingly, manufacturing companies that successfully transform to contribute to global sustainability will positively enhance their own ability to thrive.
The reverse, of course, is also true — manufacturing companies that fail to meet global environmental, social and governance (ESG) benchmarks will likely find themselves falling behind competitors, being shunned by consumers and, ultimately, facing irrelevance.
It’s a stark reality and a daunting task. Manufacturers must successfully digitally transform in ways that enhance sustainability. But the potential benefits of that success are virtually unlimited.
The digital transformation question is no longer a question
A couple of decades ago, a discussion about digital transformation and sustainability in manufacturing might have involved a number of participants advocating both for and against the need for change — or at least how much things would really need to change. But now, driven by tightening regulations, pressures from global markets, the increased focus on ESG metrics and shifting customer preferences, digital innovation is no longer optional — and manufacturers know it.
According to a recent survey conducted by IndustryWeek and Hitachi, 99% of manufacturing executives consider their company to be committed to sustainability initiatives when compared to others in their industry.
Manufacturers are also beginning to recognize that the benefits of success in this transformation extend beyond the primary goals of operational efficiency, increased profitability, and productivity and safety improvements. Respondents to the survey also noted the potential for significant improvements in:
- Market share
- Influence on industry and society
- Ability to attract new talent
- Brand recognition and reputation
- Employee retention and morale
But knowing you need to transform and knowing how to do it are two different things. Most manufacturing companies are aware of the need to digitally transform, and they know that the changes involved will be substantial. These top three areas of focus emerged in the survey as the most important for meeting sustainability goals:
- Production processes. Streamlined processes that save energy, reduce waste and increase visibility all contribute to making factories more sustainable.
- Workforce training. Manufacturers can maintain and improve sustainability-based work practices and smart-work behaviors by using digital information-sharing tools to reduce the knowledge drain as skilled workers retire.
- Supply chain. More efficient supply chains can save energy, reduce warehouse storage needs and streamline logistics to reduce truck rolls — all of which help lower carbon footprints.
For enhanced sustainability, manufacturers must pursue ways to improve efficiency, lower their energy usage, integrate alternative sources and energy management systems, and lower their carbon footprint from end to end.
And it all starts with knowing where you are today.
Sustainability in manufacturing is built upon a foundation of data
Manufacturers that are exploring digital transformation initiatives know that data will form a large part of the answer to the sustainability challenge. In fact, the survey respondents consider data analytics the most important technology for managing sustainability, with a primary focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
Unprecedented quantities of data are now available to organizations, but deriving insights from that data quickly and efficiently requires digitalization. Digital technologies that leverage that data into operational benefits and enhanced efficiencies are the key to enabling quantum improvements in manufacturing sustainability.
Leading manufacturing sustainability by example
Hitachi is a leader in providing sustainable solutions for manufacturing, having developed and operationalized many of the cutting-edge digital technologies that companies use to meet their ESG goals. For example, Lumada Manufacturing Insights helps manufacturers such as Logan Aluminum develop data-driven operations, increase supply chain visibility, run predictive models and enable smart factory solutions that use data to drive productivity, lower asset downtime, extend remaining useful life, and promote sustainability in manufacturing processes.
Hitachi is also one of the largest manufacturing companies on the planet. Its global presence in both manufacturing and technology uniquely positions it as a leader in sustainability solutions. Many technology companies offer recommendations for bolstering manufacturing sustainability, but Hitachi offers advisory services, hands-on guidance, domain and business process expertise, and more — all delivered and backed up with hundreds of use cases and successful delivery examples. Hitachi’s Omika Works factory, for example, was recognized by the World Economic Forum in 2020 as an advanced Fourth Industrial Revolution Lighthouse, an honor given to factories that are world leaders in the adoption and integration of groundbreaking technologies.
But the bottom line is Hitachi’s reputation for leading by example. The company is committed to achieving carbon-neutrality at its industrial facilities by 2030 and investing $13 billion over the next few years in green technologies research and development.
Transformation should be simpler.
Hitachi stands ready to help manufacturing companies achieve their sustainability goals. Recent sustainability-enhancing successes achieved by Hitachi manufacturing customers include:
- Improved operating rates achieved by consolidating multiple factories for automobile parts manufacturing companies
- Improvements in equipment operation rates and reduced manufacturing lead times for an agricultural machinery manufacturer
- Reduced productivity losses from equipment stoppages and improved preventative maintenance processes for a printed circuit board manufacturer
Learn more about how Hitachi can help you more effectively leverage your data and achieve your sustainable future.
About the authors:
David McKnight is Director of Digital Manufacturing Solutions, Hitachi Vantara. McKnight joined Hitachi in 2016 with an eye to broaden his work in industrial IoT and digital manufacturing. At Hitachi Vantara, he is driving manufacturing operations excellence solutions with clients across various industries. Prior to his tenure with Hitachi, McKnight has focused on providing industrial automation and SAP manufacturing solutions throughout the world. He is passionate about enabling manufacturers and their operators, supervisors and management to employ technology to maximize productivity, quality, safety and flexibility.
Shamik Mehta is the Director of Digital Services and Solutions Marketing for Hitachi Vantara. Mehta has around 25 years of experience in product and strategic marketing in IoT, data management and data analytics, semiconductors, renewable energy, and e-mobility solutions. He’s held roles in chip design, pre-sales, product management and marketing for technology products, including software applications and data platforms for industrial applications. His experiences include six years at SunEdison, once the world’s largest solar, wind and energy storage independent power producers, leading product management, operations, business development and marketing.
Mehta has experience managing global product marketing, GTM activities, thought leadership content creation and sales enablement activities for technology and software applications for the smart energy, electrified transportation and manufacturing verticals. Mehta is a Silicon Valley native, having lived, studied and worked there since the early 90s.