The Net Zero race is on in Manufacturing

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Denis Pytel, Solutions Architect at ICT firm Atlantic Technologies, explores how technology and digitalisation are set to triumph in the sustainability challenge.

Climate change, the saving of resources and reduced emissions are currently the most hotly debated topics and are destined to become priorities for all companies, whatever their size and sector of operation. The environmental transition first began a few decades ago and can be delayed no longer.

Companies must place sustainability at the heart of their strategy and pursue concrete goals to reduce carbon emissions. The ultimate target, and not just for companies, has been set by the EU: a 45% reduction of CO2 emissions by the end of 2030 and Net Zero by 2050.

In this scenario, the manufacturing industry is called to undertake a challenging path: in addition to new topics like Industrial Smart Working, Servitisation and supply chain efficiency, it must also reinvent production processes to overcome challenges linked to Net Zero. This necessity has been driven by recent European legislation and the needs of consumers who are no longer willing to settle for a sustainable end product and are demanding production processes that are sustainable from start to finish.

Decarbonisation is fundamental not only for reducing waste generated by products, thus benefiting the environment, but also because it boosts profits, reinforces brand value and generates a positive social impact. 

Achieving Net Zero: the role of data in a sustainable company strategy

The most significant critical issues for a company that intends to pursue a sustainable strategy arise from difficulties in measuring and monitoring its own environmental impact. Managers and decision-makers need data-based information to answer questions like: what is our energy consumption in this specific geographic area? Are we compliant with regulations in force?

In this sense, the analysis of data on energy consumption, waste management and conformity requirements is crucial. Often this information is distributed haphazardly between various solutions in use at the company; organically organising it to identify real sustainability performance levels is no mean feat. The use of advanced visual analysis instruments becomes crucial when looking to align and improve the quality of data, so that they can be used, compared and replicated over time.

A "source of truth" solution is the answer to this need, insofar as collecting and analysing different elements is fundamental if we are to undertake concrete actions to improve our sustainability index and spearhead the Net Zero target.

In light of this, the most complete Business Intelligence solutions are those that provide a single source, which employees can access for a full picture of emissions in production processes, in order to estimate the environmental impact of raw material use.

Targeted and customised support enables the integration of sales and production data with those on emissions and plant consumptions. Deep learning analysis enables companies of the sector to maximise production within permitted emissions limits and to promptly forecast production costs, based on raw material costs or taxation.

CRM as a leverage for sustainable innovation

Sustainability management is rapidly evolving, requiring a transition from a manual approach to an automated and transparent one, not least in CRM, which is aligned with legislation in force and can also disclose activities pursued by external companies.

CRM has always been crucial in commercial strategies focused on building long-lasting relationships with customers. Today it is also indispensable as part of an integrated and innovative approach to environmental topics, thanks to important tools designed to complete production lines.

The advantage of a modern CRM system lies in the real time acquisition of carbon emissions data and in the everyday monitoring of impact on the company, for the prompt definition of actions to be undertaken and reporting in compliance with regulations. The collection and organisation of reliable data ultimately speeds up the journey towards Net Zero, with What-If analysis and alignment with targets based on forecasts.

Lastly, data displayed on sophisticated and structured dashboards easily identify areas requiring improvement, and are crucial for establishing a secure cooperation with providers.

Sustainability in the supply chain

The supply chain is the base of any production process and today, thanks to the digitalisation of processes, it is able to support the company along a circular-economy pathway. Businesses are searching for a sustainable model that can optimise efficiency every step along the production cycle. Therefore prompt control of the entire process becomes essential, from the selection of raw materials right through to the finished product.

In manufacturing companies specifically, achieving Net-Zero means transforming the entire production process, reducing waste, optimising energy consumptions and relying on renewable resources. Supply chain risks can be identified and prevented thanks to solutions with end-to-end visibility.

For example, it is essential to ensure sustainability along the entire supply chain, thanks to tools for forecasting demand, planning raw material requirements, staff allocation, warehouse and logistics management, traceability and the recall of batches.

The implementation of a modern ERP solution means maximising supply chain efficiency, improving productivity, eliminating silos and providing transparency along the entire chain. 

A sustainable future for the  manufacturing industry

Businesses in the manufacturing world, looking to improve their performance levels in terms of sustainability, must undertake a specific and targeted pathway underpinned by the correct management of information, if they are to enable the optimisation of production and reduce their environmental impact.  

Digital transformation will have a key role to play along that pathway, for success in embracing a more circular economy, and accelerating their transition to Net Zero.

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