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The future looks green

08 June 2020

Manufacturers should consider how making small, impactful changes in their facility can actually make a difference in the environment. In this article Neil Ballinger, head of EMEA sales at industrial automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains how we can create the green factories of the future

Demand for resources is growing. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) the world is currently on track to consume four Earths’ worth of resources by 2050. Governments across the world have warned that everyone, from homeowners to large, global manufacturers must consider how they can reduce demand for resources such as energy and raw materials to cut carbon emissions and safeguard the planet. 

Manufacturers must do more to reduce their contribution to increasing environmental issues. Introducing more sustainable processes can benefit the facility as much as the planet, as they will be able to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Some facilities might believe that this change requires an overhaul of infrastructure to swap to renewable energy sources, replace machinery and more. This approach could be time-consuming, expensive and wasteful. Instead, businesses should take the time to review their current processes and understand what short- and long-term changes they can make to produce goods using less materials, less energy and more ethical approaches.

Make it circular

Most facilities currently work following a linear model of make, use and dispose that creates a lot of waste because the product will only have one life and left-over energy or material will be wasted.

Manufacturers should consider how they can design waste out of the production process

The circular model differs and encourages manufacturers to keep resources in use for as long as possible. Manufacturers should consider how they can design waste out of the production process, the goods manufactured and the everyday running of the facility.

For example, powering large facilities requires huge amounts of energy and water that can be very costly. Some of this energy will also be wasted during production. Manufacturers can look at redirecting this energy, such as wastewater, to help power the facility. Facilities that have high levels of automation can also consider reducing the lighting or heating in the facility in areas where there are no human workers to save energy.


Sophisticated assembly lines require automation and equipment that will use a lot of energy and must be regularly maintained to run efficiently. If any of the equipment breaks down, manufacturers must make quick decisions to return to production to avoid any financial losses due to downtime.

When a machine breaks down, manufacturers can choose to repair or replace it. To extend the lifetime of the machine, reduce costs and reduce environmental impact, manufacturers should consider repairing the machine. Industrial automation parts suppliers can source the broken part if it is new, reconditioned or obsolete and deliver it to the facility quickly so it can return to production.

Investing in new technology to the system can also ensure that the facility runs as efficiently as possible. Manufacturers can retrofit smart sensors, for example, to their current system and the entire facility to gather real-time information about machine performance, energy usage and more. Analysing this data allows manufacturers to identify and optimise inefficient areas of production, reducing energy consumption and optimising productivity.

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Manufacturers are introducing more automation to their assembly lines to improve productivity and efficiency. However, some manufacturers do not realise the full potential of connected devices.

By transferring internal protocols from paper to digital, mobile devices facility workers can reduce their reliance on paper, in turn reducing their carbon emissions. Going paperless can also improve logistics of everyday activity. The ability to access real-time information about inventory, orders and administration from anywhere on or off site gives manufacturers the visibility they need to improve productivity.  

Manufacturers cannot ignore the importance of reducing carbon emissions in production facilities. Investing in renewable energy and sustainable materials is important but not the only way to improve sustainability. By improving visibility of data and operations, extending equipment lifecycles and following a circular model, manufacturers can improve productivity without negatively impacting the environment.