Why should manufacturers measure sustainability as an essential KPI?

Scott Reese recently spoke at Digital Factory 2023. With an extensive history at Autodesk and now the president and CEO at GE Digital, he introduced why we should focus on energy use as a top priority.

Manufacturing accounts for 27% of US energy consumption and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. Typically, manufacturing eliminates energy waste as an afterthought, with production, quality, and similar standards being top priority KPIs. Decreasing costs and downtime is an understandable metric of importance due to the nature of manufacturing. Yet, the large amount of energy consumption in manufacturing reveals that energy is, in fact, the manufacturers’ most consequential raw material. 

Now, GE is introducing GE Vernova, focused entirely on energy aimed at a multigenerational impact. With a goal to electrify the world while helping decarbonize it, energy is seen as a KPI, and KEPIs (Key Environmental Performance Indicators) are encouraged. Manufacturers must think about energy efficiency along with production efficiency to reduce costs and emissions. Investing in the correct skillset, mindset, and toolset will ensure energy usage is a top priority for manufacturers to realize benefits.

What’s my take? I am excited to see companies shift to focus on energy as a top priority. While changing the thermostat is still beneficial, in-depth analysis of plants with sustainability and energy use in mind will provide benefits beyond reduced costs.

How can we make IT/OT integration more seamless?

Torey Penrod-Cambra, John Harrington, and I recently had a discussion on how to truly optimize the data industrial manufacturers are gaining from innovative technology in their plants and machines.

For organizations characterized by high complexity, extensive automation, and significant scale, the unplanned migration of data to cloud storage without a clear strategy can prove costly and inefficient. The range of use cases that heavily rely on industrial data is expanding rapidly, largely due to new and advanced technologies. Historically, companies blessed with access to vast volumes of data have often adopted the approach of simply depositing this data into the cloud and burdening their IT departments with the task of deciphering operational technology (OT) data. Upon its return, this data often necessitates interpretation by OT-focused engineers, who are then tasked with making sense of the information provided by IT. This process, resembling a cumbersome game of telephone, incurs significant expenses, consumes considerable time, and leaves manufacturing facilities devoid of an organized framework for collecting and cultivating insights from their equipment.

Introducing the HighByte solution. Industrial DataOps serves as the bridge that resolves the disconnect between IT and OT engineers. This intermediary role unites individuals, processes, and technology, creating a cohesive framework for secure, reliable, and immediately usable data development. A comprehensive Industrial DataOps approach enhances the quality and utility of the data received by IT engineers, reducing the time allocated to preparatory tasks across all operational facets. Under complete enterprise administration, architects gain the ability to comprehend incoming data and perform analyses, utilizing features like hubs, synchronization, logs, user access controls, role assignments, tagging, and more. Subsequently, OT or manufacturing engineers can readily access and work with this enhanced data.

What’s My Take? 

This approach differs from the traditional talk surrounding IT/OT convergence. While putting data into the cloud has become close to the industry standard, it is refreshing that a solution such as this one is taking on the challenge of managing this immense amount of data. Data entries can be taken every millisecond with even a single piece of equipment with a single sensor. Multiply this across an entire plant, and it is crucial to have data analytics that get critical information out to stakeholders at a lower cost in less time.

What steps do companies need to take amidst these early days of a manufacturing revolution?

By focusing on five key metrics of digital design, digital manufacturing, supply networks, workforce development, and sustainability, Autodesk aims to “make manufacturing human again.”

Manufacturing has reached a point where customers require personal and specific touches for every product but at scale. Pair this demand with a planet with a finite amount of resources for materials and labor, and manufacturers find themselves caught in a challenging dilemma with limited options. Some choose to incorporate multiple solutions, hoping to streamline their operations, only to find that a disconnected network exacerbates their challenges, further fragments their time, and requires backtracking efforts. These traditional methods come at a high financial cost and cause extreme timeline disruptions for manufacturers where every second of production counts.

Autodesk Fusion 360 is an integrated cloud CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB software platform. It allows manufacturers to accelerate digital transformation by lifting employees out of their silos, unlocking data from closed formats, and connecting tools and teams to eliminate manual workflows. Offering all these capabilities into one cloud platform ensures collaborative processes from the shop floor to the top floor. Integrating one tool with cross-functional teams alleviates the concern of technology further fragmenting departments and provides end-to-end visibility around skill gaps, design flaws, and material requirements. A solid communication capability and collaboration between design and manufacturing lift away silos, saving businesses time iterating and the financial burden of wasted production.

What’s My Take? 

Manufacturers have an instinct to try and capture information in spreadsheets or Word documents to share across departments due to the widespread knowledge of these traditional tools. But what if we could eliminate the need for these documents and instead utilize one singular platform across all users and departments? A single integrated solution with a high level of communication and collaboration opens the door for manufacturers to make innovative products and implement best practices and ideas. Adding this “human” touch gives customers specificity for their products. It keeps manufacturers winning in a revolution where the best manufacturer no longer wins but, instead, the manufacturer who can produce products with the best ideas.

How can we plan, build, and operate a successful digital factory?

Due to the race against climate change, manufacturers no longer have the luxury of time to improve their processes. Weak supply chain infrastructures, along with fierce competition, pose a high risk to companies. Labor is becoming more challenging to hire and retain, and as system complexity increases, skilled labor is needed. As for the inside of our plants, data is becoming more available, but disconnected departments need help finding value in it.

A panel moderated by Jeff Kinder exposed how manufacturers can connect, plan, build, and operate—by utilizing new technologies, such as digital twins. Dan Middleton from Atlas Copco touched on how they optimized their processes and built five plants in five years. To quickly reduce environmental impact through efficiency optimization and streamlined workflows, plants that took two years to build are now finished in 18 months. Furthermore, using reshoring efforts overcomes infrastructure weaknesses and keeps businesses competitive. With Industry 4.0 standards, manufacturers realize higher ROIs, shorter timelines, and improved sustainability metrics through value-added data integrated throughout your factory. 

What’s my take? 

I think this discussion goes beyond traditional process improvement for manufacturing. With this approach, transformation happens through a bottom-up approach, with investment in the right tools and mindset. By integrating the cloud, simulation, and sustainability tools, we are on the brink of a new wave of a manufacturing revolution, taking steps closer to software-defined factories.