‘Decarbonisation through digitalisation: manufacturing made smarter and greener with technology’ is a practical guide to industry’s biggest challenge … and opportunities.
The UK’s manufacturing sector is worth £170 billion, sustains 2.6m jobs, produces half of UK exports and has almost two-thirds of all business R&D to drive vital innovation. But it also has a colossal impact on the environment, responsible for 17% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Producers today are feeling pressure to lower their carbon footprint coming in from all directions - government, shareholders, consumers. To meet the UK’s net zero target by 2050, industrial emissions have to be reduced by at least 90%, the equivalent of immediately removing every car from our roads.
It makes cents to make the change
According to Made Smarter, manufacturers acting against global warming have reported major benefits in putting decarbonation measures in place across their supply chain.
- 34% of businesses report slashed costs with improved productivity.
- 16% posted increased sales with access to new markets where customers expect a level of care for the environment.
- 14% said reducing emissions has enabled them to secure finance for new projects.
- 15% have successfully attracted new talent by making their sustainability values known.
But it’s a quagmire of how, where and what’s needed to be done to get there and often a minor priority for a time-pressured SME producer. Digital technologies are key to the net-zero transition, but their adoption is still far from widespread.
By no means, a simple task
Crucially, Made Smarter’s whitepaper wants to be the ‘ice breaker’ and offers insights into a variety of technologies that will enable snacks producers to make things smarter and greener, while powering growth and creating employment.
“Decarbonisation is not a distraction. It is an imperative. Talk needs to stop and make way for action and a concerted commitment to change. UK manufacturing must get behind the mantra that the future is decarbonised and digital,” said Donna Edwards, director of Made Smarter’s North West Adoption Programme.
“Made Smarter is committed to help small- and medium-sized makers get there with vision, technology, leadership and collaboration.
“Our hope is that our ‘Decarbonisation through Digitalisation’ whitepaper will become a valuable part of any manufacturer’s toolkit to support their net zero journey.”
The guide charts a digital roadmap to follow, while digital transformation workshops offer practical steps towards digitisation.
“We start by demystifying some of the key terminology and demonstrate how sustainable practices, small or big, can help your business,” said Edwards.
“We explore how digital technologies, such as the Industrial internet of things (IIoT), data, systems and data analytics, automation and robotics, 3D printing and Extended Reality can be used to increase efficiency, use less energy, and produce less waste."
Whether a company with a workforce of five or 250, the first fundamental step to any net zero strategy is to understand your footprint (measuring Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions to identify where you’re producing the most emissions). One handy tool is the Business Carbon Calculator, which helps to look at a producer’s emissions output through the lens of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP) framework.
“We then demonstrate how Made Smarter-supported manufacturers are already pursuing decarbonisation and finding the sustainability sweet spot between economic, social, and environmental goals.”
One such case study is the decarbonisation journey of Preston-based Fylde Fresh and Fabulous, which processes over 1,000 tonnes of potatoes per week. Peelings and rejected potatoes are fed into an onsite biogas plant and generate enough electricity to power its factory and export back to the grid.
“We supported potato grower and manufacturer Fylde Fresh and Fabulous to digitalise their quality control processes,” said Edwards.
“This has reduced waste, increased the energy efficiency of their production line, improved product yield and allowed them to consistently meet its customer’s specifications.”
The route to funding
According to Made Smarter, one of the biggest perceived obstacles to net zero is the cost of decarbonisation.
Research revealed 42% of manufacturers said funding was their primary concern, 17% lack the capital to change and 31% are worried about remaining cost competitive.
Made Smarter is hoping to overcome these barriers by highlighting the funding that is available to support SMEs in certain regions of the UK to invest in tech and other support systems.
The paper also signposts manufacturers to other initiatives, including the UN’s Race to Zero and the SME Climate Hub, a non-profit global initiative that empowers companies with tips and tools, including its Business Carbon Calculator.
“In recent years, we’ve seen technology play an incredibly important part in tackling disruptive and emerging challenges,” said Edwards.
“It has helped businesses navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and recover, negotiate supply chain disruption and labour shortages, as well as focus on solutions to mitigate the energy crisis.
“For the climate emergency, digitalisation offers manufacturers a huge opportunity to deliver operational efficiencies, decarbonise heat and power, optimise design and materials, and improve logistics and transport, benefitting their business, their bottom line and the environment. Then there is the reputational gain which helps secure customer loyalty, as well as attract new talent and investment.
“While decarbonisation might feel overwhelming - and it is by no means a simple task - it is vital manufacturers recognise they are not alone. Combating climate change demands collaboration, and that is exactly what Made Smarter is here for.”
Made Smarter’s whitepaper can be downloaded here.
Made Smarter is an industrial digitalisation movement to drive productivity and growth of the UK manufacturing industry. Working in partnership with the UK government and backed by industry stakeholders, Made Smarter brings businesses and R&D together to develop new technologies, help makers embrace new digital tools and in doing so, put the UK at the forefront of the 4th Industrial revolution.