The past couple of years have witnessed a boost in digitalisation and automation. Industry 4.0 has enabled manufacturers to increase operational visibility, reduce costs, expedite production time and deliver exceptional customer support.
However, moving on from here, it’s time to turn our attention towards connected factories. While Industry 4.0 has been focused on using technology to optimise the means of production, now it is all about connecting man and machine, i.e., a collaborative interface between humans and smart systems. The arrival of digitalisation has been accelerated by the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic also points out the need to switch to sustainability as manufacturers must continue to embrace change in order to stay ahead of competitors and win market share in an ever-evolving world.
Let me talk about the automotive industry carbon footprint. With growing concerns about climate change and environmental degradation, sustainability has become a strategic priority for automotive organisations. Governments, consumers and investors are now pushing automotive organisations to change their ways of working, culture and products. This will have far-reaching implications for the industry, which while making substantial progress still requires to step up its sustainability efforts. Sustainability is a strategic issue for the automotive industry and key to organisation purpose. The implementation of sustainability initiatives is fragmented and lacking on many fronts. Production of automobiles involves the heavy generation of waste and most of it ends in landfills. Sustainable manufacturing involves implementing maintenance, quality and production processes to reduce waste, improve recyclability and reuse of materials.
While no single technology is likely to constitute a strategy for addressing challenges of production sustainability, the energy-saving and emission reduction strategy is a crucial measure for promoting the sustainability of the manufacturing industry towards clean and green transition. The approach of combining physical and digital technologies can be used as an enabler for closing the loop with cost-effective processing, robotic application and advanced material sorting. Connected devices feed information back to design and engineering to improve product durability and performance. A cluster of technologies, like augmented workforce systems and cobotics in combination with digital traceability systems, can manage reverse logistics and help drive substantial value, boost a brand’s reputation and mitigate growing supply chain risks.
Need for a cyclic economy is felt now more than ever. The framework for the management of the reverse flow of materials in the automotive industry has started to make inroads. Legislations in this direction would greatly complement industry efforts as companies move forward along the path to sustainability by improving performance, reducing their resource footprint and minimising the negative environmental impact.
A paradigm shift in manufacturing is needed to jump the ‘S-curve’ and develop new business models. Collaboration and cooperation is the need of the hour to shift to ‘efficient manufacturing’ ways for a sustainable future and to leave blue skies for our children. I’d like to conclude with the quote, “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”