Nov 16th, 2021 | 3 min read
If there was a hit list of terms most often used in the manufacturing business, “optimization” would be somewhere on the top. We all agree, for producers, success is based on becoming faster, using less resources, increasing safety, and better satisfying customers. With the adoption of industry 4.0 technologies we’ve opened a whole box of possibilities to increase the value of products and services to customers and communities. And how about environmental performance? Can manufacturers turn it into more than a welcomed byproduct of optimization? Without doubt, digital twins already help create environmental benefits. The question we should be asking ourselves is rather how and when we can help clients choose products but also suppliers based on environmental performance.
“We see a lot of opportunities for improving manufacturing and supply chain operations through industry 4.0,” says Roy Sibbald, Manufacturing Excellence Officer Pipelife, “Last year, we have started rolling out digital twins at our production units. They are digital representations of our complete physical manufacturing setup. With hundreds of data points running together from our production machinery and lines, we can gather all the relevant data we need to identify potential areas of improvement and to set measures accordingly.”
Together with fully digitalized production planning and scheduling, the digital twins help monitor and improve production timing, load factors, raw material use and energy management, product quality, and more. Clients benefit from higher production precision and therefore better quality as well as faster deliveries. Optimizing production performance and reducing errors saves energy and raw materials; it reduces scrap and waste, which in turn improves the products’ and hence also the company’s environmental performance.
As manufacturing operations and processes become more transparent, so could the environmental footprint of products. Clients would be able to base their choices on accurate environmental product and not only material data. “It’s imaginable that, once the whole pipe manufacturing industry has gone through full digital transformation, clients will not only be able to better compare the environmental performance of various piping materials. Through more accurate standardized life-cycle analyses, they’d be able to compare same-material products coming from various suppliers,” explains Zoran Davidovski, Pipelife R&D, Innovation and Sustainability Officer.
Clearly, this would increase pressure onto pipe manufacturers. It promises to be a healthy kind of competition, however, that would help the industry and our communities to evolve into the right direction. “We’re all in for environmental competition. After all, we all live on the same planet – we should all be wanting to keep it a livable place!” emphasizes Davidovski.
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