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December 18, 2023

There is increasing interest in reducing carbon emissions as part of overall sustainability. This particularly applies to manufacturing where both awareness and regulations are encouraging producers to explore ways to mitigate or eliminate their emissions.

Continuing our discussion of sustainability as a digital building block in manufacturing, let's look at how software can help monitor, track, and reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainability.

The Challenge Ahead

According to data, US manufacturing is responsible for 29.6% of total emissions. This staggering total frames the challenge of reducing emissions as an imperative.

But it also highlights how traditional methodologies are not adequate. If they were, we would have already been further down the path of reducing emissions across manufacturing.

Efficiency Yes, But…

The obvious first step is to improve the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes. This includes developing new and more efficient OEM equipment capable of using less energy and managing resource inputs more accurately. It also includes upgrading physical plant infrastructures and the systems that make a modern factory work, such HVAC, steam generation, process heat, and more.

But this is no small task.

Equipment upgrades alone will be a global challenge as companies have allowed machine assets to age past traditional levels. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the average age of production equipment in the US is almost 20 years, double what it was thirty years ago.

Given these challenges, upgrading and efficiency alone are not enough.

Using Smart Manufacturing Analytics

The answer to addressing these challenges lies in the data generated by manufacturing.

Specifically, when linked to smart manufacturing software, emission control becomes a more realistic goal.

Environment Monitoring

Factories that operate 24/7 and with controlled conditions create a stable or static system for production with a near-constant temperature and humidity. When smart manufacturing software is integrated with other enterprise software, manufacturing data can be analyzed to optimize this climate control.

For example, electricity rates are often lower during off-peak hours. Smart manufacturing may offer prescriptive insights that help decision-makers shift more energy-intensive processes to times when the grid is less constrained.

The same data and analytics can help pinpoint which machines are using more energy and resources so process optimization can target a solution or even prioritize the replacement of that machine over another older piece of equipment that is more efficient.

Pollution Control

Sensors and advanced analytics are an integral part of a smart manufacturing production process and plant automation. But they are also part of controlling pollution output. They can be used to monitor, analyze, and prescribe solutions for wastewater, carbon emissions, and other parts of the process to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, their entry into the environment at large.

Just as production equipment benefits from the precision and accuracy of smart manufacturing software to automate and improve production processes, so too can it be used to monitor, automate, and alert for waste and pollution so teams can prevent more significant levels.

An Achievable Goal

There was a time not too long ago when manufacturing had reached a ceiling on how much it could accomplish with manual methodologies. Even when formalized into systems like Lean and Six Sigma, the need for real-time data and advanced analytics made it hard to progress further.

Smart manufacturing and advanced analytics changed that. The same data generated by equipment, production processes, and other inputs can be turned loose on sustainability to reduce or eliminate emissions.

Companies can leverage powerful technologies like digital twins to create baselines and then apply analytics to determine what needs to be done. Smart manufacturing software brings at or near real-time analysis that can be leveraged using a company's data to determine the solution.

Digital building blocks for improved sustainability exist today. And they are all part of the same smart manufacturing ecosystem driving unparalleled change. Contact us to learn more about the possibilities of digital building blocks for sustainability.

About the Author

Plex DemandCaster Supply Chain Planning

Since joining forces with Plex, by Rockwell Automation, in 2016, we’ve harnessed the power of its Smart Manufacturing Platform and industry knowledge to offer a digitized supply chain planning product. It seamlessly unites your business from the plant floor to the executive suite. To learn more about how we are bringing the Connected Enterprise to life across industrial enterprises, visit

Plex DemandCaster