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7th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing

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August 2, 2022

There’s no denying that more and more manufacturers are embracing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives with aims to improve both performance and accountability. Naturally, these efforts often center around sustainability.

While we’re a long way from closed-loop manufacturing, sustainability efforts gain return value to companies in areas like waste, material usage, supply chain, and resource management, not to mention contributing to positive brand awareness. But what steps are manufacturers taking in practice to improve sustainability?

Where Manufacturers Are Focusing Sustainability Efforts

As sustainability benefits become apparent, companies have focused on several key processes to build their programs around. According to the latest State of Smart Manufacturing Report, two traditional strategies that have been on many companies’ radar are better energy management (47% of companies) and recycling (42% of companies).

Another area receiving a large share of attention is the commitment to “eco-friendly” processes, which 42% of companies have included in their programs. And with water becoming scarcer in many regions, water conservation efforts have garnered up to 38% of program participation.

Which Software Solutions Support ESG Efforts

When using a smart manufacturing platform, manufacturers heavily rely on several modules within the system. Quality Management Systems (QMS) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) were noted by 42% of study respondents. Supply Chain Planning (SCP) was very close behind at 41%.

These areas comprise core manufacturing processes and have direct and intuitive tie-ins to waste, material usage, and carbon-impacting transportation challenges in logistics. However, there’s a significant awareness that other aspects of smart manufacturing platforms also contribute.

Of all companies, 38% listed Industrial IoT (IIoT) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), with Production Monitoring and advanced analytics comprising 34% and 31%, respectively. Respondents regularly identify these systems as critical to addressing core ESG efforts. They add value by reducing waste and managing resources such as energy and water while adding more value through optimized output.

Empowering Sustainability with Technology

For many industries, traditional sustainability efforts – if a company had them – consisted of common materials like cardboard and plastic. Many of these programs were treated as a nuisance or afterthought and were regulated by state or local governments. Waste was tracked, but this process was often error-prone and inaccurate.

One reason for the narrow focus and commitment was that in a company where manufacturing processes and production monitoring were done manually, it was almost guaranteed that recycling programs were as well. The layers of tracking and data entry to monitor anything beyond the most common culprits added manual work on top of an overburdened production tracking system.

Smart manufacturing platforms change all that. Now, instead of manual tracking, the components of sustainability have their own digital thread and reach far beyond cardboard and plastic recycling programs. Armed with the same precise data and powerful cloud-based analytics, companies can precisely monitor their waste like they monitor production.

Because these platforms allow system consolidation, they can extend into supply chain, planning, inventory, and distribution, so companies can digitally track what they couldn’t track manually. This advance opens up opportunities like energy monitoring, water usage and recycling, packaging format waste, and better control of traditional waste created during production.

Taking the Next Step

The ability to dive deeply into ESG initiatives depends on the capability to monitor a wide range of sustainability variables and develop procedures to improve them. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform extends across a company’s enterprise systems to unlock data and optimize all operations for both production and sustainability.

End-to-end visibility within the supply chain extends that capability to vendor management, logistics, and inventory. With advanced analytics and industrial IoT devices, companies can turn waste, recyclables, and energy management into a value-adding tool that reduces costs.

Download the ESG edition of the 7th Annual State of Smart Manufacturing Report for more insights on how your peers are taking sustainability to new heights.

About the Author

Plex Team

Plex Systems, Inc., a Rockwell Automation company, is the leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, empowering the world’s manufacturers to make awesome products. Our platform gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business to drive transformation. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform includes solutions for manufacturing execution (MES), ERP, quality, supply chain planning and management, Industrial IoT and analytics to connect people, systems, machines, and supply chains, enabling them to lead with precision, efficiency and agility.