How Small and Medium Businesses Can Overcome the Challenges of Sustainable Manufacturing in the Cloud
What if greener practices—beyond reducing, reusing, and recycling—could help your manufacturing business grow more efficiently? What if you had data that helped you understand opportunities hidden in your spreadsheets? These questions could be answered with software and devices that monitor your equipment and help you gain insights.
As it stands, the manufacturing sector accounts for one-fifth of global carbon emissions and 54 percent of the world’s energy consumption. Your small or medium business (SMB) may be facing regulatory mandates and environmental concerns, so it’s crucial to find greener methods of production. Luckily, there are myriad ways to do this and SMBs have the advantage of being nimbler than their larger competitors, meaning that they can pivot quickly and try new initiatives.
In this blog post we will walk through the key elements of sustainable manufacturing and how AWS can help you achieve your goals.
What is sustainable manufacturing?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Sustainable manufacturing is the creation of manufactured products through economically sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources.” Similarly, the European Union’s Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) aims to achieve protection of human health and the environment taken as a whole by reducing harmful industrial emissions across the EU. This covers emissions to air, water and land, generation of waste, use of raw materials, energy efficiency, noise, prevention of accidents, and restoration of the site upon closure.
Sustainable manufacturing is an all-encompassing approach to the production of goods, taking into account carbon emissions, energy use, water use, material sourcing, and waste, with the main goal of minimizing adverse effects on the environment, society, and the economy.
Why are SMB manufacturers engaging in sustainable practices?
SMB manufacturers are investing in sustainable practices for a few reasons: addressing government regulations, contributing toward a greener future, and driving more business value. For example, Amazon Web Services works with a Canadian SMB, MOBILITEX, which uses sensors to help utility companies both monitor harmful pipeline corrosion and monetize their infrastructure data. Together, this reduces any unnecessary construction efforts and helps customers gain insights about their practices. When an SMB improves its sustainability practices it allows itself to better meet targets set by regulators and business stakeholders. For smaller companies with limited staff and resources, this is incredibly important because every project matters and extra costs might not be easily absorbed.
What challenges do SMB manufacturers encounter?
Data inconsistency and secure data access
Today, data resides in disparate systems and in various formats. The Internet of Things (IoT) creates vast amounts of machine-generated data that can consume your IT infrastructure capacity. If your machinery uses sensors to track production or errors, you are using IoT devices. Lack of data standards leads to data being captured and stored in mostly disconnected formats. Furthermore, access to data generated and managed by systems outside of your organization can lead to inconsistencies. For example, lack of access to Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) data for carbon accounting can impact your overall carbon measurement.
Not gathering actionable insight from data
Data warehouses or data lakes are digital storage areas where all business data can be analyzed. These are required to break down silos and manage large data volumes to derive meaningful business insights. For organizations whose primary business is not data analytics, it can be a daunting effort to develop modern data strategies to drive data-led innovations.
Implementing sustainability practices often requires cross-domain expertise which can span multiple technology domains. Lack of access to specialized talent can lead to a business falling short of its sustainability goals. This is especially true for SMBs, which sometimes find it challenging to entice top talent with essential skillsets.
How can AWS help you address sustainability goals
AWS provides tailored solutions for manufacturing SMBs to implement sustainable practices around energy, water, and wastage. As it pertains to manufacturing, we see several customers like Amatrol, who were able to reduce demand side energy consumption by 10 percent using AWS services and DT4o. Now let’s take a closer look at how AWS can help you make progress toward stronger sustainable actions.
Continuous improvement cycle
Implementing sustainable practices is a continuous process. As economic conditions, environmental needs, and customer demands evolve, organizations need to evaluate their practices and establish mechanisms to iterate, automate, and improve their sustainability efforts. While some parts of the sustainability solution could differ based on what is being addressed (carbon, water, energy), a three-step process is common: capture, analyze, and improvise. Let’s use carbon as an example to dive deeper into each phase.
In the capture phase, you define and capture the attributes of the component. For carbon, this could mean capturing carbon-emissions data and related attributes for manufacturing equipment. This phase could expand beyond what is within your control. In terms of carbon footprint, these are categorized as Scopes 1, 2, and 3 in the United States.
Scope 1 could be the primary target for this phase, which can be captured using services like AWS IoT. This enables machine-to-cloud connectivity to capture and standardize data from your manufacturing facilities to the cloud. It also enables edge compute for near real-time inferences. Read how AWS IoT enabled Puraset to provide economically viable clean water to at-risk communities.
In the analyze phase, you analyze the collected data to gather insights. To analyze carbon data, you look at trends between different equipment in order to identify poorly performing equipment.
Carbon Data Lake is a solution that provides a starting point for creating a data lake. Our AWS Partner Network consultants such as Palantir, Persefoni, and CoolPlanet offer curated solutions. They help you make sustainable investment decisions, visualize and mitigate risk, and reduce waste.
In the improvise phase, you learn from insights and apply detective and preventive measures to drive improvements. You implement detective measures to track additional required datapoints. This could mean adding more granularity to the measured data, capturing more metadata, or fetching additional metrics.
For predictive maintenance and automatic quality inspection, you can use Amazon Lookout for Equipment and Amazon Lookout for Vision to detect abnormalities and perform predictive maintenance. This helps improve overall equipment effectiveness and reduces energy, water, and material consumption.
Making significant sustainability transformations can be challenging for SMB leaders, especially since it is a continuous and evolving process subject to ever-changing regulations. However, taking steps toward reducing your business’s carbon footprint will reap a wide range of rewards, including improved brand image, satisfied investors, reduction in spending, and the profit margins necessary for your business to remain competitive. Using AWS and partner solutions can accelerate your sustainability journey. Connect with the AWS SMB team today to help drive your sustainability efforts.