Jonathan Custance, Co-Founder of Green Custard outlines how industrial organisations can leverage IoT to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint
Technological progress and environmental sustainability have always been at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The former has been driven by advances in big data, IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), all promising to transform industrial operations through slicker processes. The latter has been driven by climate and environmental deterioration. With some form of technology entwined in all manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain processes, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that man made climate change is only going to get worse due to our digital dependency. The more we rely on technology, the more power is needed to power said technology, which pushes up CO2 emissions.
However, with recent innovations in embedded sensors, cloud analytics, cloud storage and IoT, all of which have been given a turbo charge thanks to the events of the last two years, the concepts of digital innovation and sustainability are now becoming mutually reinforcing.
IoT, can empower businesses, regardless of sector, to redress their CO2 emission levels by giving them an easy means to measure the impact of their processes and human activities and take action to operate more responsibly. Embedded sensors powered by IoT can be used to monitor a whole range of factors, from air and water quality or total energy usage, to assessing pollution levels around their factories and the surrounding area. Indeed, according to the World Economic Forum, IoT technologies and applications together with 5G connectivity offer the potential to reduce carbon emissions by 15%. As well as allowing companies to adopt greener policies as a result of the conclusions drawn, IoT can provide greater insight into operational processes which makes for smarter, more cost-effective production lines.
Here are six impactful ways companies can leverage IoT for the greater good of the planet whilst simultaneously streamlining processes and reducing overheads to create a win-win situation.
The average manufacturing facility consumes around 95.1 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and 536,500 Btu of natural gas per square foot every year. (Source: bizenergyadvisor.com). Not only does this cause huge carbon emissions, the escalating energy costs businesses are currently experiencing are having a ripple effect across the entire product lifecycle, impacting the bottom line in most instances.
Heating, ventilating and air-conditioning equipment (HVAC) systems in industrial warehouses and other large buildings are for the most part preconfigured, which results in energy being wasted, because designated areas are either too hot or too cold. Deploying IoT in these situations permits on-demand area and/or equipment control to achieve higher energy efficiency. Moreover, combining this with occupancy data will give facility managers detailed insight into usage trends as well as optimal temperature and lighting requirements, which in turn can be used to augment equipment performance. This drives down cost, to maintain the bottom line and reduces total carbon outputs.
Smart waste management is typically debated in an urban context, but its benefits and relevance to the industrial, manufacturing and distribution sectors are just as far-reaching. With waste production levels varying on a daily basis depending on the business type and the nature of the waste, the vehicles dispatched for collection purposes waste often leave with half full loads, pushing up fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. By implementing IoT, it’s possible to gain accurate insight into the different stages of the manufacturing process which makes for slicker operations with less waste in the first place. This captured data also helps industrial organisations keep a handle on transportation costs, overfilling/underfilling issues, with lorries being sent to site as and when needed, thus optimising available resources.
Air pollution from heavy industry can have significant ramifications across the entire natural ecosystem with energy companies, industry, real estate and agriculture being some of the most culpable. Industrial IoT sensors will help combat the harmful impact of hazardous by-products like methane (a major contributor to greenhouse gases) or particulates by monitoring emission levels and identifying leakages. IoT can also be used to troubleshoot environmental pollution issues by identifying weaknesses in, say pipelines or industrial conveyor belts, so action can be taken to avert a disaster. It can also help ensure environmental requirements are being met through active alarms and by generating records for accountability purposes.
There’s an increasing focus on the environmental impact of different fuel types, particularly diesel and as such businesses are under heightened pressure to ensure their fleet-related decisions take environmental factors into consideration. Location, fuel consumption, idle time, driver behaviour and vehicle health all play a role in the total emissions vehicles produce. IoT sensors provide critical insight into these metrics to better optimise routes and pickups, improve driving behaviours as well as maximise engine performance to consume less fuel.
Between 20-30% of total drinking water is lost at a municipal level on account of leaking pipes. When you factor in commercial water wastage and poorly maintained flood mitigation systems this figure is much higher. Advances in IoT sensors and wireless connectivity have dramatically lowered the cost of collecting and analysing data at equipment (pumps, valves etc) and system levels. IoT enables dynamic monitoring of fill levels, water quality control as well as leak detection. Taken a step further, integrating this data into a building management system enables automated responses, such as shutting off the supply valve or HVAC equipment for damage limitation purposes and to combat waste.
For production lines to be both efficient and profitable they need to operate 24×7. Complex production line equipment needs constant maintenance to avoid downtimes caused by equipment failure. Switching from scheduled maintenance to predictive maintenance not only troubleshoots problems before they impact assembly lines, it enables longer utilisation cycles which in turn means fewer breakdowns and replacements and ultimately a reduction of waste. Facilities will also benefit from huge transport savings because field engineers are only sent to site when needed.
While technology has plagued all environmental sustainability efforts in the past, it is becoming increasingly integral to building a greener planet. The advancements in IoT sensors and wireless connectivity along with augmented storage and data handling processes are enabling individuals, businesses, governments, and countries to move to energy-efficient practises, use resources more responsibly and organise processes in ways that reduce or reuse waste.
Green Custard is aiming to be carbon neutral by the end of 2022 and we’re also aspiring to help our customers meet their respective sustainability goals in the most efficient way possible. Follow this link to find out more.
By Jonathan Custance