Dan Crowe calls for some clarity to assist manufacturers decipher the definitions around decarbonization and help to reach their net-zero ambitions

Sustainability has risen up the board agenda in recent years, fueled by rising energy costs, ever-increasing regulatory and reporting requirements and growing expectations of stakeholders and supply chains to work with environmentally-conscious manufacturers. The pressure on firms is growing: since it was enshrined in law last year, the target to reach net zero by 2050 will create new expectations on businesses of all sizes to play their part in the decarbonization of energy, buildings, heating and transport.

Yet despite the swell in support for climate change action, little detail has emerged to shed light on what businesses will be expected to do to help the UK deliver its emissions targets. Instead, a whole new vocabulary has emerged as an increasing number of organizations announce their intentions to reach net zero, achieve carbon neutrality, become carbon negative or eliminate emissions. In the absence of clear government guidance, organizations have had to determine their own definitions of net zero, but is this ‘carbon jargon’ - the different ways of describing emissions reduction targets, strategies and measurements - helping or hampering progress?

Carbon confusion
In our recently published research into business attitudes to net zero, 97 per cent of manufacturers have carbon reduction strategies in place - the highest proportion of any sector surveyed - yet only half of organizations fully understand the term ‘net zero’. Two thirds of businesses feel confused by the sheer amount of carbon jargon - undoubtedly compounded by the lack of clarity or a single reference document to decipher what net zero means for manufacturers.

Eighty-six per cent even believe that ‘net zero’ is in danger of becoming meaningless unless there’s consistency in approach and measurement among businesses.

This matters - businesses will have a major role to play in meeting the UK’s targets and delaying action could make an organization’s journey to net zero costlier or more difficult than it otherwise could have been. There is concern that this confusion and lack of clarity could leave some businesses behind.

Make UK contributed to the Cutting the Carbon Jargon report: Brigitte Amoruso, Energy and Climate Change Lead at Make UK, explains: “There are currently various ways to approach net zero, which is confusing, particularly as manufacturing businesses are at various starting points on their path towards it. Without a clear and consistent mandate and guidance from the Government, the net zero ambition risks becoming meaningless. Make UK stands ready to work with the Government, in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC’s) recommendations, to define a suitable approach for UK manufacturers.”

Forging a path to net zero
Clarity and guidance for manufacturers may be some way away, but organizations of all sizes can still take action to unlock the financial and environmental benefits of decarbonization.

Almost two-thirds of businesses expressed concern that their organization’s carbon reduction targets could be seen as jumping on the net zero bandwagon. Creating meaningful targets is vital but it is important that these goals are ambitious yet achievable. We recommend firms create Science Based Targets that demonstrate a meaningful contribution to climate action, including how quickly and by how much firms aim to reduce emissions.

As those organizations captured by mandatory requirements such as the Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting scheme (SECR) will know, getting a firm grip on emissions is vital to establish baselines, identify priority areas and set realistic targets for reduction. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol scopes 1, 2, & 3 enable businesses to build an accurate picture of their full emissions and the extent to which they can control them, creating solid foundations for reduction strategies.

The groundwork for major reduction programs takes time. Whilst industrial users will undoubtedly find opportunities become available - a £315m Industrial Energy Transformation Fund has already been announced to support energy intensive industries with the early adoption of energy efficiency and deep decarbonization projects, and the Industrial Decarbonization Strategy is expected in early 2021, but building the foundations for these major projects can begin now.

Whilst the Government undoubtedly needs to provide more clarity around net zero to make high level national goals into reality, firms can still begin their own journey towards decarbonization. Expert support is available to help organizations to create robust, enduring plans that stand up to scrutiny.

As we look to the future and consider how to rebuild from the impact of Covid-19, finding ways to unlock the financial and environmental benefits of emissions reduction should be part of any organization’s strategic plans.

Dan Crowe
Dan Crowe is optimization manager at Inspired Energy plc, the UK’s leading commercial energy and sustainability advisor. It offers expert assurance and optimization services to businesses to help them manage energy costs effectively and deliver their Net Zero, carbon and Environmental, Governance and Social (ESG) objectives

What the transformation of APM means for manufacturers. By Robert Golightly

Automating asset failure prediction has become a key priority for manufacturers moving towards asset performance autonomy. Along with just about everything else, asset performance management (APM) is currently going through a period of major change and driving the adoption of APM solutions is a repositioning from site functional excellence to enterprise-wide performance management and customers’ desire for above-site management principles.

So, what does APM have to offer manufacturing organizations? Terry O’Hanlon at Reliability Web defines APM as: “A holistic approach and dynamically connected technologies to manage assets and the value they generate. APM matrixes at the business/managing system level to align asset management policy and strategic asset management plan to organizational objectives.”

This definition is spot on. That alignment delivers even greater value when there is enough warning from predictive maintenance to give manufacturers time to plan functions around downtime instead of just doing damage control. The overall value to the organization from APM increases dramatically when there is enough time for operations and supply chain action to mitigate downtime’s impact. With a longer prediction window comes a broader range of mitigation options.

In manufacturing, re-scheduling can avoid excessive transitions without missing orders. There is also the ability to use maintenance events as an opportunity to pull in maintenance items in order to reduce the turnaround scope.

APM software solutions use innovations such as predictive analytics and asset-related data to recommend a maintenance solution that will improve the reliability of the asset. They also enable end users in manufacturing to anticipate failure or life of an asset. More and more leaders in these sectors have come to understand that APM suites integrate operations, inventory management, risk, quality and finance to provide the highest business value.

The evolution of APM
The tools of the trade for APM are undergoing an enormous transformation as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are serving as a force multiplier for asset experts, as well as enabling a new generation of workers to quickly become effective. APM providers are embedding AI and machine learning in their APM solutions in a manner that makes them essentially transparent to the user.

Technologies such as condition monitoring for equipment are being augmented with predictive process analytics that warn of overly aggressive operations that could degrade asset integrity and lead to unexpected downtime. Asset and process alarms are consolidated and being evaluated in terms of their relative impact to the balance sheet, and the risk to life and the environment. This keeps asset performance aligned with the manufacturing needs and priorities.

Another potential payoff for implementing risk mitigation technologies comes from institutional investors increasingly incorporating environmental, safety and governance issues into their investment decisions. Technology that works to Asset Monitoringeliminate the surprise of unplanned downtime enables companies to minimize the most dangerous plant conditions and reduce the amount of gases released into the atmosphere.

Responding to a rapidly changing environment
In the wake of Covid-19, manufacturers have been looking for ways to evaluate new business models and quickly align production with the new market realities. This global shift is driving a series of rapid changes to production slates and rates for companies around the world. These shifts are creating new safety and environmental risks that must be anticipated and managed, along with the obvious economic concerns. In production environments, change means increased risk.

At the same time, operating companies have been shouldering more of this risk, as insurance coverage is not as readily available, and even when it is, the cost of coverage has doubled in some cases. All of this is putting the methods that companies monitor and manage production processes under the spotlight.

APM has become an indispensable tool
APM may well play a role in determining the availability and cost of operations disruption insurance by protecting against unplanned downtime where most accidents happen and the greatest damage to the environment occurs. Many operating companies are running operations in new ways in response to Covid-19. That represents new risks to the equipment and its operators.

Companies need to quickly identify if any of those new operating conditions are degrading the asset and adjust accordingly. APM is undergoing a rapid transformation that will make it an indispensable tool to improve margins, safety and environmental compliance for asset intensive operations.

Robert Golightly
Robert Golightly is Senior Manager, Product at Aspen Technology (AspenTech) a global leader in asset optimization software. Its solutions address complex, industrial environments where it is critical to optimize the asset design, operation and maintenance lifecycle. AspenTech uniquely combines decades of process modelling expertise with artificial intelligence. Its purpose-built software platform automates knowledge work and builds sustainable competitive advantage by delivering high returns over the entire asset lifecycle. As a result, companies in capital-intensive industries can maximize uptime and push the limits of performance, running their assets safer, greener, longer and faster.

In this piece, Ian Hart sets out the many benefits – commercial and otherwise – of reducing water consumption in manufacturing and argues that businesses should adopt an altogether different approach to a precious resource that will come under increased pressure in the years ahead

When we talk about the environment, we tend to limit the conversation to climate. The planet is warming and, unless we change our ways drastically, we’re going to have to get used to more extreme weather events, melting icecaps and rising sea levels.

Water issues, at least as far as the discourse in the UK goes, are more concerned with the prospect of it gushing through our homes than with any sense that the taps might ever run dry.

But, while that outlook is understandable in a country so resigned to interminable rain as the UK, demand for the elixir of life could well outstrip supply inside 25 years, according to the Environment Agency.

In averting such an outcome, it is fair to say that we all have to do our bit. But, looking at things purely from a commercial manufacturing perspective, it strikes me that radically reducing and recycling the water we use in our processes and cleaning regimes is the obvious choice.

So obvious that I’m not sure why we discuss it so little or, indeed, why the idea didn’t gain more traction here a very long time ago.

Surmountable problem
Climate change is not the only or even main threat to the UK’s water supply. Our population has grown year-on-year from 56 million in 1982 and is projected by the Office for National Statistics to increase from today’s 66.4 million to over 70 million by the end of the decade.

Combine the dynamics of our population with the fact that our individual usage has risen from around 85 litres per day in the 1960s to 143 litres each today and you get an idea of the experts’ concerns around water scarcity.

It is clear we have a problem to resolve but the good news is there are ways and means. And, while the public would do well to limit their consumption too, there is a strong commercial case for manufacturers, particularly those in a food and drink industry that uses so much water, to reduce, recover and reuse.

Multiple benefits
Imagine for one moment that you were able to reduce the aggregate amount of water used in production processes at your facility by 25 per cent, for the sake of argument. Not only does your bill for bringing it in reduce commensurately Resourcesbut so do the costs you face under the Mogden Formula for getting rid of it.

Think about further cost reductions, when you do the same with your cleaning regimes and then begin to recycle 50 per cent of the water used for production and incorporate it into your washdowns and other services. The savings alone would soon more than justify any investment in getting you to that point but it doesn’t end there.

It’s a big potential PR win, you find it easier to comply with intake and discharge regulations, your supply and, therefore, your production is more secure, you reduce your effluent stream, and you’re helping safeguard the nation from a looming water security crisis.

Changing attitudes
Such a broad set of benefits begs a question – why aren’t all UK manufacturing businesses taking serious steps to conserve water already, when they are well ahead of us in a number of other countries?

Elsewhere, there are places that are much more water-stressed and, as a result, they are much more conscious of how precious a resource water really is.

In parts of Africa and India, for example, many manufacturers treat their wastewater and inject it back into the ground in a process known as ‘managed aquifer recharge’. Instead of depleting local water tables and damaging local harvests, they bank the water to ensure the farmer down the road using a borehole has everything he needs to irrigate his crops. In Britain, however, where we usually experience rain all year round, we seem to think water is free and unlimited. It just falls out of the sky, so, if we pour our wastewater down the drain, who cares? It’s no longer our problem.

Wastewater isn’t technically an externality, as companies bear costs in dealing with it, but they don’t seem to want the hassle of treating it. So, I’d argue, we need a change in mindset, whereby we understand that water is scarce and start treating it that way. The benefits to us all of doing so are plain to see.

Cyclical thinking
If a manufacturer is committed to water conservation and to securing the cost, regulatory and reputational wins I described earlier, the first step is to engage an expert partner to conduct a water audit that has two parts.

First, they come in and establish how much is being used, whether it’s being used effectively and to identify any opportunities to reduce consumption. And second, they then determine how you can integrate any further processes that enable you to recover and reuse a significant proportion of the water you do use.

While we’re not restricted by law in this country and there’s no technical reason it cannot be perfectly safe, the guidance is that you shouldn’t reuse recovered water in food production – imagine the headlines if a soft drink manufacturer, say, was revealed to be using wastewater to make their fizzy pop.

But there are plenty of other uses wastewater can be put to, including putting it through an anaerobic digester to clean it up and to harvest the biogas by-product to feed back into your boilers and other processes for further energy-saving benefits.

That way, you begin to create a cycle of reuse and of benefit. And that’s how we need to change our thought process about water. It is not a throughput. It is as integral to our operations as it is to the future of humanity.

Water is everything. As the central ingredient in the cycle of life, it sustains us in every way, so we should treat it with more care. And, if we do, we can all be winners in the end.

Ian Hart
Ian Hart is Business Development Director at adi Projects, a division of the multidisciplinary engineering company, adi Group. Designing, constructing and self-delivering robust client solutions from over 30 specialist disciplines, adi Group takes a holistic approach to sustainability, skills and partnership.

Consistent, organic growth since its establishment in 1990 has enabled the business to broaden the portfolio of services it offers clients in the Automotive, Food & Beverage, Manufacturing, Aerospace & Defense, Pharmaceutical and Petrochemical sectors.

How the manufacturing industry can build business resilience and accelerate a return to ‘normal’ in 2021. By Nick Offin

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the manufacturing industry. According to a global survey, about 95 per cent of manufacturers describe their operations as having been negatively impacted by its effects. Lost productivity due to remote working, lack of capacity on factory floors and sick employees having had the greatest impact.

As the manufacturing industry continues to navigate the pandemic and plan for what’s next, focusing on the use of innovative technologies will be essential. Advances in enterprise technology offer a win-win for companies, boosting the efficiency of business operations with the added benefit that employees can ultimately work more productively, or remotely as needed. One example that is seeing a growth in adoption is wearable technology, an industry expected to hit $54 billion in value by the year 2023.

Wearable technologies such as assisted reality (AR) smart glasses promise to have a valuable impact on industries with a heavy reliance on frontline and field-based workers, such as manufacturing, aerospace and warehousing. So, what is assisted reality? And how will it power the manufacturing industry’s next ‘normal’?

Assisted reality
AR refers to projecting additional information into a user’s field of vision, importantly hands-free. It differs from its perhaps better-known cousin, augmented reality, in that it does not change what the user is seeing, only adds an extra layer of information into their peripheral vision through diagrams, texts or videos. While having been on the business agenda for some time now, during the pandemic, industries reliant on frontline and field workers have increasingly adopted assisted reality smart glasses. Enabling collaboration amongst potentially distributed workers and on-the-job training, while overcoming the ongoing challenges that social distancing poses.

Powering the next phase of productivity through collaboration
Assisted reality smart glasses can enable effective collaboration amongst distributed teams, while allowing workers to move freely around an industrial site as needed. Employees can be working with machinery or on a new product, sending Productivityupdates to off-site colleagues in real time. Simultaneously, with the Remote Expert solution, other technicians – from a safe distance on-site, or from an off-site location altogether – can collaborate in real time to fix problems, generate ideas or offer advice on how to complete a task. We’ll see skeleton on-site crews continue as the industry remains navigating the pandemic and the social distancing rules that come with it, so ensuring teams are set up with the right productivity tools is vital.

Once a relatively simple task, social distancing or travel restrictions have disrupted auditing within the manufacturing sector. Smart glasses have a lot to offer when it comes to completing important tasks of this nature. Instead of traveling to the audit location, AR smart glasses can be sent to someone already on-site who can then use the glasses as instructed by a colleague. This way, manufacturers are given the same image, data and understanding as they would get in person. Providing auditors with an accurate report is key, and delays can end up costing businesses time and expense as operations become derailed. With assisted reality smart glasses, manufacturers can quickly gather the necessary information and meet deadlines without disrupting business operations.

Manufacturers are recognizing a number of unintentional benefits, too. Reduced down-time of employees traveling, access to restricted areas and significant CO2 and cost savings could see the adoption of AR smart glasses skyrocket beyond the pandemic.

Enabling on-the-job training – all at a safe distance
Another example of how assisted reality can power the manufacturing industry’s next ‘normal’ is through on-the-job training – all at a safe distance. By using wearable technology, employees can receive ongoing, on-the-job training where technicians can be mentored live, in a real-world environment, via direct video support and instructions from afar. Using a Digital Workflows solution, technicians can refer to checklists, other text or diagrams through their head-mounted viewer, keeping their hands-on tools at all times. Coupled with the Remote Expert solution, more senior technicians can be on hand to offer training and direction for how to complete a task.

The Manufacturing the Future Workforce report has shown how ongoing and flexible training courses – which can be used to upskill and reskill an existing workforce – deliver a steadier and more sustainable growth in workforce confidence and productivity. In the world of manufacturing time is money, and so too is quality. Getting the right training and support quickly increases the efficiency of a workforce, not only on the front line but also of remote workers who would otherwise need to be present at a job.

While on-site non-distanced training typically involved one expert and one trainee technician working together, remote training can accommodate many more. Assuming that not all technicians need support at one time, experts can be connected to three to four trainees at once. By watching a screen of monitors, experts can dial into specific conversations through the smart glasses in response to a trainee requesting help or guidance. We can expect this trend to continue beyond the pandemic, as manufacturers embrace the benefit of training more of their workforce at one time, via remote support.

These are only a few examples that demonstrate how wearables are set to power the next phase of workplace productivity and accelerate a return to ‘normal’ for the manufacturing industry. Manufacturers have no doubt placed a renewed focus on investing in the right technological tools to maintain business continuity as the pandemic continues. For many, the shift to remote working has been both a challenge but also a success, not only unearthing new ways of achieving collaboration but also proving that it must be at the heart of any manufacturer’s strategy moving forward.

Nick Offin
Nick Offin is Head of Sales, Marketing and Operations, at Dynabook Northern Europe. Formerly operating as Toshiba Client Solutions Co. Ltd, Dynabook Inc is now wholly owned by Sharp Corporation. With over three decades of engineering excellence, Dynabook Inc continues to deliver products and solutions of the highest quality and reliability to support its partners and customers in achieving their goals.

Jim Davidson explores the role of the circular economy in engineering and outlines why firms must change their mindset to support a greener future

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed businesses and leaders to reconsider the way that we operate as a society. ‘Build back better’ is common rhetoric used to describe how we can recover from the pandemic and concentrates on redesigning the global economy by prioritising sustainability and tackling the climate crisis. To support this initiative, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that offshore wind farms will power every home in the UK by 2030, aiming for net-zero emissions by 20501.

Every business, in every sector, has the legal and moral duty to support a greener future. As we move into the post-pandemic world and green initiatives take centre stage, engineers and manufacturers must consider adopting new approaches to support the energy transition and the environmental and economic crisis. The circular economy is an existing model that can be used to change the way we use natural resources for the better.

A closed-loop system
It’s no secret that the practices used by the engineering and manufacturing industry have played a significant role in contributing to the climate crisis. It is estimated that the UK generated 37.2 million tonnes of commercial and industrial (C&I) waste in 20182.

At present, the go-to system in manufacturing is described as the linear economy where we take, make, and waste. We take resources, manufacture goods and buy products. When those products become dated or break, we throw them away. This system is not only expensive; it is having a catastrophic effect on our environment.

The circular economy is at the forefront of rethinking how we create and consume. It is an economic system that aims to eradicate waste through the continual reuse and repurposing of resources. The circular economy model creates a Circular Economyclosed-loop system where once a resource is in use, it stays in the manufacturing and consumption cycle for as long as possible. Its philosophy is parallel to the linear economy as it aims to make, use and then remake again.

The principles outlined within the circular economy are to design products that are built to last, preserve and extend what already exists and to use waste as a resource. In essence, it aims to keep materials in use for as long as possible, alleviating the need for them to end up in landfill.

While these principles can be implemented during the engineering and manufacturing process, the most significant challenge we face is changing our way of thinking.

Adopting a circular mindset
Old habits die hard. It has become commonplace that when a product or tool breaks or becomes worn, we dispose of them with little thought. Engineers, manufacturers and procurement departments alike must start to adopt a circular mindset to overcome our ‘throwaway culture’.

Rather than disposing of products and materials when they break, firms should consider if it can be repaired or repurposed. For example, if you have sections of piping that are subject to erosion, you should determine if the piping is suitable for refurbishment. Not only would the piping avoid landfill but would be renovated using the latest technology and techniques, meaning its likely to be a superior product than when in its original form.

The environmental impact of this is evident, but the economic benefits are frequently overlooked. Often, refurbishment and repair is a more cost-effective alternative to replacing a bespoke product or tool. Additionally, if we start to embrace a circular vision, there’s an opportunity to use waste to create new products and solutions which can be sold to make further revenue.

Engineers hold the key that could unlock a world of possibility beyond the repairing of products. To fully implement the circular economy, products need to be designed with durability in mind. This approach would require goods to be designed for modularity, disassembly, remanufacturing and refurbishment with attention given to minimising waste that occurs from over-specification. It’s only through designing for material efficiency that we can truly eradicate waste and support environmental initiatives.

Why aren’t firms already embracing this model?
The answer is quite simply that we have never had to truly consider the environmental and economic impact of consumption in such detail before now. With the energy transition in full swing and our industry under a microscope to change for the better, there is a clear benefit of implementing circular systems into engineering and manufacturing processes. The circular economy model can support the energy transition by reducing energy consumption and promoting the most efficient use of resources, such as converting wind into power.

This model is gaining such momentum that the Scottish Government is in the process of consultation for the Circular Economy Bill to become legislation. This could enforce new laws that would introduce reporting mechanisms to help monitor, track and reduce waste3.

The first step we can take as an industry to adopt the circular economy is to change our mindset, step back and ask if there is a better way of doing something. We must discover alternative means of managing our resources, engineer with durability in mind and aim for waste disposal to be our very last option.

Jim Davidson
Jim Davidson is CEO of Albacom a Scotland-based engineering and manufacturing firm that has diversified into sustainable engineering. Jim is a keen advocate for the circular economy model and has become an ambassador for the initiative. The company’s recent merger with energy storage company Genista Energy has expanded Albacom’s offering into the renewable energy sector.

1 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-54421489
2 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/918270/UK_Statistics_on_Waste_statistical_notice_March_2020_accessible_FINAL_updated_size_12.pdf
3 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/918270/UK_Statistics_on_Waste_statistical_notice_March_2020_accessible_FINAL_updated_size_12.pdf

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