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The simple solution to sustainability in manufacturing 

For many manufacturing businesses, the temptation to put sustainability on the back burner is very real, as organizations grapple with supply chain challenges and inflation. What these companies don’t realize is that by focusing on sustainability, they can benefit both their bottom line and their ‘green line’ at the same time. But doing so requires the right technological tools. Some manufacturing companies are still being held back by a reluctance to harness technology and data to boost their sustainability (and, by extension, their profits). The manufacturing sector still lacks ready access to the data it needs to reach Net Zero, studies have shown. This is one of the key challenges the sector faces.

For manufacturers looking to improve sustainability, finding value opportunities within wasteful processes is the best place to start. Unclear processes, quality deficiencies and capacity bottlenecks lead to excess stock and production waste. This drives up costs and, in turn, has a negative effect on an organization’s carbon footprint. But all too often, such problems can be difficult for business leaders to see due to siloed ways of working, meaning that they can go undetected for years. For business leaders, finding and dealing with such problems creates real opportunities to find value and achieve their sustainability objectives. The answer, in large part, could lie in process mining.

Process mining works like an ‘X-Ray’ of a business and makes it possible to find value opportunities that business leaders might not even be aware of. It offers a ‘common language’ which connects business leaders to processes, and teams to each other. This drives sustainability performance by uncovering and eliminating wasteful processes and practices, but also has a rapid and measurable impact in terms of saving cash.

Why manufacturers need data

Data is vital for manufacturing companies, but challenges in harnessing it hinder their business and sustainability goals. The complex nature of modern manufacturing, with just-in-time delivery, slim margins, and intricate supply chains, makes effective use of data crucial.

To meet customer demands and maintain loyalty, manufacturers need real-time visibility to adjust operations, prioritize orders, and engage with sustainable suppliers. However, obtaining timely sustainability-related data on suppliers is a common struggle, making it more difficult for manufacturers to understand and improve their overall sustainability posture. At the same time, global supply chain disruptions, such as shipping delays, contribute to extended transit times, carbon emissions, and environmental impact. Each misstep in fulfilling an order jeopardizes customer loyalty and leads to wasted storage space. To address this, businesses require a comprehensive, real-time view of their operations to efficiently reallocate resources, prioritize orders, and proactively engage with suppliers aligned with their supply chain sustainability objectives.

The lack of information for climate-friendly operations is compounded by the growing complexity of business operations. Today’s landscape involves hundreds of systems and applications, leading to undetected vulnerabilities, increased costs, and avoidable CO₂ emissions. Addressing these challenges requires innovative approaches, as traditional methods fall short in managing the intricacies of modern manufacturing operations.

Where process mining comes in

There’s tremendous potential for improving sustainability in production, materials management and logistics, largely as a result of the resources and energy loads used across the supply chain.

This is exactly where process mining comes in. Process mining can illuminate and subsequently optimize critical business processes. It does this by visualizing the current state of internal operations, including all process variants on the basis of data. With valid, data-based insights across all procedures, manufacturing businesses can break down silos and incorporate sustainability into every decision or measure. Process mining brings together data from common IT systems, such as SAP, Oracle or Salesforce, and maps them in their actual form, providing complete visibility into how business processes actually run.

Once process mining identifies improvement opportunities, that data can be combined with intelligence and automation to take corrective action and capture value quickly. Companies can therefore shrink the time it takes to find a process problem from years to hours and make great leaps and bounds in sustainability goals in a short time span.

A greener future through process mining

For any business, carbon commitments and sustainability goals can no longer be an afterthought. Sustainability is now a fundamental part of every company’s overarching business strategy. Organizations that fail to get a grip on sustainability across the whole of their supply chain will be punished by both investors and customers ‘voting with their wallets’. Processes determine how businesses run, so they are the perfect vehicle for operational change, and can even spark systemic change around sustainability. When processes are analyzed, understood and improved, business leaders are freed to prioritize sustainability in each and every operational decision.

The benefits of this are many. Process mining can not only boost resilience in the supply chain, but also accelerate and improve production, while also helping companies to achieve their crucial ESG goals. With costs still high for manufacturers around the world, process mining offers organizations a unique opportunity to be more sustainable, while at the same time finding business value.

For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.

Chris Solomonides

Chris Solomonides is Manufacturing Director UKI at Celonis. Since 2011, Celonis has helped thousands of the world’s largest and most esteemed companies yield immediate cash impact, radically improve customer experience, and reduce carbon emissions. Its Process Intelligence platform uses industry-leading process mining technology and AI to present companies with a living digital twin of their end-to-end processes. For the first time, everyone in an organization has a common language for how the business runs, visibility into where value is hiding, and the ability to capture it. Celonis is headquartered in Munich, Germany and New York City, USA with more than 20 offices worldwide.