Implement Smart Manufacturing

EP Editorial Staff | July 19, 2023

Smart manufacturing technology can play a major role in reducing manufacturing’s impact on the environment.

Smart manufacturing technology offers an effective pathway to sustainable manufacturing.

By Bryan Christiansen, Limble CMMS

The manufacturing industry has undergone significant transformation in recent years. The advent of smart manufacturing, with the help of advanced technologies such as the IIoT, big-data analytics, and machine learning, has opened new opportunities for optimization, productivity, and sustainability.

In addition to reducing production costs, smart manufacturing also promotes achievements in sustainability and environmental responsibility by reducing the impact of operations. Those environmental benefits can help companies reduce their carbon footprint and achieve sustainability goals by reducing energy consumption, improving resource usage efficiency, cutting emissions, and upgrading waste management.

Energy consumption

Energy consumption is a crucial aspect of manufacturing operations and one of the most significant environmental factors. Traditional manufacturing processes are often energy intensive, producing considerable energy waste through inefficient production practices. Smart manufacturing can help significantly reduce that energy consumption.

With real-time data analytics and advanced technologies, smart-manufacturing systems optimize production processes and reduce energy waste. By analyzing data from various sources such as sensors and meters, the systems identify areas of energy waste and suggest ways to reduce consumption.

For instance, smart lighting systems automatically adjust lighting levels based on occupancy and daylight levels, reducing energy consumption while providing adequate lighting. Similarly, an automated HVAC system can proactively adjust temperature and airflow based on occupancy instead of reacting to temperature changes. This proactive approach reduces energy waste and improves indoor air quality. Residential HVAC control manufacturer Ecobee, Toronto, for example, states that their North American customers saved as much as 26% (ecobee.com/en-us/savings/) on their heating and cooling costs, based on a 2021 study.

Furthermore, smart manufacturing enables companies to adopt energy-efficient production processes. By leveraging real-time data analytics, manufacturing facilities can optimize production schedules and minimize idle time. This optimization reduces energy consumption, helping companies achieve sustainability objectives.

Resource efficiency

One of the most significant smart manufacturing benefits is its ability to improve resource efficiency. By continuously monitoring equipment in real time, smart manufacturing systems detect potential issues before they become major problems, allowing timely repairs or replacements. This proactive/predictive maintenance approach reduces the need to overstock spare parts and materials, leading to more efficient resource usage. As a result, companies can maximize their resource value and minimize their environmental impact.

Furthermore, smart manufacturing helps optimize material usage through data analytics. By analyzing supply-chain data, companies identify areas where they can reduce raw-material consumption without compromising production and automate re-order points based on real-time data that optimizes warehousing costs while minimizing stockouts. This not only helps save resources but also reduces the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process.

For example, consider an automobile manufacturer. By implementing a smart-manufacturing system, they can monitor the performance of their assembly-line machinery in real time. If any signs of potential malfunction are detected, the system alerts maintenance personnel, who promptly address the issue.

This proactive maintenance approach minimizes unexpected breakdowns and reduces the need to stockpile excessive spare parts, which would otherwise consume additional resources and contribute to waste. In this way, the company optimizes its resource usage, resulting in cost savings and a more environmentally sustainable operation. Learn more here.


Smart manufacturing uses integrated sensors and analytics to enable manufacturers to monitor emissions and quickly and efficiently take corrective actions. Often this happens in near real time.

Sensors play a crucial role in monitoring air and water quality (heavy.ai/blog/how-real-time-environmental-monitoring-systems-are-improving-our-relationship-with-the-planet) in and around manufacturing facilities. This enables early detection of pollution incidents, allowing manufacturers to promptly address them. Taking proactive measures reduces the environmental impact of pollution and prevents costly fines and penalties that may be imposed by regulatory bodies. Such penalties can have long-lasting effects on a company’s social license and reputation.

The key to reducing emissions lies in understanding them. To reduce emissions in manufacturing processes, companies must quantify their greenhouse-gas emissions by establishing a baseline. Smart manufacturing makes this process simple by automatically collecting data on utility usage, including electricity, natural gas, and water.

One way to reduce emissions is to use digital-twin optimization. Once a baseline has been calculated, you create and optimize virtual replicas of the same process for maximum efficiency. By using digital twins, manufacturers test and iterate to develop smart strategies based on profits and carbon reduction.

For example, a manufacturing company producing consumer electronics uses sensors to monitor emissions, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), during the production process. Real-time monitoring enables early detection of excessive emissions, allowing immediate corrective actions. Digital-twin optimization makes it possible to simulate and optimize its processes, identifying areas where emission reductions can be achieved without compromising product quality or profitability.

Waste management

Smart manufacturing systems play a vital role in identifying areas that contribute to waste production and providing actionable insights for reduction. Eliminating waste is one of the cornerstones of a Total Productive Maintenance operating philosophy.

For instance, sensors monitor waste streams in real time and identify leaks and inefficient material usage, ultimately reducing waste. This makes it possible to identify unnecessary steps and prioritize efforts to minimize material and energy consumption.

Companies such as Apple and Microsoft have recognized the value of smart manufacturing in waste reduction. In 2021, they announced their participation in the Sustainable Semiconductor Technologies and Systems (SSTS) research program initiated by the Belgian research institute IMEC (imec-int.com/en). This program focuses on leveraging digital solutions to identify areas for improvement in energy consumption, greenhouse-gas emissions, and water consumption within semiconductor manufacturing, aiming to reduce its environmental impact.

In addition to waste-reduction strategies, smart manufacturing facilitates the adoption of circular economy practices or closed-loop systems such as waste materials recycling.

Businesses must be willing to invest in the necessary technology and training and the benefits are undeniable in the long run. As businesses and society need to be more environmentally sustainable and responsible, smart manufacturing offers a path toward a more sustainable future. EP

Bryan Christiansen is the Founder and CEO of Limble CMMS, Lehi, UT (limblecmms.com). Limble is an easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.


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