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V R Vijay Anand

Innovation

The Answer to Manufacturing’s Waste Problem is Hidden in Data

Reduce waste by improving efficiency, enabling predictive maintenance, and streamlining resource management

Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2022 - 13:03

As the world moves toward a new, post-pandemic normal, industries must leverage digital transformation at an accelerated pace. This is already happening. According to IBM, 67 percent of manufacturers have accelerated digital projects since Covid-19.

Although improved operational efficiency is typically the reason for these changes, manufacturers should capitalize on the convergence of Industry 4.0 and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals to improve their sustainability credentials. Data hold the key to reducing manufacturing’s waste problem.

Digital transformation refers to the use of digital technology to transform all areas of business. Despite the uptake of digital tools, only 59 percent of manufacturers cite improved sustainability as a reason to digitalize their operations. However, digitalization’s potential extends far beyond its perceived applications. Data collated by the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen) emphasizes the importance of digital tools in achieving sustainability goals. Leveraging IT technology in other sectors, such as manufacturing, has the potential to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 20 percent.

Taking advantage of digital tools is vital to aligning manufacturing activity with the Paris Agreement. It will increase resource efficiency and, crucially, reduce waste. Globally, industrial waste generation is almost 18 times greater than municipal solid waste, according to the most recent data from the World Bank. All manufacturing facilities generate waste, a lot of which could be avoided.

Overproduction and defect output are two of the most common contributors to waste generation. Facilities that run on legacy technologies and can’t address the challenges of modern manufacturing are far too common. However, this doesn’t mean that manufacturers should accept huge waste generation as an unavoidable consequence of production. Industrial waste must be reduced, and data can play a key role in achieving this, if manufacturers know what to do with it.

Improving operational efficiency

Every manufacturing facility, regardless of its size, complexity, or age, generates a significant amount of data every day. In a smart factory, these data include everything from equipment performance to product quality and are collected via sensors installed on each machine. Starting small, by collecting each machine’s data, is the first step in reducing waste on a large scale.

Small changes to individual processes accumulate and have a huge effect on operational efficiency. Collecting and analyzing data from machinery on the shop floor allow manufacturers to monitor and act on processes. Manufacturers can optimize overall energy use by detecting inefficient processes, streamlining production and logistics planning, and predicting upcoming maintenance needs. When data analysis contributes to the energy efficiency of several smaller processes, it also helps to control and reduce overall energy consumption.

Energy inefficiencies can be identified in real time, giving manufacturers the opportunity to identify potential causes and solutions. For example, when looking at energy consumption data, manufacturers may discover one piece of equipment that uses significantly more energy than others. Using this information, they can then identify the cause of increased power consumption and implement improvements.

Continuously analyzing data in real time can also help streamline machine maintenance. Data analytics can identify upcoming problems before they happen. If a machine experiences a problem or a change in performance, it may start to produce parts that are not fit for purpose, which would ultimately end up as waste. Data about machine performance can help to identify minute changes in machine behavior as soon as they occur, so that engineers can carry out predictive maintenance before multiple defective products are produced.

The CoroPlus suite of products, part of the data-driven machining offering from Sandvik Coromant, helps manufacturing organizations improve efficiency, reduce waste, and increase productivity. The company is a leader in manufacturing tools, machining solutions, and knowledge that drive industry standards and innovations for the metalworking industry. Its CoroPlus Process Control monitors machines in real time and triggers actions in accordance with programmed protocols. If specific, predetermined issues occur, the solution automatically triggers a correctional action, e.g., stopping the machine or notifying technicians to replace a worn cutting tool. Conducting maintenance in this way improves operational efficiency by as much as 89 percent. It reduces waste by allowing manufacturers to assess data, monitor machine performance, and identify faults before they occur.

Considering the whole life cycle

Data produced by conducting life cycle assessments (LCA) can also help reduce waste. An LCA assesses the environmental effect of a product at every stage of its life span by considering how a product’s raw materials are extracted; the quantity of resources required; the materials and energy used during manufacturing, packaging, and distribution; the effects of the product’s functional use; and the waste and pollution created at the end of the product’s life.

Once an LCA has been completed, manufacturers can identify big sustainability flaws in a product; evaluate the sustainability of products still in development; and design new, more sustainable solutions.

However, it’s not just the products themselves that must be considered, but also their packaging. Packaging is necessary but raises many environmental concerns due to its demand for resources. The problem is shared globally. In the United Kingdom, nearly 44 million tons of packaging waste are produced annually by commerce and industry, while 28 percent of total municipal solid waste in the United States is attributed to packaging.

Sandvik Coromant recognizes the problem with packaging, even for products like cutting tools, and recently launched its package selector application (PSA). The PSA uses data to analyze a 3D CAD model of a product to be packaged, identifies its critical points, and uses an AI algorithm to recommend the smallest amount of packaging possible. This improves the LCA of Sandvik Coromant’s tools by reducing packaging waste produced for their distribution to manufacturers.

Minimizing waste through circular manufacturing

Data can also be used to facilitate a closed-loop manufacturing chain, where waste from one process is used as a resource in another. Operating in this way promotes a circular manufacturing economy, where waste is minimized as much as possible through continuous reuse.

Using data from an LCA, along with machine data, manufacturers can improve the efficiency and circularity of their products through constant product and process improvements. Efficiently implementing a production system of this kind requires a robust data strategy. To create a strong data architecture, manufacturers need a digital infrastructure that can easily synchronize operations, potentially across several locations, and identify opportunities to use waste that would otherwise be siloed.

Sandvik Coromant’s CoroPlus suite of machine-connectivity and sensor-embedded tool solutions makes digital machining accessible to manufacturers. The suite provides “close to cutting-edge” data needed to make use of their waste resources for more sustainable operations.

Data can seem overwhelming at first. With such vast quantities available, it can be hard to determine what to do with them. However, with the correct strategy, data can prove a valuable tool for reducing industrial waste. Data can help improve efficiency, enable predictive maintenance, inspire innovative product development, and streamline resource management across machines, facilities, and even entire companies.

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About The Author

V R Vijay Anand’s picture

V R Vijay Anand

V R Vijay Anand is Head of Digital Machining at Sandvik Coromant. He has held several strategic business and technology roles in his professional career and his experience spans leadership in business, strategy, technology and transformation. He has a recognized in-depth background of building multimillion-dollar digital businesses from scratch and driving large-scale digital transformations through systematic design and execution. Although manufacturing is his current responsibility, but he has also worked across industries like energy, healthcare, utilities and retail. He is recognized as a digital thought leader and is regularly featured in international forums and media.