Have you ever wondered what the UK manufacturing industry will look like in 30 years’ time? In just under three short decades, the industry must undergo a profound transformation if it’s to fully decarbonise in line with the UK government’s net zero by 2050 target.
During this time, it’s expected we’ll enter a new chapter in development, enabled by extraordinary technological advances on the same level as the first, second, and third industrial revolutions.
In a series of striking new images made using artificial intelligence, we explore some of these new innovations to bring you a glimpse of what a factory of the future could look like.
(Image: AI generated image of ‘coboting’ within an automotive manufacturing plant)
It’s the subject of fierce debate and many dystopian movies: will humans one day be replaced by robots?
The reality is less scary than you might think. In the most likely scenario, humans and robots will work together to create greater efficiencies throughout the production line.
Cobot stands for ‘collaborative robot’. These robots will be designed to assist humans, taking over tasks that fall under the Four Ds: dangerous, dull, dirty or dear.
As technology advances and becomes more economically viable, robots will take on an increasing number of roles. This will call for a diverse range of skill sets from our manned workforces, with new talent coming in with additional qualifications such as robotic welding, engineering and advanced analytics.
The ‘Green’ Factory
(Image: AI generated image of electric vehicles powering a factory through V2X technology)
The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) Sixth Carbon Budget published in 2020 found that UK manufacturing emitted the equivalent of 60 million cubic tonnes of CO2 in 2018 – almost 11% of the UK total. This makes it one of the biggest carbon emitters in the UK.
In the future, the entire manufacturing process will need to run largely on renewable energy if companies are to cut their carbon emissions in line with the UK’s net zero goals. Some of this will be produced through onsite energy generation, like solar panels. However, due to the space and energy required, manufacturers will continue to work closely with renewable energy suppliers.
Integrated ‘zero waste’ storage facilities, such as Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES), will open up new opportunities for even greater energy efficiency. As will emerging technologies like Vehicle to X (V2X) – shorthand for bidirectional charging – where Electric Vehicles (EVs) can be used to store energy or as a portable power supply.
Meanwhile, advanced Electric Asset Optimisation, where assets can be switched up/down or on/off during certain times, will help companies to reduce their energy consumption, save money and decarbonise the Grid.
Zero waste production
(Image: AI generated image of ‘digital twinning’ being used in a manufacturing plant)
The factory of the future will centre around zero waste, with manufacturers leveraging new technologies and the circular economy to take operational efficiency to a new level.
Companies will connect with customers’ systems to anticipate demand and automatically adjust production. This will ensure resources are used and reused efficiently to minimise waste.
Predictive maintenance and digital twinning will help manufacturers to optimise the performance of their physical assets and processes. The use of the ‘digital thread’ from the concept engineering phase all the way through to manufacturing will provide real-time data and visibility as work progresses.
The future starts now
The concept of a fully efficient, zero carbon factory of the future may seem a long way off, but there are plenty of actions manufacturers can take today to streamline their operations.
As a UK-based supplier of renewable source power and related energy services to over 2,000 manufacturing businesses, we have the experience and expertise to help save companies time now and in the future. We do this by helping them to find energy efficiencies, minimise costs and create new revenue streams – all while reducing carbon emissions.
Find out more on the Drax website.
About the author
Paul Miller, Sales Director at Drax, has nearly 20 year’s experience in the energy industry setting strategies across TPI and strategic business. He’s an advocate of working in partnership with large customers to help understand and satisfy their complex energy requirements. Drax’s purpose is to enable a zero-carbon, lower-cost energy future.