The Manufacturer is pleased to announce that Fujitsu will be sponsoring the category of Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year at TMMX Awards 2022, which will be held as part of Digital Manufacturing Week in Liverpool from 14-18 November.
Sustainability has skyrocketed up the priority list for manufacturers and consumers alike, migrating over the last decade from a nice-to-have to a business imperative. This is being driven by a marked change in customer behaviour, preferring to source products from sustainable and ethical suppliers, and global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exposed the lack of robustness within some supply chains, and of course, conflict in Ukraine which has led to surging energy prices.
In the UK, Fujitsu’s focus is on providing IT services to both public and private sector organisations, including manufacturers; helping them achieve digital transformation by deploying technological innovation to connect humans and data together through quantum computing, networking, 5G, 6G, AI, cyber security, blockchain and digital twins.
Here, The Manufacturer’s Joe Bush caught up with Nick Rathbone, UK Head of Fujitsu’s Manufacturing Utilities and Services business unit to find out more.
Why has Fujitsu sponsored the Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year at TMMX 2022 and what does it mean to be involved?
NR: Fujitsu’s overall global purpose is to make the world more sustainable by building trust in society via innovation. The focus of our mission statement is all about sustainability and over the last year, to try to make that more real, we have organised ourselves into various verticals, one of which is the Sustainable Manufacturing Business Unit where we are bringing together offerings and propositions that are dedicated to manufacturers wanting to increase their sustainability credentials.
A driver for this is that we have high levels of innovation in various parts of the globe but what we haven’t been so good at in the past is sharing those innovations. So with this dedicated business unit we’ll have one global focus purely on sustainable manufacturing. We’re really proud to be sponsoring the Sustainable Manufacturing category at TMMX 2022 as we want to help manufacturers on their journey to be more sustainable. Our involvement with TMMX links right back to our overall company objective.
What is driving sustainability strategies and agendas?
As everyone can see on a daily basis, the world is increasingly volatile. Trying to deal with that fact is essentially about being more sustainable. On one hand, we’re living in these uncertain times, while on the other there is a growing appreciation that everyone needs to do their part around contributing to sustainability. And that obviously includes manufacturers as much as anyone else.
In addition, sustainability is not only the right thing to do, but customers, clients and employees now demand it; it is a real influencer when it comes to buying decisions and recruitment choices. There are still organisations that are perhaps a little bit sceptical about the benefits of sustainability. However, they’re missing the point; customers and employees care about it. So if you want to be competitive, you need to take sustainability seriously.
For sustainability in the broadest sense of the word, there are few challenges facing manufacturers today which aren’t intrinsically linked to sustainability in some way. For example, if an organisation is looking at the need for greater resilience when operating in an uncertain world, increased flexibility or more tailored customer demands; these are all just further aspects of sustainability.
How have attitudes towards sustainability changed within manufacturing?
There is a traditional and fairly obvious link between sustainability and manufacturing i.e. trying to reduce inputs of materials and labour and using them more efficiently to lower costs. That’s still really important and for manufacturers it’s a natural entry into sustainability; there is a heritage within the sector of forever seeking out incremental improvements.
However, when we talk to customers, we’re now also seeing them thinking about sustainability far more broadly. In the past strategies used to focus purely on efficiencies, now it’s changed to a question of how manufacturers change processes and technology to help get the workforce out of a control room or particular position on a production line, and as such, become more efficient and sustainable. It also means that jobs within the workforce are more fulfilling and transferable skills can be developed further. The end point is a more motivated flexible and resilient workforce.
Following on and linked to this is the use of more complex data that allows organisations to look at things in greater depth. Previously if you wanted to know how a piece of operational technology is performing you would typically look at numbers on a spreadsheet or something similar. Now it’s not just about performance, there’s a demand to see how that technology is interacting with IT, finance or HR data for example. You may want to be share some of that data with suppliers and customers. There’s now a complexity around data, and a need to integrate it. Again, this is all about driving sustainability.
How can Fujitsu help manufacturers become more sustainable?
We’re helping manufacturers on their digital transformation journey, and our main offer is to give businesses data and information that is secure and accessible, plus the ability to understand, analyse and do something with it. In fact, it’s more about empowering individuals to do things for themselves – not only can they be more data driven, but the ability to make changes can be spread throughout an organisation.
When you have people working with data, it builds trust and the benefits of putting data to use are far clearer. We’re all about bringing data and society together. We do see some industry segments (fortunately not manufacturing) where problems can be created when people are working with data but don’t trust it.
Manufacturing is different because of the nature of where it’s come from and how things operate. We’re quite fortunate in Fujitsu because we have experience as a manufacturer ourselves. We still have many factories around the globe so it’s in our DNA and given we’ve got a sustainable manufacturing business area, we understand it in a way that some other IT organisations perhaps don’t.
From our point of view, it’s all about human centricity. While we have this great technology, it’s not just what the tech can do, it’s how we can use it to help people do their jobs better, and open their minds to new ideas, analysis and different ways of working.
What are the dos and dont’s for manufacturers wanting to be more sustainable? Are there any quick wins?
There are always quick wins in anything you do. It’s natural from an IT perspective to be agile and focus on minimum viable products. If the desire is to create a digital twin of an operation for example, as a starting point we would suggest outlining where the OT and IT assets are.
We could do that in a matter of days. So that’s got some value in itself. Once the assets are known it then needs to be established how they interact with each other. What does normal look like in terms of what they do and how they behave?
Therefore, there are some proactive alerts around what’s going on. After that a real-time feed of the physical world can be used to create a digital twin from which various scenarios can be learned from, and efficiencies can be found to make things work better. In essence a larger outcome has been achieved out of an asset discovery exercise. So, the quick wins are the minimum viable products – focus on those all the time.
As the UK Head of Fujitsu’s Manufacturing, Utilities and Services business unit Nick is responsible for helping clients achieve their digital transformation objectives. With over 15 years of experience in at Fujitsu he supports their account managers, CTOs and delivery teams as they help manufacturers to become more sustainable.
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