How technology providers and manufacturers can partner to drive sustainability success

Posted on 20 Jan 2022 by The Manufacturer

The COP26 climate change summit has been a critical event for climate action, not just for nation-states and governments but for commerce and industry.

For manufacturers, sustainability is also increasingly linked to profitability, with investors now focused on investing in organisations with green credentials. The need to shift to more sustainable practices is clear to all manufacturers, and the urgency behind it is well understood.

Over the years, the manufacturing industry has focused on helping drive a circular economy by ensuring buildings are more sustainable, creating more sustainable products and reusing raw materials.

The manufacturing sector is making real progress. However, it needs to adapt further to remain competitive, compliant and successful.

For many manufacturers, the essential question is: do they have all the right tools in place to achieve their sustainability goals? That’s a critical part of the journey. Manufacturers may want to become more sustainable, but they also need to be equipped to do so, not just from a software standpoint but also in terms of their broader technological approach, processes and workflow.

Technology is vital to sustainable manufacturing. Digital solutions help support lean manufacturing processes which are more environmentally efficient and generate less waste. Digital technology can also give manufacturers greater visibility into their operational workflows, enabling them to identify and eliminate excess water or materials usage and reduce carbon emissions, as well as streamline and optimise production processes.

Engaging around sustainability: dialogue and partnership

An important first step for manufacturers to take when selecting technology vendors, or reviewing existing vendors and partners, is to ensure that those businesses are on the same sustainability journey or have the same ‘green first’ mindset as themselves.

Increasingly, we see manufacturers focusing on the environmental maturity of prospective candidates; because they understand the value of a greener, more sustainable approach. This demonstrates why it is absolutely crucial technology providers engage closely with manufacturers from the outset to identify and quantify the sustainability value they are looking for.

Here, the overall onus should be on the manufacturer to crystallise their strategy and articulate what they are ultimately trying to achieve. Explaining their ideas and examining how providers could potentially support them will lead to a partnership dialogue around their goals and the ability of the vendor to help achieve them.

Technology providers, for our part, need to recognise the urgency of the move manufacturers are making to achieve more sustainable operations, and the specific value sustainability can deliver. Demonstrating the potential value technology solutions will bring, and how vendors can advance manufacturers’ sustainability goals, comes next. Often, it works to start small with a clearly defined goal and build on that over time. The key is getting that sustainability journey under way.

We’ve seen numerous examples of how technology solutions delivered by providers that share their customers’ vision of sustainability can yield compelling value in this area. For example, IFS has played a vital role in realising Rolls-Royce’s ‘Intelligent Engine’ vision. The Blue Data Thread enabled by the partnership between Rolls-Royce and IFS provides the data connectivity between airline and Rolls-Royce that allows businesses to significantly increase the time between engine overhauls and therefore reduce emissions.

Silvermill Group has also seen great value by engaging with a provider with sustainability at their heart. Benefits reaped included the ability to control factors such as electricity and water, cut down on wastage and be more environmentally efficient.

Adding more value over time

Delivering on sustainability can’t just be a ‘once and done thing’ either. Manufacturers need to be continuously focusing on sustainability efforts across their entire business to make a meaningful impact.

Naturally, the technology partners they choose need to be onboard with that journey to facilitate the technology changes needed. There has to be two-way discussion and open, transparent, continuous engagement, so that in turn, providers can continue to deliver sustainability value.

That value shifts over time, especially as consumers and customers become ever more demanding, and therefore needs to be tracked and measured. Providers must do this on an ongoing basis and not just pay lip service to it. This transparency, together with a common mindset and a shared, positive vision will lead to genuine joint value creation.

Looking ahead

It is also important that technology providers and manufacturers alike realise that the time for action on sustainability is now – and that they cannot and should not wait for government to take the lead. While governmental consensus on climate change and the environment is critically important, there is much that manufacturers and the software community can do to advance towards their sustainability goals, fast.

Starting small with a defined objective gets the journey under way. Manufacturers should not hold back but instead move positively forward on the path to sustainability by finding the right technology partner and creating that proactive, forward-looking team.

About the author

Michael Ouissi - CCOMichael Ouissi is IFS’s Chief Customer Officer (CCO), a global role that brings together all of the company’s customer-facing functions in order to deliver to each customer a globally harmonised, superior customer experience and maximum business value from their investment in IFS. As part of this customer value approach, Michael is responsible for IFS’s commercial strategy and revenue-generating activities.

Michael is a passionate advocate for customer centricity being the most important differentiator in today’s digital world. Focusing on supporting customers with effective solutions rather than specific products, he is also a believer in change and has built a reputation for enabling customers to use technology to create competitive differentiators and operational efficiencies.

Prior to joining IFS, Michael worked for more than a decade at Software AG, where he was most recently a member of the Group Executive Board responsible for Customer Engagement Excellence. Michael has also held positions as financial controller, regional and global commercial director, head of key account management, and regional managing director.

Michael holds an MBA from Manchester University and an economics degree from the University of Applied Sciences Dortmund.

Michael lives in Frankfurt, Germany with his wife and son. When not spending time with the family, he likes scuba diving and enjoys any sport that involves a ball.