Is green manufacturing possible? It is, according to Siemens. Roberto Priolo visits Answers for the Environment in Coventry, a two-day event the company has organised to address environmental issues.
Manufacturing accounts for about a third of the greenhouse gases emitted in the UK. For a sector with such an impact it is paramount to find solutions that minimise the negative effects on the environment, while maximising productivity.
On June 29-30, at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, Siemens showed it believes in green manufacturing and, more in general, in an eco-friendly approach to the industrial sector by organising Answers for the Environment, a showcase of some of the solutions the company has come up with in a bid to improve processes and cut down their carbon emissions.
Justin Kelly, head of strategy and communications at Siemens Industry, thinks the technology to do it is already there. When asked whether companies that are hesitating to invest due to the current instability of the economy can afford to put money into new technology, he answered: “The investment doesn’t need to cost you. If you are financing properly, it’s paid for by itself.”
The two exhibitions organised in the Jaguar Exhibition Hall of the Ricoh Arena, Answers for Industry and Sustainable Cities, seemingly confirm Kelly’s point.
In Answers for Industry, several Siemens experts met with companies and professionals from the industrial sector, showing them a number of solutions which, they believe, can both raise productivity and cut CO2 emissions: from efficient electric motors (some of the main responsibles for emissions) to a smart material handling system that recognises when movement is needed and therefore saves energy (its most common application being baggage handling in airports), from water management solutions (like electronic metres that report failures immediately, which can save companies millions of cubic metres of water – and money) to water treatment systems.
On the other side of the hall, Siemens decided to showcase some of its best solutions applied to urban contexts, with cities being some of the main contributors to global warming. The exhibition follows people’s lives from when they are home (with projects for zero-carbon apartments) to when they are at work or traveling.
Siemens promises that delivering efficiency, maximising productivity and protecting the environment are all achievable goals with the technology already available, which has a quick pay-back time.
What does manufacturing need to do today to become greener, then? For the company, the solution lies in the full integration of different systems, in the ability to coordinate all the operations from a common platform and to modernise.
An opportunity to seize
During Implications of low carbon strategies for UK manufacturing, one of the several seminars organised over the two-day event, Finbarr Dowling, managing director for Siemens Standard Drives, agreed. “Lean and removing waste are not new concepts to us. We don’t need to change our culture. What is new is the technology, and we need to be aware of that,” he said.
Juergen Maier, managing director of Siemens Industry Sector, sees an opportunity in sustainability too. He said: “Siemens takes this topic very seriously. We set ourselves the target to reduce our carbon footprint by five per cent every year. We got to 10 per cent quite easily. The key is target-setting.” The most common obstacles to sustainable manufacturing were identified in the seminar as being engagement of the workforce, doubts on the return of investment (ROI) and a shortage of engineers.
Mark White, technical director at Jaguar, added: “We’ve neglected the sector for 30 years. We need to engage more young people now.” Despite the advantages, many companies are not turning to green operations yet. Maier thinks this is partly because of a complex legislation.
“It’s going to cost a lot to those companies that are not understanding the legislation. And the cost of energy won’t stop increasing either,” he added.
The industry needs to work more as a whole, and legislation must be made accessible to all.
Otherwise it will be impossible to reach the emission-cutting targets set for 2050.