By Eugene Quah
As we step into 2024, a promising outlook emerges for Malaysia’s manufacturing industry. Economists suggest that the manufacturing sector is on a slow but steady path to recovery.
There was a recent surge in the Manufacturing Purchase Managers' Index (PMI) reading that can be attributed to the potential advancements in the technology sector and the gradual recovery observed in China.
In light of these economic dynamics, it becomes imperative to integrate environmental sustainability measures into the recovery and growth strategies of the manufacturing sector. Embracing sustainable practices, such as resource efficiency, digital adoption, and waste reduction, can not only contribute to the industry’s resilience but also align with global efforts to address environment challenges.
According to a recent ‘Green Action Gap’ Sustainability Survey by Schneider Electric, 93 per cent of the respondents, who are middle to senior-level executives within the private sector, consider sustainability to be a high priority for their company.
A resounding 95 per cent of business leaders also acknowledge the pivotal role of diditalisation in their corporate sustainability strategy. Implementing a common digital thread can enable a comprehensive view of systems and datasets, facilitating informed decisions. A unified, long-term approach to sustainability that yields impactful and sustainable practices among industrial businesses.
Technologies that benefit sustainability initiatives
A report by Schneider Electric and Omdia reveals that more than half of the respondents engage in environmental projects, planning energy and renewables deployment within three years. Yet, challenges emerge due to fragmented systems across departments, highlighting the need for integrated solutions to facilitate cohesive sustainability initiatives.
The survey highlighted several technologies that will have the most significant impact on sustainability initiatives, including: sensing, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital twin, cloud, supply chain management software, and energy management systems. In fact, 54 per cent of respondents are already using digital twin technology to (re)design facilities with sustainability in mind.
Smarter automation, efficient energy management, and the cloud
Nearly half the respondents indicated that more efficient automation (i.e., motor drives and higher-efficiency motors), energy management systems, and cloud solutions would impact their sustainability initiatives the most. Forty-five per cent further recognise that legacy assets can be a challenge to optimising processes and more efficient automation.
The primary function of energy management systems is utility bill management; however, more than a third will use them for energy, carbon, and greenhouse gas emission reporting and certification within three years. Some even utilise integrated technology solutions like EcoStruxure Resource Advisor to report on all three today.
Using the cloud to gather and collect data from all operational processes and edge locations onto a central platform has significant benefits, including increased visibility, equipment optimisation, and overall project management effectiveness. Aggregating plant-wide data with increased connectivity enables thorough analytics and informed decision-making. Leading industrial organisations are already taking advantage of industry-specific cloud solutions like AVEVA Data Hub and AVEVA Connect to remove the barriers to data sharing using the scale and flexibility of the cloud.
Increasing supply chain visibility with more sensors and analytics
A manufacturing organisation’s ability to optimise operations relies heavily on its’ capability to manage its supply chain. Industrial sustainability inherently depends on increased connectivity and data gathered by various sensors within the plants’ processes. When aggregated, this data gives organisations the necessary visibility to make intelligent decisions directly affecting their operational success. The accumulation of data allows various analytics to be performed, from basic identification of threshold limits to machine learning and deep learning algorithms.
At Schneider Electric, we offer solutions designed to facilitate seamless monitoring and tracing of product flow across the entire supply chain for organisations.
Designing for the future while preparing for today
Digital twins replicate a design or setup and then simulate it under various situations, conditions, and scenarios. This allows advanced planning and strategic thinking to impact current processes and future developments. With climate change reinforcing the importance of industrial resilience, the integration of industrial resilience becomes crucial. Our solution facilitates manufacturing companies in concurrently engineering mechanical, electrical, and control work assignments, leading to significant time savings. This approach can reduce time to market by up to 50 per cent and commissioning time by up to 60 per cent.
The manufacturing sector is progressively recognising the importance of setting goals for sustainability and efficiency. There is now compelling evidence that prioritising the well-being of both individuals and the planet ultimately results in increased profitability. Nevertheless, bringing about change will necessitate a shift in conventional perspectives, incorporating sustainability and well-being as integral elements of processes, hardware, software, and organisational culture to pinpoint inefficiencies and reduce waste.
For industrial companies to deliver on their sustainability goals, they will need a clear strategy and the data to back it up. Technology will be a key enabler, including improved sensing and visualisation tools to capture sustainability data and derive actionable insights.
Eugene Quah is Country President for Malaysia, Schneider Electric.