How digital investment helps manufacturers meet sustainability targets

Learn about three areas where technology can drive sustainable change across manufacturing

As part of the UK’s green industrial revolution, the Government announced an extra £12.4m investment to help manufacturing businesses cut their emissions and energy costs.¹

Many of the winning bids, from car manufacturers to steel production and food processing, focus on important areas like heat pumps and energy-efficient generators.

Technology also has an equally important role to play to help clean up big emitting industries. The UK manufacturing industry is currently responsible for producing 16% of the country’s emissions and it will need to cut them by two-thirds, so the UK can achieve its net-zero target by 2035.¹

This is a monumental challenge, and manufacturers are unlikely to hit these targets without embracing a range of digital innovations like IoT, AI, automation, robotics and 5G.

These innovations provide critical capabilities that enable manufacturers to measure progress, help optimise production and remain competitive while reaching sustainability goals, without the high cost and capital outlay needed to replace existing plant and factory infrastructure.

At Vodafone Business, we understand that to drive efficiency throughout the manufacturing industry, it's essential to embrace new and innovative technologies.

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Here are three areas where technological advances and digital innovations can be a force for sustainable change across manufacturing.

“These innovations enable manufacturers to measure progress, help optimise production and remain competitive while reaching sustainability goals — without the high cost needed to replace existing plant and factory infrastructure.”

Get the measure of sustainable manufacturing

'What gets measured gets managed' is more than just a saying. It's the guiding light of sustainable manufacturing.

It’s surprising though how many manufacturers are equipped with sophisticated operations but lack the precise tools to gauge their energy efficiency accurately. Many might be state-of-the-art in automation, but there could be a gap when using sensors and data loggers to track energy consumption.

Smart IoT sensors can help close that gap. Integrating these into existing production lines and pairing them with a high-bandwidth, low-latency 5G mobile private network (MPN) means data capture and analysis become real-time activities.

You can unlock even more potential by pairing this with Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC). This means production lines not only communicate with one another but also operate in unison, ensuring peak energy efficiency and seamless coordination.

The insights derived aren't just numbers, they can be your sustainability report card too. This data could not just show your commitment to regulators in reducing emissions and bolstering energy efficiency, but it can also be pivotal to progressing your Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments. Today, demonstrating environmental responsibility isn’t just good practice but it also meets the demands of your customers, partners, investors and shareholders.

Think global, manufacture local

In today's unpredictable global landscape, your supply chains must have a ‘plan B’. The more local that plan, the better. As an alternative to long, potentially vulnerable supply chains, this can be a buffer against world events, but how does technology factor in?

Advanced digital asset tracking gives you the tools to combine traditional supply chains with the agility of dynamic, agile networks that use a wider base of local suppliers. This blend enables real-time digital inventory insights and provides a clearer view of assets throughout your supply ecosystem. As the industry gravitates towards a circular economy, these end-to-end tracking capabilities give you more visibility and control throughout the journey of materials from sourcing to recycling.

The business case for UK manufacturing goes beyond government sustainability incentives. Many recognise the advantages of maintaining a UK presence, from tapping into a skilled workforce and the rich industrial heritage, to benefitting from robust infrastructure and a favourable business environment. There's also the appeal of being closer to a significant customer base, reducing transport emissions and lead times.

It's not just about economic and logistical gains though. Environmental responsibility is central to modern manufacturing. Indeed, a BEIS study suggests that emission reductions could potentially add 175,000 jobs across the UK.²

Competitive edge: tech-driven savings

Nearly a quarter of manufacturers believe emerging digital technologies impacted their efforts in decarbonisation and their ability to achieve net zero carbon emissions.³

Its relative affordability means more businesses can monitor, manage and optimise their existing infrastructure without the huge capital expenditure of replacing plant infrastructure and machinery.

As a result, companies can work to achieve sustainability targets without needing to increase product prices and protect their competitiveness while raw material and energy costs are escalating.

The benefits of integrating digital technologies involve distribution too. Analytics in fleet management significantly reduces emissions, with potential savings of 9.3 million tonnes of CO₂ each year which the same as removing two million cars from our roads.² By incorporating vehicle telematics, businesses can optimise delivery routes and minimise idle times, leading to a marked decrease in fuel consumption and cost savings of 15 to 20%.⁴

Climate action, together

We’re committed to supporting manufacturers with their sustainability objectives, whether you’re streamlining operations, connecting remote sites, or using data to inform real-time decision-making.

Vodafone UK aims to cut operational emissions (scope 1 and 2) to net zero by 2027 and halve emissions from our value chain (scope 3) by 2030, before achieving net zero across our entire footprint by 2040.⁵

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