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Kate Keedwell
Vodafone UK Head of Sales - Manufacturing, Energy and Logistics

5 minute read


Waste not, want not – how old manufacturing ideas have come full circle


Find out how sustainable manufacturing is becoming the backbone of modern industry.

Sustainable manufacturing is turning into the backbone of modern industry, continuing to deliver tangible business benefits. 40% of businesses report increased profit margins, with 30% seeing a boost in their competitiveness1 when adopting sustainable processes.

At the heart of this transformative shift is the concept of the circular economy — a world where we continuously loop resources back into the production cycle, minimising waste and maximising usage. As the industry moves towards this model, digital technologies that connect people, places and processes have a vital part to play.

Sustainable from the start

Start with sustainability in mind, right from the beginning of production.

Designing for a circular economy plays a critical role in promoting sustainable practices. Selecting the right products can help reduce environmental impact and often enhances the quality, durability and longevity of the product itself2.

Companies are increasingly recognising that sourcing responsibly not only protects the environment, but also protects their brand and profit margins. Plus, a data-driven understanding of the journey before, during and post-production are key vantage points for identifying efficiency savings.

Waste is a new goldmine

Seeing waste as a resource reflects a mindset shift in production.

Input is just as valuable as output for the manufacturing industry today. This includes viewing waste not just as a by-product but also an opportunity. By integrating IoT sensors into production lines, surplus materials can be instantly detected and segregated. In addition to a connected logistical setup, you can also ensure there is efficient transport to facilities where materials can be reused or repurposed.

The technology involved is highly scalable, so it works for small and midsize businesses as well. For example, companies that manufacture construction materials are standardising their products to make waste and offcuts easier to recycle, instead of throwing them away and adding to the business’s disposal costs.3

In the era of smart and sustainable manufacturing, businesses like these can then integrate IoT sensors into their operations, which can be helpful to identify and segregate off-cuts. Guided by real-time data, these materials can be reused to create smaller items, formed into composite materials or packaged for recycling.

Woman wearing hard hat looking at waste bins in a warehouse

Energy efficiency urgently required

Economic, environmental, and geopolitical changes underline the need for energy-efficient manufacturing.

Sustainable manufacturing is also a strategic safety net that adds resilience in an uncertain world. Adopting energy-efficient measures means manufacturers not only reduce their carbon footprint but also insulate themselves from volatile energy markets and potential supply chain disruption.

Vodafone Business is very aware of this landscape. That’s why from 2020 to 2023, we reduced carbon emissions from our operations by 92%. Also, Vodafone UK has been powered by 100% renewable electricity since July 2021 and we are now focused on supporting the development of new UK-based renewables4.

We have proven experience that helps manufacturers adapt to change in ways that are economically viable and environmentally sound. As challenges increase resilient sustainable manufacturing, anchored by energy efficiency, is a necessity.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Repeat.

Not all manufacturing ideas are entirely new. For example, 'waste not, want not'.

The principles of the circular economy are also familiar: reduce, reuse and recycle. By embedding circular thinking into daily operations and supply chains, materials and products can be used to their full potential.

Given the world’s finite resources, quality and longevity are key goals for each product innovation. Think about a world where each product lasts twice as long. Where flexible, modular design increases energy efficiency and lowers transport costs. And where almost every product is given new life — reused, repurposed, recycled — outlasting its conventional lifespan and doing it on repeat.

Of course, this is an aspirational picture rather than something you can achieve solely with technology – at least for now. But, if businesses and communities pull together, and make environmentally positive decisions, we all play a role in creating a more circular economy where reduced waste and longer-lasting resources are the norm.

Perfecting real-world performance

In the dynamic world of manufacturing, understanding a product's real-world performance is crucial. IoT tools can create a direct line to customer experience. By embedding IoT sensors within products, manufacturers can gather real-time data on usage, efficiency and even potential wear and tear.

This invaluable feedback loop is at the heart of circular economy. It informs product design while fostering a proactive approach to maintenance and support. Ultimately, by tapping into the insights IoT and analytics provide, manufacturers can elevate user experience and evidence how well products meet human needs.

In an era where sustainability governs both innovation and production, the circular economy is the foundation of modern manufacturing. Digital tools, particularly IoT, help us understand resource use, waste minimisation, and product longevity, shifting our focus from linear consumption to a cyclical system of reuse and regeneration.

With 40% of sustainable manufacturers seeing higher profit margins5, the message is clear: embracing a closed-loop system isn't just protecting the planet’s resources — it's how the world’s manufacturers can continue to thrive.

Learn more >


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