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The Future of Green Manufacturing
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The Future of Green Manufacturing

February 28, 2024 4:58 pm

Green manufacturing aims to reduce environmental pollutants and resource usage while sacking waste and carbon emissions. The adoption of eco-friendly initiatives is driven by cost-cutting and increased productivity. Many businesses are simplifying the transition to sustainability with this mindset. Manufacturers benefit significantly from their shift to sustainability, and these benefits are expected to persist. We decode the challenges faced by manufacturers and potential steps to improve in this area with industry experts.

The year’s interim budget was heavily focused on promoting green manufacturing, particularly in biomanufacturing and bio-foundry, to drive green growth. The Green Hydrogen mission and green credit program are other notable initiatives steering the manufacturing industry towards environmentally friendly practices. The government has also introduced various ICT initiatives, with more details expected in the full budget. The budget proposed the establishment of a one lakh crore corpus and a 50-year low investment bond to support research and innovation. Also, corporate tax reduction was mentioned from 30 per cent to 42 per cent, along with incentives for companies, particularly MSMEs, to embrace clean energy solutions like CNG and compressed biogas over diesel. With many experiments underway converting grass into compressed natural gas and biogas, India aims to cater to all its industrial energy needs.

India also made strong commitments on the global stage during COP28 in December 2023. Alongside the pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2070, India also aims to increase the share of renewable fuels by 50 per cent by 2030. The nation also committed to significantly reducing pollution by eliminating sources by 45%.

Integrating sustainable practices

The sustainability factor for machine tools is often overlooked. Machine tools are primarily composed of about 80% steel, with some components made of cast iron. Prakash G, Chief Operating Officer, Turning Centre Division, Ace Designers Limited, shares that the machine tool industry currently faces challenges in effectively reducing its carbon footprint due to technical limitations in material usage. However, global research and development are ongoing for innovating materials used in machine tools.

Energy efficiency is a major concern, increasing manufacturers’ need to incorporate green energy into their operations. Efforts are being made to adopt greener materials and improve water management, including exploring biocompatible and biodegradable alternatives to traditional cutting oils and coolants. While progress in sustainability within the machine tool sector may be slower than in other industries, it is steadily advancing.

Sustainability in the supply chain

Integrating sustainability into the supply chain involves addressing three key pillars: social, economic, and environmental factors. This holistic approach ensures that sustainability efforts extend beyond environmental impact and carbon emissions reduction. Regarding procurement, organisations need to prioritise ethical sourcing practices and question suppliers about their manufacturing processes. This includes considering alternate recyclable materials and promoting product designs that prioritise sustainability.

Neelam Pandey Pathak, Founder & CEO of SocialBay Consulting, notes, “The economic aspect of sustainability presents a challenge for many organisations, as they weigh short-term gains against long-term benefits. Investing in sustainability initiatives may not yield immediate returns, leading to business hesitation. However, when we consider the total cost and long-term advantages, it proves to be beneficial. When integrating sustainability into procurement processes, organisations should include sustainability requirements in requests for quotations (RFQs) and contracts. This ensures that suppliers are held accountable for sustainable practices. Implementing sustainability across all processes involves addressing factors like water consumption, renewable energy use, and carbon emissions reduction.

Greening of the EV sector

Since the inception of the new government, our vision has centred on achieving zero defects and zero impact. Bipin Sharan, Manufacturing Operations Defence, Tata Motors, notes how they have integrated themselves with this. As signatories to RE100, Tata Motors committed to renewable energy. This further extends with them being early movers in electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing, with EV options available in both our passenger and commercial vehicle lines. Tata Motors is also exploring hydrogen technology for hydrogen engines through a partnership with Cummins. He adds, “Adopting green technology is a key focus. Our circular economy model facilitates this, which includes initiatives like engine and transmission reconditioning to minimise reliance on virgin materials. From design modality to reducing carbon footprint in manufacturing processes, our efforts aim to minimise environmental impact, especially in the user phase of automobile usage.”

New strategies for lightening vehicle weight are also underway while consuming high-strength materials to improve safety ratings while reducing emissions. Sharan added, “Tata Motors products now consistently achieve five-star safety ratings due to advanced high-strength steel and dual-phase scales. A 10% reduction in weight results in a 5-7% improvement in fuel economy, directly addressing emissions concerns.”

Defence Manufacturing

While discussing the sustainability factor for defence, Bipin Sharan shared, “For Para Military applications, Tata Motors introduced six vehicles, including DSS-compliant vehicles for the Ministry of Defence (MOD). We have also launched an RD vehicle capable of monitoring environmental tailpipe emissions, suitable for various urban applications. While traditionally, steel has been preferred for its strength; technological advancements have introduced reinforced plastics for oil tanks, although adoption remains difficult. We are conducting holistic carbon impact assessments throughout the value chain, making sustainable practices among defence parts suppliers a priority. We are integrating sustainable technologies in manufacturing processes, focusing on eco-friendly painting and chemical processes. Overcoming challenges like supplier closures due to environmental non-compliance underscores the importance of a sustainable value chain approach.”

Circular economy principles in manufacturing processes

There is an emerging trend to adopt factory energy management systems. This focuses on replacing diesel generators with green and energy-efficient machines and gas-based fuel systems. This trend shows the importance of aligning supply chains with circular economy principles. It expands beyond the traditional three Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle), encompassing redesign, repair, renew, and recover. Efforts to integrate these principles into supply chain management are underway globally, including in Italy and Brazil.

Prahallada K.N., Chief Program Officer, Biesse India, added, “Whether it is a small or large-scale enterprise, integrating networking and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies has become commonplace. The interest in exploring additive and hybrid manufacturing techniques is growing. Companies like Amis, Makino, and BSA are establishing their divisions for additive manufacturing. Customers are increasingly concerned about the carbon footprint of machines and equipment. This is evident when common people check the carbon emission while booking their flight tickets.”

Embracing Circular Economy models and adhering to stringent government policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions are becoming essential for meeting environmental targets. Large-scale enterprises like the Indian Oil Corporation are leading the way in carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS), a trend expected to permeate across industries, including OEMs.

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Consumer Preferences

Customer-centricity is paramount as consumer needs evolve. With consumers becoming increasingly digital-savvy, a growing demand for products integrating digital technology is growing. Additionally, in industries like commercial vehicles, minimising downtime is crucial. This has led to the rise of proactive approaches to understanding and addressing potential issues through concepts like connected vehicles.

Bipin adds, “We are connected to a central server, allowing us to proactively address issues and provide real-time monitoring for corrective actions, as with our RDI option. The concept of connected vehicles boosts customer experience by linking to a central server. It is particularly beneficial as the car market expands to include more diverse consumers like women and people with disability. Making cars more user-friendly, especially regarding auto transmission and powertrain, is crucial.”

For evolving consumer preferences, especially in technology and safety, the major focus should be to ensure top-notch quality and innovation across the product portfolio. Proactive engagement with consumers and co-creating products that exceed their expectations can be helpful. Customer service portals are now available, swiftly resolving issues and often surpassing customer expectations.

Industry 4.0

Technologies like IoT and Industry 4.0 assist in efficient resource employment. These technologies aim to reduce waste and increase manufacturing operations. Under the umbrella of Industry 4.0, various technologies promote better resource usage and enable predictive maintenance to prevent major issues. IoT can monitor and analyse resource consumption to apply corrective measures to reduce waste and energy usage.

Technology has the potential to greatly improve supply chain transparency by making it more accessible and affordable. Currently, supply chain processes are often opaque. However, advancements in technology, including smart devices and chip manufacturing, are making data-driven decision-making and remote monitoring more accessible. While challenges remain, particularly in the lower tiers of the supply chain, efforts to integrate technology and change mindsets around cost can enhance transparency and facilitate proactive control measures.

Material and Products

The look from the concept stage is essential when considering material and product innovation for all industry sectors. Neelam notices that traditionally, the focus was on selecting lightweight materials to improve the power-to-weight ratio while also considering costs. However, there is now a growing emphasis on choosing recyclable materials with longer lifespans to reduce waste in the system. This shift towards sustainability starts from the design phase and extends to logistics, where transparency and communication play a vital role. Transparency, the third pillar of sustainability governance, is achieved through real-time data on machine health and product numbers, accessible via mobile devices, facilitating effective decision-making.

Corporate Measures

All MNCs across the globe are now also committing to transparency and accountability, which is demonstrated through their practice of publishing sustainability reports. This report outlines the various initiatives undertaken to adopt green manufacturing practices across the companies.

Corporate headquarters are now appointing energy managers and PSVs to oversee CSR and sustainability activities. Their responsibilities include training employees on continuously updated practices reflecting new trends and regulatory changes in sustainability. This involves topics such as environmental chemistry, sustainability of materials, and internal and external safety measures to assess the impact of our manufacturing practices on the environment.

We are living in a world driven by environmentally-conscious Gen Z consumers. There is a shift in the users, making it important for companies to prioritise sustainability across their operations, including manufacturing, packaging, and delivery. With this, companies are now adopting greener last-mile methods to reduce carbon emissions and embrace a holistic approach to sustainability.

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Neelam Pandey Pathak, Founder & CEO, SocialBay Consulting
Integrating sustainability into the supply chain involves prioritising ethical sourcing, promoting recyclable materials, and assessing labour practices. A holistic strategy encompassing social, economic, and environmental factors is essential for effective sustainability efforts beyond carbon emissions reduction.

Bipin Sharan, Manufacturing Operations Defence, Tata Motors
Customer-centricity in the automotive sector is crucial as consumer needs evolve. Minimising downtime is paramount with a growing demand for digital integration and proactive approaches like connected vehicles.

Prakash G, Chief Operating Officer, Turning Centre Division, Ace Designers Limited.
While progress in sustainability within the machine tool sector may be slower than other industries, it is steadily advancing. Efforts are being made to adopt greener materials and improve water management, including exploring biocompatible and biodegradable alternatives to traditional cutting oils and coolants.

Prahallada K.N., Chief Program Officer, Biesse India
Embracing Circular Economy models and adhering to stringent government policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions are becoming essential for meeting environmental targets. Efforts to integrate these principles into supply chain management are underway globally.

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