Carbon neutral manufacturing and engineering can make an essential contribution to achieving net-zero. This term refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. We reach net zero when the amount we add is no more than the amount taken away.
However, for this to happen engineers need to focus their efforts on reducing carbon emissions, increasing energy efficiency, and improving customer relations.
Carbon neutrality and climate change are urgent priorities for the manufacturing industry since manufacturing accounts for one-third of global greenhouse emissions. Companies like Aumic Engineering are rethinking operations models and moving towards low-carbon or carbon neutral manufacturing systems.
The South African government is also taking strides towards a sustainable future where we use carbon neutral manufacturing. Worldwide governments are investing trillions of dollars into combating climate change, which means all of us must do our part. These policies are requiring manufacturing to transform end-to-end operations, from designing and delivering products to factory models.
We are living in a slow political process to combat climate change which proves that businesses globally must step up their efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Let us look at how we can start making a difference and implementing carbon neutral manufacturing systems.
Carbon Neutral Manufacturing Is The Future
For engineering companies to completely transform their operations and create a shift to carbon neutral manufacturing there also needs to be a change in how companies approach internal communication.
For example, the Smoothie brand Innocent has opened one of the world’s most sustainable healthy drinks factories in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Plants like this one show that large-scale carbon neutral manufacturing processes are possible with technologies that are currently on the market.
Therefore, engineers and manufacturers have the power to contribute to achieving net-zero because manufacturing plants, machinery, and sophisticated production processes are at the heart of global value creation everywhere.
This does not mean we need to relearn everything. The shift involves limiting global warming and reaching net-zero emissions, using the technology and knowledge we already have.
We foresee three key priorities that will propel us quickly on the journey to achieving carbon neutral manufacturing so long as we embrace them consistently.
The Carbon Footprint Situation
We can define the carbon footprint as ‘the sum of all emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) which is induced by an activity.’
According to research our daily habits like ordering pre-packaged lunches or takeaways starting from the animals to provide meat and dairy, to growing grains and vegetables for bread and salad, and transporting, refrigerating, and packaging our favourite meals all contribute heavily to a non-carbon neutral manufacturing environment.
In addition, we then have the disposal of the food waste and litter generated by the fast-food industry which all release carbon into the atmosphere. You might think you are not guilty of contributing to carbon emissions, but indeed we all are. From making your cup of coffee to typing up a document to driving home – all have a carbon footprint and the engineering and manufacturing industries are no different.
Minimise Greenhouse Gasses
The future holds a keen focus on minimising greenhouse gas emissions. We need to improve all aspects to improve thousands of incremental refinements that add up to significant efficiency gains over time. This will fundamentally design and adapt large industrial plants and processes with the goal of climate neutrality.
This can only happen if we begin questioning existing routines.
- Can we minimise the amount of stainless steel or other raw material and still get the same performance?
- How can we reuse more of the waste we produce in production processes, or – even better – avoid it?
These are questions that do not stop within our own operations. Carbon neutral manufacturing can only be achieved by encouraging or requiring suppliers to do the same. This is critical given that a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions are generated in the supply chain.
Energy efficiency will put the world on a net zero pathway quickly. Carbon neutral manufacturing must look at heating and cooling processes as they account for a substantial proportion of energy consumption in processing plants – often between 50% and 90%.
Engineers with carbon neutral manufacturing in mind need to implement state-of-the-art heat pump technology to capture their waste heat from refrigeration and then boost the temperature to produce heat suitable for other production purposes. Highly efficient heat pumps can help manufacturers minimise their energy usage and reduce their CO2 emissions substantially. Paired with green electricity their waste goes down to net zero.
Heat pumps have unique capabilities and are now more widely used. For example, district heating enables innovative approaches for using waste heat to deliver more sustainable heating to many households and businesses.
Closer Customer Relationships
Building close relationships with suppliers help curb emissions but so does engaging deeply with our customers.
Carbon neutral manufacturing is possible by realising that every customer is unique and developing trusted partnerships offers the best chance for achieving a tailored solution that is both economically and ecologically superior.
Good teamwork and an integrated approach develop a great setup and unlock substantial efficiencies, by bringing in systemic engineering processes early in the design process.
5 Sustainable Stages For Carbon Neutral Manufacturing
1. Project Conception
First, we can evaluate whether the project is necessary. Does the value the project generates outweigh the carbon footprint required to construct it?
We seek to reduce the volume of materials required by using efficient designs. Carbon neutral manufacturing is possible by also using materials that have a lower carbon footprint.
For example, cement production generates 5% of the world’s carbon dioxide output. Alternative materials like timber have a much lower carbon footprint. The design stage is also where we can advise on the potential of renewable energy sources to power the project.
3. Complex Delivery
Carbon neutral manufacturing is also possible by choosing delivery methods that have a lower carbon footprint like using recycled aggregates like timber, instead of using virgin stone and unsustainable materials.
We do our best to update our supply chain to include local suppliers, reduce transport distances, and look to minimising water consumption.
Engineers need to design maintenance requirements prior to complex delivery by choosing materials that require little maintenance. For example, using self-healing concrete.
Maintenance design is also an opportunity to make carbon neutral manufacturing possible by using multidimensional BIM to predict the maintenance needs of every asset on a project.
Basically, this is the process of creating a digital model of what is being created, then tagging each asset with a maintenance regime. This encourages initiative-taking maintenance which achieves the full lifespan out of an asset, rather than responding reactively following a failure which could potentially damage other assets in the area.
5. End Of Life
The last stage is designing the end of life of a structure which can contribute to carbon neutral manufacturing and a circular economy.
In other words, structures must be designed so they are easily demolished, The varied materials can be easily segregated to allow for reuse or recycling. We can do this by setting sustainability targets with our clients.
The World Economic Forum & COVID-19
Carbon neutral manufacturing is our future, and it is time to take responsibility for our planet and its future generations.
Technologies cannot solve our challenges but experience and discipline to rigorously improve processes will make a massive difference. We require partners who are willing to go beyond business as usual and collaborate early on and throughout the duration of projects to achieve the best results.
Already today, key sectors like engineering and carbon neutral manufacturing are collaborating with technological prowess to propel the world on a faster trajectory towards net zero. Reversing climate change is everyone’s business which is a highly motivating challenge for us engineers.
Contact Aumic Engineering, a Precision Engineering Company based in Jet Park, Boksburg, Gauteng, South Africa.