Advanced Manufacturing in the Era of Greater Corporate Sustainability – Here's "Industry 4.0" From the World Economic Forum
The mantra Take, Make, Dispose has been the traditional approach of many manufacturing firms over the many decades of the modern industrial revolution. (Are we in Phase One of dramatic change? Two? Three? The World Economic Forum discussions center on Phase Four – the Fourth Industrial Revolution.) And part of that is the focus on greater sustainability in industry.
Discussions and presentations at the WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland always brings forth new ideas, new concepts, new approaches to topic areas such as manufacturing and production. The WEF Advanced Manufacturing and Production Initiative has been addressing many issues, including using data and 3-D printing and new materials to foster innovation, and supporting the widespread adoption of “inclusive” technologies. What does that mean in practical terms?
Furthering the discussion that got underway in 2019, this year Davos gathering’s participants were treated to a presentation focused on “Industry 4.0” for manufacturing a more sustainable world by a corporate CEO, whose ideas for “four simple solutions” that can help make the global manufacturing industry more sustainable. We bring you his “four” this week.
First, the CEO advises, companies can move to “tooling-free” manufacturing, eliminating scrap. Eliminating tooling can mean use of less parts and fewer products whizzing around the globe; only raw materials would be shipped, creating a more efficient supply chain. (And a more sustainable / less polluting global transport network for manufacturers.)
Second, the spread out assembly of today can be consolidated, to achieve fewer, more multi-functional assemblies (meaning less parts to transport, saving energy, reducing emissions, saving money). Three-D printing can make contributions here, experts say. More customization is also more possible with 3-D methods.
Third, “generative design” can open new ways to use artificial intelligence and mimic nature in some ways; 3-D printing is key here, because new design tools can help industry use fewer natural resources and manufacture lighter weight components for cars and airplanes – lowering carbon emissions. And then…
Fourth, circular manufacturing and the use of new polymers moves us closer still to a process where parts are designed to fit into sustainable loops for re-use over and over. Imagine a time (soon?) when automobiles parts and components live a long life, to be used over and over in a line of future new vehicles, as well as live longer “first” lives upon manufacture and use. Longer use (people are keeping their autos much longer these days and this approach could stretch out use for years after purchase).
Materials are key; various metals, ordinary and exotic, most long used in modern manufacturing, may over time give way to the use of advanced polymers that are more environmentally-friendly and perfectly suitable for the evolving circular economy (they don’t rust or get tossed out too soon in the useful life). Goodbye, auto graveyards at some point.
The WEF’s concept of developing a network of “lighthouse” companies that would develop the way forward was unveiled in 2019. Companies in such industries as chemicals, automotive, textiles, healthcare, and electronics would collaborate to develop more efficient processes along the lines outlined here.
The “Platform” developed by WEF includes 130 organizations from 22 industry sectors, governments, academia and civil society working together. One of the participating companies is Desktop Metal; Founder/CEO Ric Fulop describes for you the “four simple solutions” in this week’s Top Story.
This is just the introduction of G&A's Sustainability