3 Sustainable Manufacturing Trends for 2020 and Beyond

Elizabeth Raw, R+R Packaging

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

Next generation manufacturing solutions are making supply chains smarter, faster, more customer centric, and more sustainable. With the latter in mind, today’s post will be shining the light on some of this year’s upcoming sustainable trends that are set to shape the future of manufacturing processes in 2020 and beyond.

From the growing integration of AI and harnessing the power of big data to cultivate more agile supply chains to the adoption of eco-friendly production and packaging materials, we’ll be demonstrating how these sustainable practices can help forward-thinking organizations improve their environmental footprint for the future.

Greater integration of Artificial Intelligence

The manufacturing industry is typically at the frontline of innovation and technology and has already begun to see heavy investment in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) over the past few years in order to boost efficiency within the supply chain. However, as companies get into their stride in a new decade, the realisation that AI and ML technology can also have a significant impact on sustainability is continuing to grow, making it an important trend to keep an eye on this year and beyond.

Advancements in AI now provide manufacturing enterprises with better capability to forecast more accurately in terms of consumer demand, streamline production processes and automate specific processes using robotic machinery in real time. In terms of sustainability, the fact that this data can be analyzed quickly to implement swift resolutions that can have an immediate impact on reducing an organization’s carbon footprint could make achieving sustainable manufacturing far quicker and easier.

Whether it’s using data gathered through AI to optimize production output so it uses less energy or analyzing sales data in real time and adapting manufacturing methods to meet changing demands to avoid under or surplus production volumes, we’re sure we’ll see AI becoming an integral part of all areas of the manufacturing supply chain - working to create streamlined, agile operations for the future.

The adoption of a circular economy

As consumer and company awareness of environmental concerns continues to grow, many companies are shifting their existing take, make and throw away model for a circular economy alternative that aims to reuse, reduce and recycle within the supply chain model.

A large portion of this shift is driven by growing government and social pressures to minimize and limit the use and production of single-use plastics, which is enforced not only by consumer values but also through bans and levies in certain countries, including the United States. However, there are other advantages to implementing a circular economy that promotes sustainability and profitability simultaneously by reducing the amount of waste generated within the manufacturing industry.

By reusing, reducing and recycling within the production chain, the use of materials can be better utilized, meaning less waste will end up in landfills. While this trend is not widely adopted yet, it’s likely we’ll see more companies starting to favor the use of eco-friendly packaging solutions and recycled materials for product manufacturing over virgin materials that have a higher impact on the planet. The result is not only a more eco-friendly business model, but in some cases means a more secure business as a whole, as companies will be less affected and reliant on raw materials and natural resources that could be impacted through climate change.

Sustainable logistics

Transportation plays a huge part in the functionality of manufacturing supply chains, whether it’s sourcing raw materials for products or shipping the finished goods to suppliers. However, sustainable shipping is becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the supply chain, working towards reducing transportation emissions that can be harmful to the environment, as well as a business’s bottom line if they don’t adhere to government regulations.

With this in mind, there’s a definite shift towards finding more sustainable means for shipping goods from A to B, which include using locally sourced suppliers to help reduce transportation mileage. Other areas that are under the spotlight include optimizing shipping containers to use all the space to transport full loads rather than doing multiple shipments of half-filled containers. We’re also seeing AI play a role here too, using real-time data to calculate the most fuel-efficient shipping methods and track vehicle maintenance levels to optimize its efficiency on the road.

In addition, there are also more partnerships with third party logistics (3PLs) providers forming, which also work to streamline shipping practices to deliver a manufacturing supply chain that’s both efficient and sustainable for the future.

While it’s impossible to transform your manufacturing operations overnight, we hope the above trend insights provide you with the valuable information your company needs to take the right steps towards creating a streamlined and agile manufacturing supply chain that’s built for the future.

Author bio:

Elizabeth Raw works for R+R Packaging, providers of biodegradable and eco-friendly packaging materials for businesses within a wide variety of industries.

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