Making the Earth More Sustainable: One Customer (Manufacturer) at a Time

While most of the planet celebrates Earth Day once a year, at Sight Machine we try to celebrate it on a continuous basis. The reason is simple. We find that improving sustainability quickly and measurably for our manufacturing customers is often the best way to deliver cost savings to their operations. 

There are a lot of buzzwords floating around improving manufacturing sustainability – green manufacturing, IIoT, the circular economy, the Fourth Industrial Revolution. All of them have real meaning. But in the plant the reality is more basic. Having a continuous “Earth Day mentality” leads not only to sustainability but to better efficiency, quality and profitability. 

Here are some specific examples. 

  • A company wanted to trace the root cause of customer complaints about product quality being reported three months later. Determine machine settings to prevent future recurrence. Returns were a waste of energy. The company had to make more products. Returns were shipped in via truck. Solving this saved them a measurable amount of energy and reduced their carbon footprint. The customer realized savings of $650,000 at the single plant, with $10 million identified enterprise-wide. Sustainability drove efficiency, quality and better economics.
  • A manufacturer of cardboard boxes wanted to understand the machine operating conditions that drove energy spikes during production runs. Sight Machine integrated output from energy meters with production data from specific machines. We learned that settings were off and determined how to shave off peak energy need while boosting production. The improvements generated $15 to $20 million in combined cost savings and higher production across 19 plants. Again, sustainability drives efficiency, quality and revenue.
  • For a large manufacturer of aluminum cans, Sight Machine automated the process of integrating machine sensor, downtime, and quality data, and then created a system-wide model of the entire line. The manufacturer’s team, working with our Continuous Improvement engineers, found variances and identified ways to improve throughput by 4% without increasing scrap. By increasing throughput, the can company consumed less energy per unit of production and saved considerable energy. And they improved their bottom line by $2 million in additional models. What’s good for the planet is good for the corporate bottom line.
  • At a glass manufacturing plant, Sight Machine deployed a predictive quality analytic to reduce variation in line yield. The analytic enabled operators on the line to make adjustments to gas flow from the nozzles inside the furnace 2-3 days before the actual occurrence of change in quality of glass. This helped reduce variation in quality of glass over a period of time and as a result a lower energy consumption per unit of saleable glass. Reduction in energy consumption achieved was equivalent to reducing CO2 emissions by 100,000 to 240,000 tons across the plant network. 

Our Continuous Improvement engineers work on a weekly basis with dozens of factories and plants around the world. In every single organization, operations teams care about sustainability. Most of them actually have sustainability performance tied to their annual reviews and their overarching corporate goals. Every plant manager gets it. Climate change and a clean environment is tied to energy efficiency. They also increasingly recognize that sustainability is both a goal and a means to an end – making manufacturing companies stronger by making them more profitable. There is no conflict or tension. 

Earth Day is just plain good business. Practicing good business, every day, continuously, leads to good outcomes. People in manufacturing have always known this. So yes, every day can be Earth Day at the factories and plants around the world. That’s just the way smart manufacturing works.

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