Green Days in Manufacturing
June 9, 2023 12:43 pm
India’s manufacturing sector is shifting towards sustainability and green practices. Adopting data analytics, interconnectivity, and technology-driven improvements are driving initiatives to achieve environmentally friendly and sustainable manufacturing processes. However, challenges such as building green consciousness, integrating evolving technologies, and developing indigenous products must be addressed for India to become a global leader in the industrial sector.
Make-in-India was initiated when the current government assumed power in 2014. Its primary objective was to enhance domestic manufacturing and establish India as a prominent global manufacturing hub. There was a degree of success achieved in this endeavour. However, following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government introduced AtmaNirbhar Bharat, aiming to foster self-reliance and independence within the nation. This initiative was envisioned to empower India’s potential and promote self-sufficiency in manufacturing.
India is on the move towards sustainable manufacturing practices. Green aims to reduce environmental impact, automation in improving production efficiency, critical needs for integration with new technologies and recycling, thus driving economic growth.
Interconnected data for a sustainable future Mrs. Sakhee Chandrayan, President of INBAC Association, stated nowadays, relying solely on assumptions or predictions is no longer sufficient. Instead, substantial clean, analysed, and contextualised data is required to support any conclusions. In interconnected systems, data combines various factors that continuously influence each other. To illustrate this, consider the analogy of the human body. A well-functioning hand is not enough if it is not connected to other bodily functions, as it hinders control and growth. Thus, it is not only essential to gather data but also to foster interconnectivity to facilitate business growth.
Mr. Zurvan Marolia, Senior Vice President, Godrej & Boyce, added, “Interconnectivity plays a crucial role in leveraging data, often referred to as the new oil. It provides a foundation for meaningful insights and action. Data analytics enables the identification of inefficiencies within a system.” This perspective considers two main aspects: environmental sustainability and customer-centricity. Customers today prioritise green practices and are unwilling to pay for inefficiencies. To address this, data is essential for pinpointing areas of improvement and gradually eliminating them. This approach applies across the entire supply chain. Data utilisation includes controlling process parameters, optimising designs, enhancing material yield, and reducing rejection and rework. Ultimately, these efforts contribute to achieving green and sustainable manufacturing practices.
The process of greening the supply chain is currently underway through an initiative called “Beyond Sourcing” by Godrej that was initiated 14 years ago. This initiative extends support beyond mere transactions and encompasses the entire supply chain, including small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and suppliers. A primary aspect of this effort is to ensure environmentally friendly sourcing practices. Notably, 80 supplier partners have already obtained Greenco certification, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability.
Data plays a critical role in driving these initiatives forward. It is utilised for tasks such as controlling process parameters, identifying areas for design optimisation, maximising material yield, and minimising rejection and rework. The ultimate objective is to achieve an environmentally friendly and sustainable manufacturing process, aligning with the broader goal of greening the supply chain.
Yogendra Kumar Saxena, Sustainability Advisor, contributed by adding that despite the availability of a wide range of products, including FMCG, in the Indian market, there is a lack of awareness and implementation of the Eco Mark, which has been in existence since the early 1990s. The Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have limited knowledge about the Eco Mark. This raises concerns about the focus on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and net zero goals when fundamental issues like garbage disposal and segregation, water and air pollution, and basic hygiene practices remain unaddressed. While sustainability, smart cities, and technological advancements like bullet trains are discussed, the essential aspects are often overlooked. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some consciousness toward hygiene, but sustainability, green purchasing, and ecofriendliness have become buzzwords without significant action or impact.
Large corporations need to pay more attention to their responsibility to support and develop smaller enterprises in greening their supply chains. Drive change requires active involvement from top management, particularly the Managing Director (MD), who should enforce the authority of the Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) across departments. This would incentivise finance, supply chain, marketing, and purchasing heads to prioritise sustainability. Sustainability and ESG reporting need to be more important than income tax return submissions, which receive scrutiny and evaluation. Objective judgment and individuals with expertise in evaluating sustainability practices are needed to identify areas lacking improvement.
Corporate Shift Toward Sustainability
Sandeep Chandna, Tech Mahindra – Chief Sustainability Officer, said, “In the past few years, there has been a significant shift in corporate behaviour, driven by regulatory requirements and the need for data disclosure and accountability Companies, including Tech Mahindra, have been actively addressing sustainability and have achieved top rankings globally. Disclosure of data has become crucial, with regulatory bodies and assurance agencies demanding third party validation of submitted data. This validation process has become more challenging than obtaining financial approval.”
In terms of scope as a manufacturer, the focus is on evaluating the eco-friendliness of the raw materials procured and the extent of their sustainability. Additionally, the environmental impact of transportation and packaging should be considered, aiming to minimise the use of plastics. A shift towards eco-friendly alternatives can be observed, such as in the airline industry, where companies like Vistara have adopted environmentally friendly practices. There is a positive trend towards sustainability and achieving targets for 2030, with substantial progress already made, such as the attainment of around 350 megawatts towards a target of 500 gigawatts in renewable energy generation. This progress highlights the ongoing commitment to sustainability and the collective efforts to drive positive change.
Net Zero Emissions
“Addressing emissions is crucial, and companies should focus on controlling and reducing their emissions through alternative fueling methods. Additionally, efforts should be made to counter emissions by implementing greening initiatives. It’s not solely the responsibility of one company, but a collective effort is needed to compensate for the lack of action from other organisations. This includes carbon sequestering and other measures on a larger scale. The concern extends beyond emissions to encompass the need for spreading prosperity and green practices in poverty areas. Achieving net zero involves offsetting carbon footprints and going beyond a reduction to have a positive impact,” added Mr. Zurvan Marolia.
Challenges faced by the manufacturing sector
Two key aspects of greening the supply chain are building a green consciousness and leveraging evolving technology. Building consciousness involves creating awareness and overcoming initial hesitations, especially for smaller businesses. Technology plays a crucial role in reducing environmental impact. Examples include advancements in pretreatment processes for steel, such as using low temperature chemicals and nanocoatings to minimise waste and energy consumption. Monitoring and utilising IoT (Industrial Internet of Things) enables providing customers with feedback on energy-efficient product usage. These incremental changes collectively contribute to sustainable practices, although no single solution or silver bullet exists.
The final factor is training and reskilling the workforce to adapt to changing demands. Technological advancements have significantly shifted the skills required for shop floor operators. Rather than relying on manual dexterity, operators now need to understand and program machines. Digitisation and sensors allow for condition-based maintenance and performance monitoring, resulting in improved quality. At Godrej, we have taken initiatives like the “Digi Next” program offering comprehensive training and diverse project exposure across different businesses to facilitate necessary reskilling. These three factors and ongoing technological evolution play a crucial role. Additionally, it is essential to consider utilising existing brownfield projects and enhancing their interconnectedness, as only some projects can be greenfield ones.
Mr. Sudhanshu Mani (IRSME), who retired from the Indian Railways Service of Mechanical Engineering as General Manager, added that the crucial point is that India cannot become a global leader in the industrial sector solely through manufacturing. While offering incentives, land, logistics support, and other advantages can attract companies to set up manufacturing units, it is essential to go beyond that. Beyond manufacturing entails developing indigenous products, technology, systems, and processes. By leveraging large-scale manufacturing alongside these developments, India can aspire to become a global leader. Taking the cue, developing countries like Japan and China started with manufacturing in their countries but later focused on developing their products. Japan began this transition in the 1950s, while China made significant strides in the last 15 years, particularly in areas like railway technology. Gradually, these products can be improved and leveraged to establish a global presence, reflecting the true essence of Make-in -India and Atmanirbhar Bharat.
Integrated sustainable practices
There needs to be more awareness regarding deploying sensors within construction to collect data. Many people must be aware that despite the prevalence of smart solutions and IoT, these technologies often need more integration. For instance, when using an electric vehicle and needing to charge it at various stations, separate apps and payment methods are required for each station, indicating a need for integration. As buyers, we must recognise these technological limitations and seek integrated solutions. As per Ms. Sakhee, creating awareness is crucial, especially for communities like INBAC, to promote reducing, reusing, and repurposing resources. In India, 2.4% of households are unelectrified, with 13% lacking grid connectivity, leaving around 240 million people without electricity. The cost to address this issue is significant, with an estimated 1 billion rupees required for every 1% increase in electrification. Furthermore, the hunger rate in India is 16.3%, highlighting the need to raise awareness about sustainable solutions. While achieving targets like 2030, 2050, and 2070 may be challenging, being on the right track and promoting awareness about technology, thoughtfulness, and collaboration is crucial.
According to Mr. Sudhanshu Mani, sustainability should be considered in two aspects: maintaining planned performance levels and expanding and minimising environmental impact through green materials and processes. The government is already taking initiatives towards greener railroad systems. However, in terms of Industry 4.0, significant progress has yet to be made, although there have been individual digital advancements in manufacturing workstations. The integration of a comprehensive Industry 4.0 system remains the next step for further enhancing the manufacturing capabilities of Indian Railways.
There is already a focus on adopting a cradle-to-grave approach for products, starting from the design stage, including selecting raw materials, processes, packaging, and customer comfort. Mr. Zurvan highlighted, “Additionally, there is an emphasis on ensuring that product components can be recycled, reused, or biodegraded at the end of their lifecycle. While not universally implemented, there is a growing practice of conducting lifecycle analyses for new products. Building sensitivity among customers is crucial to driving further adoption of sustainable practices. Some conscious organisations already offer to take back packaging materials for recycling to prevent waste. The existing efforts are commendable, but there is still a need for more widespread adoption, increased awareness, and discussions on sustainability.”
Mr. Sudhanshu Mani added that over the years, the reputation of Indian Railways has remained unchanged. However, the global trend in train design for the past few decades has been moving towards train sets without locomotives, where all equipment is onboard, and the space above is utilised for passenger amenities. This design allows for improved aerodynamics and aesthetics. There was a prolonged debate on importing such train sets or opting for local designs, causing significant delays. Regarding rapid rail manufacture, it is under the Ministry of Urban Development and has chosen the standard gauge, which offers no advantage over the broad gauge. Retaining flexibility by opting for a broad gauge would be more beneficial, allowing integration with the Indian Railways system at certain points. On the other hand, Vande Bharat aimed to utilise products from Indian companies, with design work done at ICF and various complicated systems sourced from competent Indian companies. This collaboration with the private sector and leveraging their capabilities and technology made the design and manufacturing process more cost-effective.
Deployment of technology
Mr. Sandeep added that while lifecycle analysis (LCA) is already in place, integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics can enhance reusability and optimise data sourcing and quality. AI, particularly predictive analytics and maintenance, contributes to energy reduction, waste minimisation, and recyclability. This technology currently offers customers solutions such as heat reduction measures and waste-to-energy plants. Technologies like data analytics and the potential of quantum computing are becoming increasingly significant in driving sustainability efforts.
Mr. Zurvan emphasises that our primary focus should be prioritising the customer and ensuring they are at the centre of our thinking. Additionally, it is crucial to educate and raise awareness among customers to promote sustainability. Another important aspect is the need to invest in reskilling our workforce and implementing appropriate automation solutions tailored to our specific requirements. Recognising that each situation is unique and should be approached accordingly is essential. Finally, the notable thing is that the planet we have today is not what we inherited from our parents but borrowed from our future generations.
Nowadays, buyers are more interested in understanding the “why” behind a product or service before considering the “how.” If we consistently adopt this mindset, it will lead to the emergence of improved MSMEs, startups, and industries over generations. It is important for us to consciously evaluate our purchasing decisions based on both profitability and purpose. Making profits is essential, but they should serve a greater purpose.