Smarter sustainability: Smart manufacturing and the global energy crisis

Commodity shortages have been a regular occurrence of the past few years. From flour to semiconductors, supply chains have struggled to adapt quickly to disruption, leaving consumers without items they previously took for granted. But bubbling away the whole time has been a growing problem with the supply of something even more fundamental: energy.  There are different factors at play in different regions, but they all result in a critical shortage of energy for homes and businesses.

The Covid pandemic has had a major influence, disrupting the balance between energy supply and demand after swathes of factories shut down for months due to the virus. In addition, climate fluctuations have hit green energy supply, with hydroelectricity and wind energy production significantly down in parts of the world. The combination of these factors, together with unfortunate timing, has created a perfect storm situation which has few solutions. And once the current crisis is alleviated, the question remains whether major energy supply issues will be a fact of life in years to come?

A quick recap

We are now at a point that could be viewed as a ‘third age’ of corporate sustainability and energy efficiency focus. Having moved from growing awareness but little action in the 1970s and 1980s, businesses began actively promoting their ‘green’ credentials in the 1990s and 2000s. Much of this might be considered superficial, if well-meant, today. But since then, many companies have realised there is a secondary benefit to focusing on their sustainable practices beyond sustainability – efficiency leads to profitability. Rightly or wrongly, it took this realisation to spark industry into genuine action, but either way, it needed to happen.

More recently, extreme weather events appear to have increased, adding considerable urgency to sustainability objectives, which include the Paris Agreement signed in 2015 to limit climate increase to 1.5 °C.  Businesses and consumers are becoming more aware that the planet is edging towards a point of no return regarding our climate, and the prospect of ongoing energy shortages further amplifies the need for increased energy efficiency.

So, what measures can factories implement to limit future disruption?

Clearly, an ability to produce energy locally would be a huge benefit, but few sites can generate 100% of their own requirements. Next to this, being able to accurately measure and control energy use throughout the manufacturing process can instantly improve energy efficiency. The resulting gains can, at least, reduce exposure to spiking energy costs – another symptom of these crises.

As this quote from suggests, smart manufacturing techniques can have a major impact in energy intensive manufacturing processes: “An economic impact analysis conducted by PNNL and CESMII outlines energy usage in key industry verticals – pulp & paper, iron & steel, chemicals, petroleum refining, food & beverage. More importantly, it highlights the immediate improvement gains in these (and other) industry verticals through Smart Manufacturing technologies such as sensing, control, predictive modeling, diagnostics, monitoring, etc. The improvement gain ranges from as little as 5% to as much as 30%.”

The famous (and variously attributed) quote “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” is applicable here, but it only reveals a small portion of the overall picture. While it is important to be able to measure a process, the decisions made regarding what to do with the obtained data are equally, if not more, important.

Smart manufacturing is a multi-step strategy to boost efficiency and autonomy in all manufacturing processes, and can unlock the true potential of your manufacturing ecosystem. Key to the smart manufacturing concept is the acquisition of data and the ability to put it to work across platforms in powerful ways. Through a seamless, integrated data exchange, smart manufacturing increases productivity, quality and safety, providing greater ability to predict and adjust to changes in supply chains or customer demand.  Resulting efficiency gains can then help soften the blow dealt by energy price increases and make production more sustainable.

Delivering smarter efficiency in manufacturing and beyond

Convergence of trends and technologies such as internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, artificial intelligence brings connectivity to all systems, from machines in production facilities to heating and cooling management systems. These technologies optimise asset performance through data analytics and insights from domain know-how. They enable feedback loops to drive continuous improvement and process optimisation, removing common challenges like data silos, data gaps, data wastage, which combine to maximise overall efficiency of the operation.

Hexagon’s expert team can help you bring smart technology to your manufacturing facility, unleashing the enormous range of benefits that follow in smart manufacturing’s wake. In addition, Hexagon’s technology is working to make the future of clean power generation more efficient. Our equipment and software deliver improvements to the manufacture of wind turbines, the maintenance of hydroelectric power plants, and much more. Hexagon’s commitment to a sustainable future is also evident through the founding of R-evolution, a wholly-owned subsidiary tasked with driving forward the sustainable applications of Hexagon’s combined capabilities.

Partnering with Hexagon can offer your business end-to-end efficiency enhancements that deliver resilience and agility during times of uncertainty. Find out more by contacting your Hexagon representative today.



  • Siddhant Gupta

    Siddhant Gupta (Sid) is VP Global Energy Practice Lead for Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence division. He has more than 12 years of experience in the global energy sector, having led numerous digital transformation and de-carbonisation businesses. Prior to Hexagon, Sid was responsible for the Future Grid business at Siemens in APAC, focused on solar, battery storage and eMobility infrastructure. He started his career with Rolls Royce Power Systems, leading an Energy Storage (hydrogen, battery and thermal) segment in Europe. He has also driven digital transformation in a gas power generation business in US, and at an oil and gas business in the Middle East. Sid is passionate about sustainability and is keen to drive the transition to renewable energy, sustainable manufacturing and zero emission mobility.

  • Join our HxGN LIVE Events Worldwide

    Hexagon hosts exciting HxGN LIVE events around the globe! Experience our technology innovations in a location near you.

  • Recent Posts