Why you should drive sustainability with inspection system upgrades

In 1992, some 1700 scientists signed a document called “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity”. The opening sentence of this short document reads: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course”. 25 years later, a second notice was released. This document was signed by over 15 000 scientists.

This is just one illustration of how the importance of sustainability has become more recognised over the years. In turn, sustainability has become an important responsibility for businesses, and this is only going to become more crucial in the coming years.

There are numerous environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reasons for manufacturers to adopt sustainability policies, but there are also strong business-centred incentives.

Firstly, research on the impact of business activities on emissions is only going to ramp up. While this offers opportunities for improvement, it also means that the brands of today’s biggest polluters are being associated with high emissions and low sustainability. The impact this is having on buying behaviours among consumers in fashion and tourism is already well-documented, and no doubt the B2B world will feel the effects too.

Another factor is the increasing political appetite for more stringent regulations. Businesses that prepare by adopting more sustainable practices in advance will experience a smoother operational transition.

So what does all this mean for manufacturing? No doubt, sustainability will change the face of the industry. And as we enter the era of Industry 4.0, sustainability will be a key part of an organisation’s digital transformation initiative.

In a way, sustainable practices will be an effect of these initiatives, because the unparalleled productivity and efficiency delivered by smarter manufacturing should inevitably mean less waste and less downtime. Even so, thinking about how to actively drive sustainability and putting it at the forefront of these initiatives will lead to greater benefits.

Naturally this is going to involve tough leadership decisions and intensive changes throughout a company, but here we are looking at opportunities in the quality department that can help start delivering sustainability and savings. This might be summed up with a simple mantra: “there is no smart factory without smarter CMMs.”

Maintaining a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) throughout its service life is in itself a productive sustainability practice from the perspective of saving energy and material utilisation at the OEM-level. But this also holds true for the CMM customer; a CMM that’s kept in good working order lowers the risk of measurement issues, which helps reduce scrap and reworking.

In addition, maintenance ensures that your CMM continues to operate within its prescribed energy consumption specification. Upgrading a machine with solutions that can cut off air supply when the CMM is idle is not only environmentally responsible but offers significant savings on costly compressed air.

But even a well-maintained CMM can be pushed further to do more for your sustainability. Metrology hardware and software capabilities are continually expanding. Over your CMM’s service life there will be a number of ways in which your machine could be enhanced to benefit from new features and functionality and deliver greater improvements to quality and production.

A CMM upgrade could involve any number of enhancements. You could install automated CMM monitoring to ensure your measurement data integrity is unaffected by changes in environmental conditions (and therefore you’re not wasting energy and time on unusable results). You might replace the controller with a new model, expanding the sensor options of your CMM and potentially increasing the efficiency of inspection routines. Or you could utilise technologies that automate various aspects of  inspection, such as part recognition, alignment, and loading.

Of course, the best upgrade options for you depends on your quality issues and production objectives. But the main point to be made here is that CMM upgrades help to simultaneously enhance profitability and sustainability, primarily by driving two core savings: time and money. Furthermore, by introducing new capabilities you extend the life of your CMM and reduce the risk of prematurely disposing of the machine due to obsolesce.

By upgrading the machine and replacing components reaching end-of-life, you save on both the cost of maintenance and trying to secure replacement parts, which might not just be expensive but difficult and time-consuming to find. And by updating these components before they are no longer supported, you reduce the risk of downtime.

Upgrades can push such savings further with the kind of new capabilities we’ve looked at in this blog (and the as yet undiscovered capabilities on the horizon). In particular, the advancements that increase efficiency by shortening programming and cycle times are where profitability and sustainability really come together to make manufacturing smarter.

So what upgrades are going to help you build sustainability and profitability into your quality operations?

Visit our System Upgrades page to learn more about Hexagon’s wide range of CMM upgrade options.

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