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How Digital Transformation Enhances Sustainability

By ·Categories: Industrial IoT·Published On: August 2nd, 2022·5.7 min read·

Digital transformation and sustainability is a widely discussed topic. OT professionals responsible for production lines, manufacturing facilities and factories are keen to identify ways to leverage the data their machines are producing every day. 

The benefits of digital transformation are clear, and include: 

  • Improved operational efficiency 
  • Minimized waste 
  • Reduced costs
  • Enhanced quality of manufactured products
  • Faster response to market requirements and customer demands

However, most businesses have a long way to go to realize these benefits. In fact, paper logs are often still archived in file folders and data is stored on local hard drives or servers with shaky VPN connections. Emails are often still sent with large data sets or even printed out. Relevant data may be stored locally and may not be accessible to all who need it. Companies that don’t embrace digital technologies will most likely struggle in the future. In this blog, we address how digital transformation can directly impact and enhance the sustainability goals of a business.

Why is progress in digital transformation still slow at the moment?

“Digitization, especially in the context of Industry 4.0, is a crucial factor for success in global competition.”

Christina Franke from Robert Bosch GmbH, member of the Research Advisory Board of Plattform Industrie 4.0

Despite the awareness of Industry 4.0’s potential, digital transformation is still proceeding slowly in many industries. This was the conclusion of a study by the two Fraunhofer Institutes for Labor management and organization (Arbeitswirtschaft und Organisation, IAO) and Production Technology and Automation (IPA).

The reasons for this slow evolution are diverse, including:

  • Conscious decisions not to extend digital transformation because the organization does not see any added financial value 
  • General contentedness with the status quo of current processes
  • Lack of awareness and know-how at the management level 
  • Difficulties in upgrading and connecting old equipment
  • Lack of qualified personnel

To that last point, Gartner, Inc reports that 64 percent of IT executives cite talent shortages as the most significant barrier to the adoption of emerging technology in their publication 2021-2023 Emerging Technology Roadmap for Large Enterprises.

The COVID-19 pandemic also had a considerable impact on digital transformation plans as budget dollars were reallocated away from digitization and toward collaboration tools for remote work initiatives. 

How can digital transformation and sustainability be reconciled?

Digitization and sustainability are among the biggest issues of our time and extend into all areas of a business. At first glance, these two fields seem to be completely contradictory. After all, technological innovations require resources. At the same time, companies are under increasing pressure to operate sustainably and often have dedicated teams assigned to pursue initiatives related to sustainability. 

In 2015, at the New York Summit, the United Nations saw the need for this reconciliation and established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals are a “blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. The ninth goal directly addresses digital transformation and sustainability and includes a commitment to building a resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation.

Digital transformation and sustainable business practices go hand in hand

Through digital transformation, an organization can realize a number of benefits that not only impact the business’ bottom line, but also embrace sustainability and support the UN agenda for sustainable development. For example, when was the last time you used a digital camera, MP3 player, a paper calendar, a notebook or a phone book? Today, your smartphone handles all of these tasks. Some other examples include: 

  • Building automation using smart technologies ensures sustainable and more efficient use of energy.
  • Electronics in modern vehicles support a more environmentally friendly driving style.
  • Machine vision on roadside mowing tractors can identify and avoid animal habitats and litter while reducing processing costs.

With the Federal Environment Ministry’s environmental digital agenda, Germany has the first strategy in Europe that combines sustainability and digitization. It also serves to promote a digitally supported circular economy and to drive the transformation of the mobility, agriculture and energy sectors.

Examples for a green digital transformation

Now you may wonder what actual real-world examples look like in which digital transformation enhances sustainability. Here are some examples of how our customers are creating sustainable solutions with the help of our hardware.

Photo of various OnLogic Industrial and Rugged Computers

 

Digital transformation in manufacturing

One company that has been dedicated to the digital and sustainable transformation of production processes for years is the Austrian snowboard manufacturer Capita MFG

“Digitalization in a manufacturing company is a process that is never fully completed.”

Miha Sprincnik, Production Manager at Capita MFG

The entire design and energy supply of the production facility “Mothership” is highly innovative and sustainable. In fact, Capita sources 98% of the materials used for the snowboards locally within a 5-hour drive of The Mothership to reduce their carbon footprint. With their low power consumption and ability to be placed close to other production equipment, the OnLogic Karbon Series of Rugged PCs fits perfectly into Capita’s goals. Learn more in our customer story.

Supporting biodiversity by digitization

You probably know of at least one invasive plant species. They grow quickly and multiply at a rapid pace. On riverbanks, forest paths and roadsides, they can displace native vegetation and impact the food chain. 

Dutch company Datacadabra is tackling this problem with its intelligent mowing system MowHawk. Using computer vision, the mower detects invasive plant species. These are mowed separately from the other vegetation. Thus, the clippings can be safely disposed afterwards. The MowHawk features 4G and can send plant location data and other information directly to the cloud. Datacadabra leverages the OnLogic Karbon Series of Rugged PCs for their MowHawk system.

The MowHawk - a Computer Vision camera mounted on a tractor

For mobile applications like the Mowhawk, hardware must have the ability to withstand impact forces, vibrations and highly variable operating temperatures. Moreover, the durability of OnLogic PCs ensures that less electronic waste pollutes the environment. Read more about Datacadabra’s intelligent mowing system in our customer story.

Digitalize today – be ready for tomorrow

Digital transformation is a long-term process, which involves cooperation and input from multiple teams across all levels of an organization. But it’s an effort that holds incredible value. As you have seen, you can directly incorporate the business objectives of digital transformation and sustainability and thus set two processes in motion. And it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. The best time to get started is today.

Start your digital transformation with OnLogic

OnLogic industrial PCs offer a long lifecycle and lots of I/O options for legacy equipment. Looking to interface an older machine to the IIoT? We can help. Contact our technical team today!  

 

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About the Author: Nadja Schaubhut

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