Building a greener, more resilient industrial sector is a must for long-term survival

Organisations across the globe are accelerating to reach a net zero future. However, there are still many businesses in the industrial sector paralysed by not knowing where to begin, even though others have been taking full advantage of clean technology solutions for some time.

While there are many forms of support available to guide business on the journey to energy efficiency, the obvious best first step for leaders is identifying a solution that delivers tangible results at the outset with a significant outcome. In fact, achieving more than 80% reduction in carbon emissions is realistic.

What we are seeing at Schneider Electric is that the industrial sector specifically relies on four pillars. These are: reducing energy wastage; shifting away from energy intensive products and services, and fossil fuels; moving towards 100 percent renewable electricity; and figuring out the best way to offset residual energy.

Energy efficiency, circular economy, material substitution, and optimising production are practical approaches that are especially relevant to the industrial sector. After all, if the COVID-19 pandemic and globalisation have shown the world anything, it is that our industries need to be resilient and highly adaptable to survive a variety of potential disasters with far-reaching and unexpected impact.

Why aren’t businesses making the switch?

Some of the biggest hurdles for many businesses are uncertainty and lack of understanding. This makes education and sharing best practice an important precursor to clear actionable roadmaps.

Misconceptions around the financial implications of green initiatives is also a considerable barrier that can be a major deterrent. This is further exacerbated by insufficient government support and green funding, especially for small to medium enterprises.

However, making sustainable investments needn’t be accompanied by a budget deficit. By understanding what level of energy efficiency is possible and mapping out exactly what this looks like, a company can find a solution that achieves energy targets and is cost effective. In fact, the former contributes to the latter.

Leading by example encourages others

An important influence driving companies to begin their energy efficiency transformation is through access to real world case studies. And there are multiple industry-leading projects that should serve as ample inspiration for going green.

Business leaders are essential to helping others get started, especially when it comes to eliminating hesitance of peers who are unsure how to start their own organisations. Sharing experiences is key to generating sector-wide success, which is why Schneider Electric places great importance on sharing its experience, learnings, and wins with customers and other industry stakeholders.

 Digitisation is key to a greener future

One of the more prominent lessons that many companies have seen is the importance of digitisation. COVID-19 has driven a need within industry and other sectors to operate at maximum, or even accelerated, capacity with the added complexity of integrating remote operations and often with fewer employees than in a pre-COVID market.

This has fast tracked the digital revolution, commonly referred to as Industry 4.0, forcing operations and monitoring to become more and more digitised, far more quickly than the pre-COVID trajectory. This shift is especially apparent in Australia, which was quite slow to adopt technological developments compared to its global peers prior to the pandemic.

Furthermore, digitising electrical systems is having an exponential positive effect on operations. In fact, the more digitised an operation is, the more control it has over its energy usage and thus better capacity to optimise production while minimising energy consumption and operating costs.

Digital transformation is imperative for the industrial sector for its economic benefits in both the short and long term, as well as its positive impact on decarbonisation.

Whether a company is just starting on its journey or is looking to step up its sustainability practices, digitisation clears the way for planning and implementing the most effective solutions for moving from issue to outcome successfully, with confidence and at pace.

Regardless of how big or small the change, with organisations around the world increasingly setting net zero targets, accelerating the transition to decarbonisation and energy efficiency is a must for long-term survival in the industrial sector.

By Mauro Dellemonache, VP Industry & Process Automation, Schneider Electric

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