According to industry experts, automation is the next major upgrade that most manufacturers should make if they want operations that are more efficient and sustainable. Citing reduced emissions and overall environmental impact as the most important considerations in their decision-making process, companies are turning to robotics and automated manufacturing in rapidly increasing numbers. Manufacturers can modify automated robotics to perform any number of inefficient and wasteful manual operations from conveyor belt assembly to final product packaging. Read on for three of the primary ways that automation in manufacturing can help you offset your carbon footprint.
1. Improved Efficiency
There is no denying that automation’s enhanced efficiencies and cleaner operations translate into considerable environmental gains. The heavy-duty manual machinery and equipment that workers use on the traditional factory floor emit substantial carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming and air pollution far more than modern, electronic, automated robotics. In fact, studies have shown that automating your manufacturing processes can cut your overall carbon emissions in half.
It is important to remember that robotics are far from replacing human workers in today’s automated factories. People have an ingenuity that machines simply cannot replicate; however, robots can often perform specific manufacturing tasks far more proficiently than their human counterparts, and this proficiency translates to significantly greener operations. In addition to running on clean electricity, industrial robots tend to require considerably less energy to function.
Manufacturers who are not quite willing or able to switch to 100% automated operations immediately would be wise to make partial or incremental changes over time. For example, you might want to consider replacing the fleet of gas-powered forklifts in your warehouse with electric-powered picker robots that can autonomously perform the same tasks faster, more efficiently, and without the noxious fumes.
2. Mitigated Errors
In addition to delivering high-quality products with less energy and less waste, automated manufacturing is far more efficient because it supports higher quality control and puts a stop to common mistakes. Many of the tasks assumed by manufacturing robots are quite menial and tedious in nature: in short, just the kind of tasks that are most susceptible to generating errors in the hands of human workers operating manual machines.
By limiting the risk of these errors and preventing the loss of productivity and clean-up costs that errors ultimately cause, a switch to automation can save your manufacturing company considerable amounts of time and money. It can also result in a dramatic reduction of your company’s overall carbon footprint.
Once again, it is important to note that robots must be installed and programmed by competent human workers in order to ensure that they operate free of error. However, the mistakes that may occur in a fully automated manufacturing process are easier to anticipate, avoid, and control. When a serious unforeseen problem does occur, workers can typically intervene to address this problem far more quickly and effectively.
This is because modern automated systems allow for comprehensive, real-time monitoring and integrated data analysis that can not only fix errors but stop them from happening. They can also determine the exact points in the manufacturing process that are contributing to your carbon footprint the most.
3. Eco-Friendly Projects
In addition to re-imagining the traditional manual manufacturing facility with an eye on greater efficiency, fewer mistakes, less waste, and improved sustainably, the modern automation movement has fueled a number of eco-friendly projects that are offsetting the relatively meager carbon emissions that robotics produce.
For example, scientists and engineers have developed robots to assist in the collection of wave and solar energy. The Boeing company Liquid Robotics has garnered considerable attention for its Wave Glider: a fully automated robotic boat that harvests sunlight from above and ocean waves from below.
Automated systems can also save resources by aiding in recycling processes, picking and sorting recyclable material with considerably greater speed and effectiveness than human workers can. The effective use of recyclables can go a long way when it comes to shrinking your overall carbon footprint.
Incredibly, automated robots are even literally making the world greener by planting trees. While human workers and volunteers have done wonders when it comes to planting trees and other forms of CO2-consuming vegetation close to towns and cities, it is often difficult for them to access remote and unpopulated areas. However, a fleet of drones can rain seeds down from the sky virtually anywhere on the globe. Just a few technicians and operators can fly these drones miles from civilization, greenifying vast areas of land that would otherwise be inaccessible or take thousands of human tree-planters countless hours to cover.