Why Creating Value Through Your Sustainability Goals May Be Easier Than You Think

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By: Limuel Sagadraca and Thomas Risley at Life Cycle Engineering

As published in Manufacturing Today

Are you feeling under pressure to improve your plant’s environmental footprint and operate more sustainably? Stressed because of the investment it will take, not to mention the time to overhaul your plant? If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

No matter where you sit on the ESG scale, there’s some good news. Where ESG used to feel like an expensive obligation, it’s actually an improvement opportunity…and you’ve probably already done more work than you realize. You don’t need a huge investment in the latest advancement or carbon capture technology to move the needle. You also don’t need a sweeping overhaul to your plant. Small initiatives can drive big changes.

All those processes you’re implementing in your organization to reduce operational expenses, drive productivity and increase production are the same ones that can help drive your ESG goals. What’s good for business is frequently aligned with your sustainability goals. Improved asset reliability and performance, reduced waste, and education of your workers can have a significant impact on both productivity and your carbon footprint. When you’re working smarter, you’re not only managing operations more efficiently – you’re also creating a more effective plant that is better positioned to meet sustainability goals.

Do you know what matters most to your employees, customers, and investors?

We all know how challenging it can be to make changes to our organizations – but what are the risks of not changing? ESG has become increasingly tied to customer expectations, regulatory activities and stakeholder demands. You may be addressing these areas separately, but often they are tied together. Manufacturers are faced with aggressive emissions reduction goals, and it seems every supplier out there wants to sell you the perfect technology or solution to solve your sustainability problems.

Knowing where to start is the first challenge to overcome. Using capital to invest in big projects that drive efficiency may not be an option. Bringing in an outside consultant or expertise early on in your journey can help you understand what changes can provide the biggest opportunity to maximize your investment.

Solutions for better sustainability also lead to improved efficiency

Developing a roadmap to success can ensure all your people, processes, assets, and technology are working together. Start by understanding what ESG looks like for your organization — what are some quick wins and easy steps versus longer term goals? Set these goals and invest in educating your workers. They are about to receive a lot of new information, so their new skills and abilities will be a key part of your success.

Be sure to make room for application and transferring learning to the workplace. Have a method to capture and report on results delivered from actions taken after training. Identifying the correct measures and indicators are key to your success. This isn’t only to celebrate the success of the learner, but to realize the return on your training investment.

Technology can help you adapt as the spotlight on ESG grows stronger

Adopting a new mindset is key to success and it begins with the understanding that the latest technology or shiny new plant isn’t always enough to achieve your goals. Instituting best practices to better integrate and manage assets, internal processes, and people can help to achieve efficient operations, increase sustainability, reduce costs, and improve reliability.

When managed properly, your data, assets, processes, projects, technology, and reporting are all working together in what we call a smart culture. Here are a few tools you can implement in your plant to help improve your ESG performance:

Preventive maintenance

Conducting regular equipment inspections and maintenance can help prevent equipment failures, reduce downtime, and improve efficiency, which can reduce waste and energy consumption.

Invest in agnostic software systems

Determining whether best-of-breed technologies or one platform is best for your needs is key. Each has pluses and minuses but most important is getting the functionalities and openness to better integrate with other technologies. They can help make data-driven decisions and improve quality, productivity, and profitability. These programs can also lead to reduced energy consumption by ensuring the overall plant is operating at optimal efficiency.

Optimize processes through data analysis

Use data analytics tools to identify inefficiencies in manufacturing processes, such as excess energy consumption or material waste, and help your plant run better, faster, cheaper, and safer.

Implement energy-efficient technologies

Technologies like LED lighting, variable speed drives, and energy-efficient motors can help reduce energy consumption and improve sustainability.

Develop and implement sustainability strategies

Work with stakeholders to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing carbon emissions, improving waste management, and promoting renewable energy sources.

 Still deliberating on sustainability and ESG strategies?

When it comes to ESG and how organizations are delivering on their goals, consumers, investors, and employees have spoken and their authority and influence is increasing in both size and impact.

The ‘one-and-done approach’ for your sustainability goals just doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to be laser-focused on your ESG efforts not only across your organization but your whole supply chain. Small changes can and will make a difference, but having a roadmap for continuous improvement to help get you started on your journey to your ultimate goal is key. With the right vision, plan, and execution you can ensure long-term success and profitability for your business, while also contributing to a better world.

Limuel Sagadraca is Vice President, Reliability Consulting Group and Thomas Risley is Director, Energy Programs at LCE. For more than 50 years, LCE has helped organizations, large and small, public and private, local and global, transform how they think, understand and manage the life cycle of their assets to meet business goals. It provides consulting, engineering, information technology and education solutions that deliver lasting results.