“Green IT” and “IT for Green”, technology at the service of the planet
In the first part of this article, we saw what are the steps that a manufacturing company must follow to reduce its carbon footprint, in this second part we will try to understand the role of technology to achieve this goal and the difference between "Green IT" and "IT for Green".
Green digital transformation
All manufacturing companies, from the largest to the smallest, have by now digitized themselves in some way. To remain competitive in the market, companies must embrace digital transformation as a continuous process that is constantly evolving.
As levels of digitization increase, it is important to examine the environmental impact of digital technologies and to explore how they can actively help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and improve the circular economy. Assessing the environmental impact of digital technologies – from the extraction of minerals to the energy use and emissions of the technology – is vital as their impact can be significant. On the other hand, digital technologies have huge potential to reduce emissions. It is estimated that nearly a third of the 50% carbon emissions reductions the UK needs to make by 2030 could be achieved through existing digital technology. For companies to achieve net zero targets, digitization and decarbonization need to go hand in hand, and digital service providers and partners need to provide companies with truly useful technology that enables this.
By Green IT, we mean all those technologies or technological and digital processes with a reduced energy consumption, compared to the “more traditional” technologies. This category includes the technological infrastructure that companies use daily, such as all electronic devices, data centers or industrial machinery.
To be more energy efficient in a manufacturing enterprise, it is not enough to change one device to another more energy efficient one, as we might do at home with a washing machine or any other appliance. Instead, it is important to identify how to better use the technology. Obviously, it is possible to reduce the energy consumption of industrial machinery without necessarily having to change them and without having to change the use of technology, but on the other hand it is crucial to have a better data orchestration to reduce energy consumption due to the processing of the same.
The main difference between industry 3.0 and 4.0 is the generation, collection and use of data. This data is generated by the machines themselves, by the intelligent and connected products that are produced or by sensors that can be introduced into a digital transformation process. But the continued growth of data, forecast at 26% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) also presents a climate risk, because data requires storage, which requires power, all results in further emissions.
So, what to do?
First, we need to identify where, how and when this data is processed, what we want to do and what benefits we want to derive from it.
Then, we need to identify with whom and how we want to share this data.
For example, if you need to use specific data that is generated and processed directly in the same factory, there is no reason to send all the data to the cloud, you can use the real-time data in the same factory and only send the necessary data to the cloud, thus avoiding consuming energy in computing and sending data. This is just a small example that serves to understand how to improve the efficiency of the technology used. With a correct data use policy that includes a good architecture of the use of technologies such as HPC, Edge computing, hybrid cloud, multi-cloud orchestration or 5G and Wi-Fi 6, you can significantly reduce the energy consumption of IT infrastructures and help to decarbonize your operations.
IT For Green
Technology is not only a tool that is needed for daily use of companies to produce or perform certain tasks, but it is a powerful tool that can actively help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Through digital platforms and sensors, we can monitor and manage the energy consumption of machinery, lighting, cooling and carry out preventive maintenance to always have maximum efficiency.
We can also coordinate the supply chain, reduce transport or encourage proximity consumption.
With technologies such as additive manufacturing, it is now possible to produce a component in different materials such as plastics, resins, metals or ceramics in the place of use, without having to send and mass produce or store stock.
With technologies such as Augmented Reality, the digital workplace we can give remote support to customers and colleagues on the other side of the world without having to travel.
And with digital visual quality inspection systems, we can not only prevent consumers from receiving defective products but prevent them from being transported.
It is essential to have an overview of the technological opportunities that surround us, to know what effects they have on one's business and the benefits they can bring to consumers. While technology can have a significant impact on the environment, it should also be central to the decarbonization policy of any manufacturing company. We believe digitization and decarbonization should be pushed forward together to drive net zero transition, build operational resilience, and help futureproof your business.