The clean energy transition and manufacturing

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Industry 5.0 objectives of human awareness and sustainability require a complete rethink of manufacturing operations. In part 9 of our Energy Transition Talks podcast series, CGI expert Helena Jochberger shares with Peter Warren how the energy transition is fueling this transformation and the role of digital technologies, data and ecosystem collaboration in supporting a green future in manufacturing.

"Manufacturing is at a turning point," says Helena. In the last decade, the industry has focused on Industry 4.0 objectives of digitizing processes, achieving operational excellence and making the business more agile. Due to the accelerating climate crisis, sustainability has become a key factor that manufacturers need to consider, which complements the European Commission's definition of Industry 5.0 and its focus on human awareness and sustainability.

Technology as an enabler to drive sustainability

Governments and legislation are pushing organizations to meet 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. At the same time, the long-term effects of the pandemic continue to plague the industry. "We live in such a volatile or VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world" says Helena. The energy life cycle has become very complex. "There are multiple benchmarks, including technical, social, economic, and environmental aspects," she adds. Technology can be an enabler and accelerator of environmental sustainability within manufacturing. "Especially data analytics can support multi-criteria decision-making in real-time for energy planning, optimization and consumption."

On the one hand, digital factories or smart factories are poised to realize Industry 4.0 objectives while striving for true sustainability and human-centricity. On the other hand, technologies like digital twins that offer granularity at the machine level can help achieve energy-saving targets. "A digital twin of the value chain is a good example of how manufacturers can get a clear picture of actual performance and improve their situational awareness and operational flexibility," Helena comments.

Investing in clean energy infrastructure

She also notes that players in the European aviation industry have been looking at alternative propulsion technologies for a few years now. These explorations are around electric options for short-haul flights, with hydrogen likely winning out for long-haul journeys. "There's really a revolution going on, though not immediately, because you have long development cycles, especially in aerospace," she says, adding that this transformation will include huge process and system design changes.

However, this shift will also require supporting infrastructure. With many companies committing to 2050 as their climate-neutral targets, Helena says it will be interesting to see how fast the industry evolves to meet them: "I think infrastructural changes need to be accompanied by governmental policies and structures to speed up the process."

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