View from India: Manufacturing industry is working on sustainable goals

Nurturing the environment is essential for planet protection, hence manufacturing companies are working on sustainable solutions.

India is home to several manufacturing companies, many of which are old legacy brands. They need to reshape their outlook and strategise waste management to address climate change. For instance, many old machines that consume a lot of energy need to be replaced with energy-efficient ones. Then, if there are any low-hanging fruit in the value chain, they can be easily replaced or eliminated.

Efforts towards ensuring circularity in economy and energy efficiency can lead India on the path towards its net-zero goal. “A sustainable value chain needs to be deployed and scaled across the business. Perhaps regulatory measures towards data and de-carbonisation could be brought in for better outcomes. This could also be seen as an opportunity for delving into R&D options,” said Michel Fredeau, managing director and senior partner at Boston Consulting Group, France, speaking at the CII Manufacturing Conclave 2022. 

It’s necessary to convince customers and re-shape the business model; skill development is needed when a business model undergoes a change. To arrive at net-zero products, the business model could also include recycling units. This could be an opportunity waiting to be tapped. “India generates 62 million tonnes of waste annually. We need to put on our thinking caps to repurpose the waste for diverse applications. This could evolve into a self-sustaining industry. These broad-based thoughts need to incorporate solutions to make allied elements beneficial,” said Nishant Arya, vice chairman of JBM Group and chairman of Linde Wiemann Gmbh.

To be a clean, green manufacturing hub, green hydrogen projects can be rolled out for carbon-capture efforts. “The roadblocks in the green journey need to be fixed. For instance, the fragmented parts of the distribution system need to be brought together. We need a framework for energy policies. Natural gas could bridge the demand for fuel or even replace it,” explained R Mukundan, chief executive officer and MD at Tata Chemicals Limited.

Coming to the environment, alternative forms of energy such as solar, wind and hydrogen should become mainstream. Technology investments can help to fulfil industry-level goals such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It would be nice to look at sustainability in inclusion; all of this could reinforce the manufacturing industry.

Shared responsibility for a clean planet will involve the manufacturing unit, government and NGOs. Manufacturing companies could initiate green projects with the trust of stakeholders. “We have improved vehicle efficiency through green factories and vapour-absorption machines. Our aim is to make the workplace conducive to attract the right talent and achieve product recyclability and circular supply chain. Our move towards the goal is by enrolling dealerships, suppliers and customers,” added Apurva Gupta, chief sustainability officer of Hero MotoCorp. The green endeavour includes sewage water plant and zero liquid discharge plant. The company has innovated and arrived at plants that are greenhouses with a green roof. Aided by hydroponics technology, these plants require about 2 per cent of the water compared to actual farming. Carbon dioxide is recycled into the greenhouse, thereby enhancing the plants' photosynthesis. The green walls generate oxygen and give back to the work environment.

Technology should be implemented for lowering waste collection, as industries move towards green manufacturing. This is where business opportunities are abound for R&D professionals, who can evaluate solutions to make manufacturing sustainable. “Tech tools and data can be maximised for lowering waste in the supply chain. The incremental cost will be a move towards carbon neutrality; technology can evolve to serve the needs of alternative energies. Kirloskar Oil Engines Ltd has installed a plant unit that can convert 100kg of plastic waste to fuel plant, whose characteristics are similar to that of diesel,” added Gauri A Kirloskar, vice president, Kirloskar Industries Limited.

Manufacturing Industry 4.0 calls for capital investment towards sustainability goals. However, these investments may not have paybacks from day one, so the investments could be small. Another way of looking at it could be to scout for policies that can favour capital, with less interest rates. The operations of Manufacturing 4.0 will be based on data, which can throw light on the operations and give an insight into consumer preferences. All this needs to be backed by cyber security. “Technology readiness with infrastructure readiness is essential to address climate change. Carbon investments could be incentivised through a marketplace approach to create right solutions for addressing climate change. PLANET 2050 is our company’s target to be carbon neutral,” observed Ashwath Ram, managing director at Cummins India Ltd. Employee engagement for spreading awareness and using natural resources is part of the PLANET 2050 initiative. As per this agenda, processes and products are being redesigned to eliminate wastage, repurpose materials and work towards water neutrality. The framework also includes community partnerships and reducing greenhouse gas emission.

Technology can drive value for the organisation’s growth. Sustainability drives scalability and that, in turn, drives profitability. We need to capitalise on technology to make the manufacturing company sustainable. “Manufacturing should be a low-carbon initiative in order to attract global customers. It should also be cost competitive. As far as possible, green technology needs to be implemented. This should be followed by green finance and supportive policies to make India a green manufacturing hub,” reasoned Mahendra Singhi, MD and CEO at Dalmia Cement (Bharat) Ltd and COP 26 Business Leader.  

COP26 could be a joint effort of nations to improve the global economy. However, the approach towards COP26 may differ from country to country. “Climate financing goals need to be set along with regulatory frameworks and implemented in a practical manner. After all, at a global level one nation should not gain above the other,” concluded Kirloskar.

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