Benefits of connecting automation to sustainability goals

Understand how connecting automation to sustainability goals can help businesses businesses contribute to a more sustainable planet.

By Stephen Hayes September 2, 2023
Image courtesy: Beckhoff Automation, CFE Media's New Products for Engineers Database

Automation insights

  • Automation and sustainability are become more linked together as companies look to be more efficient while using less power.
  • Several tools and technologies support the integration of automation in the pursuit of sustainability such as digital twins, advanced analytics and the Internet of Things.

The integration of automation and sustainability is a pivotal step towards creating a more resilient and eco-friendly world. Despite companies understanding the importance of sustainability, the majority still have a long way to go as only 60% of companies incorporate sustainability in their strategy, and just 25% have sustainability fully integrated into their business model, according to a study by BCG/MIT. However, the integration of automation technologies can serve as a catalyst for progress, as they have the potential to go hand in hand with sustainable goals.

Some food and beverage companies have already embraced automation to advance their sustainability goals. Coca-Cola, for example has implemented automation into its bottling plants. With the use of robotics, the company has achieved higher accuracy and consistency in its production processes, resulting in reduced waste and improved energy efficiency.

Several tools and technologies support the integration of automation in the pursuit of sustainability. Internet of Things (IoT) devices enable real-time data collection to facilitate better monitoring and optimization of manufacturing processes. Advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms help identify energy-intensive activities and suggest energy-saving measures. Additionally, digital twins – virtual replicas of physical assets – allow food manufacturers to simulate and optimize processes before implementing changes in the real world.

Energy efficiency and automation

Automation also plays a crucial role in energy efficiency. Completing a power measurement chain from sensors to the cloud can simplify energy management approaches and improve the availability of machines and production facilities. Until now, continuous power monitoring has involved a lot of effort, and external sensors would have to have been installed at great cost.

In such scenarios, power measurement terminals play a crucial role in helping achieve sustainability goals in the long term. By replacing external sensors and utilizing standard components, these terminals can be easily integrated into existing machines and systems, including retrofitting projects, enabling continuous, real-time power measurements to be performed and providing valuable insights for sustainable operations.

With permanent, system-integrated power measurement, manufacturers gain the ability to conduct extensive inline analyses. By monitoring power consumption trends, they can quickly detect deviations from normal patterns. For example, a steadily rising power consumption in a machine may indicate potential excessive wear on its bearings. Identifying such issues early on allows for timely maintenance or repair, preventing further damage and extending the machine’s lifespan.

Conversely, a decrease in power consumption can be an indication of quality issues in the production process. By promptly rectifying these issues, manufacturers can improve product quality and minimize energy consumption. This proactive approach ensures that sustainability goals are met by optimizing resource usage and minimizing environmental impact.

Moreover, sudden drops in power usage can also trigger the need for urgent action within the production facility. It could signify a malfunction or breakdown that requires immediate attention to avoid costly downtime. By having real-time visibility into power consumption, manufacturers can swiftly respond to such situations, minimizing production disruptions and maximizing operational efficiency.

The integration of automation and sustainability represents a crucial milestone in the journey towards a resilient and environmentally conscious world. While businesses have yet to fully embrace sustainability in their strategies, automation technologies offer a promising pathway to progress.

By leveraging tools such as IoT devices, advanced analytics and power measurement terminals, manufacturers can monitor and optimize their operations in real-time. This data-driven approach empowers businesses to make informed decisions that support long-term sustainability objectives. With automation as a catalyst for change, industries can revolutionize their practices and contribute to a more sustainable planet.

– This originally appeared on Control Engineering Europe. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, CFE Media and Technology,

Author Bio: Stephen Hayes is managing director of Beckhoff Automation UK.