Navigating the road to sustainability at the edge

Achieving sustainability at the edge looks different for every organization. There are key steps to help narrow down which path to take to reach those sustainability goals.

By Morgan Green September 19, 2022
Jill Burdette, Jill Burdette, Director of Strategic Accounts at Emerson Automation Solutions USA, gives a presentation titled, “Journey to Sustainability at the Edge” held at the 2022 IMTS conferenced in Chicago. Courtesy: Morgan Green, CFE Media

Edge Computing Insights

  • Having too much data can be just as damaging as having no data at all. Filtering out the right data will help provide accurate results.
  • Companies should not rush your journey to sustainability at the edge. Each journey looks different and can take time to achieve.

More companies are jumping on the net-zero bandwagon and taking on challenges they will face as they work towards minimizing their environmental impact and reach their carbon-neutral goals. Sustainability at the edge can be a long road, and it looks different for every company. However, there are pragmatic approaches to responding to sustainability challenges that can help companies to succeed.

Data rich, knowledge poor

Jill Burdette, director of strategic accounts at Emerson Automation Solutions USA, provided a list of steps at a presentation titled, “Journey to Sustainability at the Edge” held at the IMTS conference in Chicago, which she believes will aid companies in managing any challenges.

Improving the speed and accuracy of decision-making and actions needed to achieve net-zero goals is a task that must be taken on by companies if they have hopes of minimizing their own environmental impact. To make these decisions, we must collect data.

Burdette said, “Everyone wants to collect more data, it’s not like we don’t have the information, we have everything we need but we don’t have the knowledge of what to do (with it).”

Collecting the right data is equally as important to collecting data in the first place, but too much data can create clutter.

“We’re data rich, but we’re knowledge poor,” she said.

Reduce, maximize, improve

Like starting a diet, Burdette said companies must pay attention to and measure what is most important. For people, it would be food and calorie intake; for companies, they must measure the right data or it doesn’t count. Burdette also encouraged companies to give themselves a reasonable and realistic timeframe to reach their sustainability goals. After all, you can’t lose 50 pounds in 2 weeks.

Where companies start their journey to sustainability at the edge differs for every company and is reliant on scenarios specific to them. To help get companies started, Burdette explored a generalized approach to beginning the journey.

Where will each journey begin? She highlights three steps.

  • Reducing operating expenditure: This can be achieved by reducing overall energy consumption and comparing energy metrics across plants.

  • Maximizing capital expenditure utilization: This is achieved by reducing machine downtime, reducing machine underutilization and improving your overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

  • Improving plant availability: This is achieved by utilizing plant data for analytics and moving towards condition-based maintenance.

Four ways to stay on track

Staying on track during a journey with “many trips and stops” has proved difficult for some companies. Burdette shared advice on simple steps to take to keep your company on the right course to sustainability at the edge.

  1. Define

  2. Collect

  3. Analyze

  4. Act

Burdette said, “In my opinion, defining is the hardest part for us to do.”

Morgan Green, associate editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology,


Keywords: sustainability, edge


See additional edge computing stories at Edge and Cloud Computing


What challenges has your company ran into on your journey to sustainability at the edge?

Author Bio: Morgan Green, associate editor, CFE Media and Technology.