Gerard O’Connell

Rockwell Automation


How smart manufacturing will lead to a more sustainable global manufacturing environment


Economic growth and prosperity depend on the availability of energy in several forms to support our expectations, which include electricity that enables us to prepare our meals, provide heat our homes, educate our children and go about our daily activities.

Every day, we use energy to produce basic necessities such as food and water, operate health care facilities, manufacture medicines to maintain a long and healthy life, build cars and, in some cases, run cars as well as power infrastructures in urban areas.

Not only are we individually consuming more energy than our predecessors, there is no denying the population is increasing, with predictions of approximately  9 billion global citizens by 2040. Recently, the Brookings Institute estimated that the middle class population will grow from 1.9 billion in 2010 to 4.7 billion by 2030. Now, why should we be interested in the middle class?

To answer that question, the middle class is an important threshold where the consumer starts to have discretionary spending power. In short, consumers are then able to purchase more than simply the necessities to survive. As a result, people buy electronics, travel more, purchase cars or larger homes, and can afford better healthcare.

Industrialization accounts for 30% of the global energy consumption, of which, the electrical sector represents 50%.  Predictions suggest industrial energy consumption will grow by 40% between now and 2040, and this is predominantly in sectors such as steel, cement, pipelines, plastics, textiles and electronics, among many others.  In fact, some research predicts that without more energy efficiency gains, this figure would be closer to a 130% increase.

Simply put, smart manufacturing provides everyone in an organization the relevant and actionable information they need to improve production performance. Energy efficiency is achievable with the availability of real time plant and organization wide performance data. In turn enabling better informed operational decisions like load balancing and maximising off peak running. Through full integration of all current technologies, we are moving towards using past performance, and analysis of such data to deliver optimal future process operating parameter, which will lead to more efficiency gains.

A ‘Connected Enterprise’ where data is readably available  is a prerequisite to realize benefit and value from any Smart Manufacturing initiative. Central pillars to achieving The Connected Enterprise include the need to converge Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT). We are at the inception of the next industrial transformation…….


Ask yourself, without these energy efficiency gains thanks to more efficient motors, application of VFDs and smart metering, combined with The Connected Enterprise, would we maintain the same level of global population growth? Would we see a growth in the middles class population of 2.8 billion or a growing level of impoverishment? We can all dwell on these questions.


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