Data-Led Innovation Can Help Deliver Sustainability for All Stakeholders
When implemented alongside other climate action strategies, a digital backbone allows enterprises to tackle climate change in the Connected Industrial Economy
By Peter Herweck
The U.N. has defined the 2020s as the “decade of action.” Limiting global warming to less than 1.5°C (2.7°F) will be beyond our reach without immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs).
Shareholders, employees, and customers are holding business leaders accountable to actively respond to climate change. Consumers and companies are choosing to do business with organizations that advance sustainability. And digital solutions have an important role to play in helping businesses develop sustainability strategies.
Catching up with today’s sustainable operating standards demands a new way of thinking. In a recent AVEVA survey of 850 global C-suite leaders, 92% of respondents listed sustainability as their companies’ top area of focus for the next three years, and 89% of respondents have committed their businesses to tackling climate change. Industrial enterprises have a huge opportunity to contribute, and the private sector is accelerating the drive toward net zero.
But addressing the climate crisis and the Paris Agreement is inherently complex. Achieving the treaty’s goals will demand new technology, scalable solutions, and partnerships among industrial leaders, technology innovators, and governments to drive systemic change.
Many industries have already rolled out environmentally friendly business strategies within their operations, including green products and resource optimization. Now they are embracing collective action, such as sharing information to drive sustainability, with the Business Ambition for 1.5°C coalition.
AVEVA refers to this systemic platform as the Connected Industrial Economy. This data-led network links enterprises along a digital data thread that combines engineering, operations, supply chain, and employees, using the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize performance—a strategy called Performance Intelligence. When every aspect of the value chain is connected, industrial leaders can tap actionable insights that enable growth across the enterprise. Expanding those connected networks to suppliers, partners, and even competitors can drive exponential sustainable growth across the entire ecosystem.
When combined with other climate-led decisions—such as a more sustainable use of business resources—the data-driven Connected Industrial Economy holds significant promise for supporting climate change mitigation strategies.
Data and Efficient Manufacturing
For many industrial organizations, digital transformation represents little more than digitizing analog processes. But when a single digital thread spans the entire lifecycle, the resulting optimizations and efficiencies can help businesses achieve long-term growth, embed resilience, create jobs, and improve environmental sustainability.
Kellogg’s experience shows how data-led energy systems can cut emissions and save millions of dollars annually.
The cereal producer committed to using science-based targets to reduce GHGEs in 2005. Installing AVEVA’s PI System to track and manage energy-use data at its headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, revealed how some elements of the HVAC system were working against each other.
Retrofitting the controls saved hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. When those fixes were scaled across plants, the company realized annual savings of $3.3 million, identified $1.8 million in rebates, and optimized abatement measures. AVEVA calculates carbon savings over seven years of almost 400,000 metric tons—equivalent to taking 114,000 cars off the road each year.
The company is now extending this digital system to its global manufacturing fleet so staff worldwide can use data to improve efficiency and enhance sustainability.
Predictive Analytics and Sustainable Performance
The combination of data and AI systems allows organizations to stay flexible and responsive and to pivot their operations to market demands—all while reducing risk and increasing operational efficiency to optimize real-time energy management and minimize overall emissions.
As one of the largest low-cost clean power generators in North America, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) understands the importance of resilience more than most. As with other power companies, supply continuity is integral to its operations, and it must contend with dispatchability, where electricity is generated on demand to satisfy consumption needs.
By putting data at the heart of its decision making at its nuclear and hydroelectric plants and using AI to build a dashboard of pattern-recognition notifications, OPG created a network of “citizen data scientists”: OPG operators and managers who are driving sustainable innovation and applying predictive analytics to optimize performance.
In one hydroelectric plant near Niagara Falls, the company saved $200,000 in a single catch when pattern recognition systems identified a drop in air-cooling performance before it triggered an alarm. Quick intervention rectified a system fault that could have shut down the entire plant, wasting time and precious resources.
Within two years, the program has delivered over $4 million in savings and enabled OPG’s teams to share best practices more quickly over the cloud.
The Connected Industrial Economy
As businesses adapt to a new way of working, the focus moves from tackling one crisis to tackling another. Business leaders must change mindsets to build continued resiliency, improve profitability, and strengthen relationships while sharing best practices across the ecosystem.
Digital tools already support remote collaboration across organizations. Extending these solutions into end-to-end networks can help business leaders drive innovation among partner organizations, build out and consolidate systemic efficiencies, and deliver value for all stakeholders. The resulting sustainability gains could deliver significant benefits across the entire Connected Industrial Economy.
Sustainable innovation requires building understanding between people and organizations and driving shared commitments to support the global net-zero vision in every economic situation. It’s about committing to our shared well-being and using all the tools available to achieve our target by working together at every level.
Digital solutions may deliver the intelligence necessary for corporate action, helping courageous and committed leaders drive sustained and sustainable innovation for profit, people, and the planet.
Learn more about AVEVA’s sustainability approach and how we are enabling citizen data scientists to optimize industrial processes using data and insight.
Peter Herweck is CEO of AVEVA.