Modern industry has undergone a wide range of changes in the last decade. Across heavy industry, energy production, and factory environments there have been a range of notable changes that seek to improve efficiencies, change business practices, and modernize a range of enterprises.
Some of these changes may result in improvements in efficiency or production output, some may be geared toward providing alternative ways of working. In addition, there is now an emphasis on all forms of industry to look for unique ways to reduce their impact on the natural environment.
In an age where climate change has moved from theoretical predictions to reality, all forms of industry need to look for unique ways to reduce their carbon footprint and operate more sustainably. This article looks at some of the broad changes that are impacting the industrial sectors. Four key changes will be explored in detail, and these have relevance across a broad spectrum of different types of organizations within the industrial sector.
- The move to cleaner, modern energy production
One of the most dramatic changes in the energy sector is the move away from using fossil fuels in power generation to cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy. This process has become known as the “clean energy transition.” It aims to emphasize producing power from renewable energy sources (such as solar, wind, and hydropower) whilst reducing the reliance on power production that releases high volumes of CO2 in its production (and therefore contributes to global warming).
This is part of an international effort across the developed and developing world to limit global average temperature rises to below two degrees of pre-industrial levels.
Over 180 countries signed up to this pledge as part of the “Paris Agreement, ” which led to the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This means that many fossil fuel-burning power plants will begin to be decommissioned as alternative power sources are created. Such large-scale industrial structures are difficult to dismantle and will require the use of firms that specialize in precision concrete cutting to enable the safe and efficient demolition of these structures.
Typically, a sophisticated diamond wire sawing technique is used to cut through resilient materials such as concrete and steel. The precision of such industrial equipment allows large structures to be cut and dismantled safely at speed. Such firms specializing in these skilled demolition operations will be in high demand as the move to decommission outdated power plants intensifies.
- Remote working opportunities across Industry
One of the key changes that has shaped modern working practices has been the move to remote and hybrid models of work. This was a necessity during the height of the recent pandemic, as government-sanctioned movement restrictions and lockdowns drove the need for such working practices to ensure business continuity.
While most people will think of office-based staff making the transition to remote and hybrid working models, the effects have also been felt in industrial environments. Many managers and staff who are not required to work on factory production lines or need to operate on-site machinery now have the option of operating remotely for some part of their working weeks. A key driver for this change has been the move to cloud-based business applications across the business world.
These online platforms allow staff to access key systems from remote locations if they have internet access and the required login details. Today a wide range of industry professionals, such as design teams, data analysts, and administrative staff can now undertake all aspects of their roles without needing to be in a shared physical workspace. This IT infrastructure supports agile working methods. In addition, software such as video conferencing applications and project management platforms ensure effective communication and project work from remote locations.
- Dark factories
One of the most recent changes to factory and industrial environments and working cultures has been the rollout of dark factories. As the name suggests, these industrial premises do not require heating or lighting as they are staffed almost entirely by a robotic workforce and often do not have human staff. Complex robots and sophisticated AI systems control the production of goods and manage all aspects of the industrial or production line operations.
The startup costs for dark factories are extremely high (due to the need to invest in multiple robotic devices and a fully automated production line), but the medium and long-term financial benefits can be extremely attractive. In such forms of industry, staffing costs can be eradicated (as there is no need to pay a robotic workforce).
Indirect costs in heating and lighting are kept low, and productivity levels can be extremely high as a robotic workforce does not need to stop for breaks during production. While there are only a small number of fully automated dark factories in existence at present, this model of production is likely to increase across industries, especially for larger firms that can afford the high initial investment and setup costs of such factories.
- The need for sustainable business practices
Finally, another key development within the industrial sector is the need to adopt sustainable business practices. In the same way that there is a move towards greener forms of energy production, industrial firms must also seek to reduce their impact on the wider environment.
As the emerging climate emergency begins to be understood outside the scientific world, all forms of business and industry must reduce their carbon footprint, produce lower emissions during production processes, and minimize waste creation.
Every industrial operation is different, so different sustainability methodologies will be required to achieve environmental goals. However, some measures may be applicable across a range of industries.
Sourcing raw materials that come from sustainable methods of production can be beneficial in this aim, as can the increasing reliance on products that are made from a high proportion of recycled materials.
Industrial business owners, managers, and leaders need to take a comprehensive look at their operations and ascertain if processes can be improved to minimize the production of waste and lower energy usage requirements. This process must be ongoing to ensure that all forms of industry continue to take meaningful steps to operate more sustainably.
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