How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint in Manufacturing [with Examples]

20 June 2022 / News

Manufacturers are exploring a range of avenues to adapt their operations and deliver their net-zero strategy. Discover how to reduce your carbon footprint.

Organisations around the globe are pledging to achieve net-zero emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases and limit climate risk in line with industry and government targets. 

At the same time, reducing energy wastage and improving energy efficiency are key to minimising risk and increasing profitability in the midst of the current energy crisis. 

“Industry, consisting of various industrial processes, including production of steel, cement, and chemicals, and extraction and refining of oil, gas, and coal [accounts for] 30 percent of CO2 emissions, 33 percent of methane emissions, 8 percent of N2O emissions.”The net-zero challenge: Accelerating decarbonization worldwide’, McKinsey & Company

Broadly speaking, the steps needed to accelerate decarbonisation across the manufacturing industry have been widely covered. Moving energy sources away from fossil fuels, adapting manufacturing processes, and increasing energy efficiency (and better managing the demand for energy) are all effective methods by which manufacturers and their supply chains can move closer to net-zero and improve the sustainability of their operations.

But what do these methods look like in practice and how can organisations implement them on the ground without disrupting operations to effectively reduce their carbon footprint?

To find out more about reducing energy costs, staying compliant, and running a greener, more sustainable operation, download our free guide to improving energy efficiency today.

Examples of how manufacturers are reducing their carbon footprints

Manufacturers are already exploring a range of different avenues in order to adapt their operations and successfully deliver their net-zero business strategy.

Example 1: adopting new technology systems

Energy-saving solutions to improve energy efficiency across the manufacturing process and reduce energy costs currently exist, and many can be installed with minimal disruption.

VFE’s Energy-saving System was designed specifically to solve energy efficiency challenges. With a single unit in place, our customers are saving 159,947 kWh per annum. Across a site, those savings multiply, substantially cutting the amount of electrical power wasted. The colour touchscreen interface records power consumption with estimates of power saved, improving reporting capabilities and transparency over energy savings made.

“For its Energy-saving System’s electrical-power saving features, VFE has customer feedback of a £15k saving per year, per vacuum furnace.”3 Advantages of More Energy-Efficient Vacuum Furnaces’, VFE

Example 2: upgrading existing technology 

Manufacturers can advance their net-zero strategies while minimising disruption (and costs) by upgrading parts of their existing systems. RoMan Transformers are one example of this.

“Like most innovations, the development of the RoMan Transformer began out of necessity”, explains Michael Jones, VFE’s head of projects. “I needed to help a customer double the amount of power to their vacuum furnaces in the same sized space and RoMan Manufacturing offered the solution. Today, VFE can reduce the power consumption of our customers’ vacuum furnaces by 35 percent on average through the installation of RoMan Transformers. It’s a simple scoping and installation process that can save manufacturers thousands of pounds in energy costs every year.”

You might also be interested in:

Example 3: engaging their supplier networks

Carbon emissions often extend across the supply chain to include those of third-party suppliers. Managing and, where possible, reducing the carbon footprint of manufacturing partners is key to reducing overall emissions and staying on target.

“One retailer with whom we worked is a good example where, in their own operations, they worked on [being more sustainable] and got to a good spot pretty quickly. But the real emissions are coming from all of their suppliers”, reveals Greg Kelly, senior partner at McKinsey & Company. “They were pretty creative in creating a solution for all of their suppliers to understand their own emissions, understand what levers they might pursue to reduce those emissions, and then also expecting progress for those suppliers over time.”

Learn how VFE is helping advanced manufacturers to meet net-zero.

3 steps to reduce your carbon footprint in manufacturing

1. Invest up-front in energy-saving technology solutions 

Compared to process changes, new technology offers ‘quick wins’ and the path of least resistance to long-term energy savings, provided companies are willing and able to spare the capital expenditure necessary to invest in them now. As the energy crisis deepens and operational costs rise, up-front investments in new systems and technology make increasingly attractive business cases with the potential for significant ROI.

Whether new systems or parts upgrades, which solutions could you invest in to transform the sustainability — and the profitability — of your long-term operations?

Related reads:

2. Improve visibility and transparency over your carbon footprint

While the mainstream narrative focuses on reducing carbon emissions, it is important to note that for many manufacturers, the first step is more likely to be accurately measuring the company’s existing carbon footprint. This is important for providing a benchmark against which future carbon emission reductions can be measured, but as the need for regulatory transparency grows, these figures will be vital for ensuring future compliance.

We have already referenced the enhanced reporting capabilities unlocked by VFE’s Energy-saving System. Our Remote Monitoring System and management and control systems (AMCS/FMCS) provide further data sharing, control and visibility over energy usage and performance. How accurately can you report on your operation’s existing CO2 footprint and can you forecast future CO2 emissions levels with the same degree of accuracy?

Don’t miss:

3. Streamline supplier networks

”For many companies, sustainability and being more sustainable means reaching outside their own companies and helping their suppliers improve their sustainability”, continues McKinsey & Company Senior Partner Greg Kelly, on the subject of supplier-based emissions and how to solve them.

For operators looking to achieve similar results in the short term, another tactic would involve streamlining the supplier network. Reviewing supplier lists to identify the largest emitters and opportunities where multiple services can be consolidated into fewer contract agreements can dramatically reduce the volume of emissions associated with your company. At the same time, it also helps operators to hit carbon emission targets at the production line level.

Many of our customers now engage us for all their heat treatment and broader advanced manufacturing needs, from routine servicing and calibrations right through to repairs and installation. As part of the Busch Vacuum Solutions group, we are now expertly placed to offer these services worldwide under one neat ServiceCare agreement that is both easy to manage and ensures an environmentally conscious addition to your supply network.

Related reads:

Start reducing CO2 emissions across your operations

As one of the seven energy and land-use systems that account for global emissions, the ‘industry’ sector has a social and corporate responsibility to meet its net-zero commitments. Regulatory compliance and the bottom line are both clear drivers for effecting change, but there is also a third factor.

“Customers and consumers know more about how a company treats its employees than ever before. They know more about how companies work in their communities than ever before. And they want to be associated with companies that are really making a positive difference”, explains Greg Kelly. “So I find that companies with a relatable purpose that’s authentic with their heritage are the ones that are winning with customers and consumers.”

The need to be more sustainable is not new, but the urgency surrounding it has never been greater. At the same time, there have never been more incentives to reduce your carbon footprint. We hope some of the examples shared above, and the steps proposed, help you to drive action across your own operations and help lead the industry towards a greener future. 

To find out more about reducing energy costs, staying compliant, and running a greener, more sustainable operation, download our free guide to improving energy efficiency today.