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Future-proofing your factory

With compliance regulations and market demand constantly changing, it can be tough for manufacturers to keep on top of emerging trends. Even the best business strategies need to be flexible to ensure they can be adapted when necessary.

So how do you prepare for the unknown? How can you future-proof your factory to ensure you remain competitive and profitable for years to come?

Sustainability and decarbonisation

Being environmentally responsible should be seen as a priority if you want to remain competitive. Net zero businesses attract more investment and provide excellent employment opportunities – manufacturers that want to thrive and prosper should not ignore this.

A recent report from the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) found that:

  • The UK’s net zero economy grew 9% in 2023 (compared to overall economy growth at 0.1%)
  • Total gross value added (GVA) by businesses in the net zero economy stood at £74 billion.
  • The average net zero salary was £44,600 compared to the £35,400 UK average

These figures show that sustainability initiatives and decarbonisation targets should be more than just token gestures. They should be a key part of your business strategy if you want to future-proof your factory.

There are two key areas you can focus on to reduce your carbon footprint:

Material efficiency: Material efficiency relates to the materials used in manufacturing and the amount of waste produced during production. But don’t just look at what happens inside the factory – look at the entire supply chain. Pay attention to the full product lifecycle – from the carbon footprint of every component right through to whether the product can be recycled when it is no longer fit for purpose.

Energy efficiency: Energy efficiency is focused on reducing the energy used and wasted. This includes the energy used for lighting, heating, machinery, transport and so on. You can start with smaller changes such as a lighting upgrade, voltage optimisation, and installation of variable speed drives. Bigger initiatives could include generating your own renewable energy and switching your transport fleet to electric vehicles.

Talented workforce and resilient supply chain

The success of a manufacturing business is heavily reliant on the capabilities of its team and the robustness and reliability of its supply chain. Investing in your people, partnering with quality suppliers, and building strong customer relationships will help set the foundations for long-term growth and profitability.

Communicate effectively and build diverse supply chains to ensure that you can maintain continuity. Consider utilising control and automation technologies to facilitate seamless integration and coordination between different stages of the manufacturing process.

This integration will enable real-time data exchange, streamlined inventory management, and better communication among suppliers, colleagues, and customers, resulting in a more efficient supply chain.

Control and automation technologies can also enhance overall quality control and reduce product defects or inconsistencies. This ensures greater customer satisfaction allowing you to secure longer-term contracts with clients.

Adaptive infrastructure

A big part of future-proofing your factory is ensuring the design includes flexible layouts and scalable infrastructure to accommodate future expansion, reconfiguration, and technological upgrades.

Plan for the necessary utility infrastructure, including power supply, water, wastewater treatment, and internet connectivity. Consider future expansion and the ability to handle increased production capacity or new technological requirements.

Look at opportunities for reusing waste heat using technology such as heat exchangers, heat pumps, heat recovery wheels, absorption chillers, waste heat recovery for compressed air systems, or solar thermal systems.

Ensure you have a reliable power supply and robust connectivity. Any fluctuation or failure in power or connectivity could result in costly downtime, wasted materials, and loss of production.

An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) can keep business-critical systems running when power from the grid is compromised. UPS systems can also be used as power conditioners to manage voltage fluctuations, surges, transients and sags. This enhances the power quality and stability of all your equipment.

You should also invest in cybersecurity measures to protect against cyber threats. This is particularly important if your production lines are reliant on control and automation systems.

Technology, AI, and digitalisation

Automation, advanced robotics, AI, and IoT technologies allow you to streamline processes, increase efficiency, and reduce reliance on manual labour. And there is no shortage of exciting and innovative solutions on offer.

Implementing modular and reconfigurable production systems enables you to accommodate changes in product designs, production volumes, and market demands.

Meanwhile, leveraging digital tools such as data analytics, cloud computing, and predictive maintenance to optimise operations, can improve decision-making and enhance overall productivity.

Manufacturers who utilise the latest technologies set themselves up for long-term success. However, it’s important to research carefully and understand which technologies can be integrated effectively, and which allow for scalability and future reconfiguration.

Working with AES

AES offers all the services you’d expect from an electrical contractor, coupled with specialist services specifically for manufacturers.

We can scale our services to meet the needs of your business, from ongoing planned maintenance and fault repair to machinery installation, and factory design, expansion and relocation.

And we provide expert advice and recommendations on energy reduction, control and automation, and safety compliance.

As part of our mission to collectively reduce carbon emissions, we offer free energy reduction audits to manufacturers.

You’ll receive a full report detailing where energy consumption savings can be made and the cost savings to your business.

We also offer a range of energy reduction services, including:

If you’d like to start future-proofing your factory, get in touch to find out how AES can support you.

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