Get in Touch

The Future of Energy Efficient Factories

There’s no denying that in recent years there has been a substantial focus on carbon emissions. The growing pressure on governments to decarbonise energy systems is filtering down to manufacturers who are having to seriously evaluate their impact on the environment.

Leading companies are proactively implementing initiatives to reduce their carbon emissions. Some companies are going one step further by requiring their suppliers to demonstrate a decarbonisation commitment too.

While this is good news for the planet, it does put some manufacturers in a difficult position. Implementing significant change or investing in new technologies comes at a cost. But those manufacturers who don’t invest are at risk of being left behind.

In this article, we will be looking at the future of energy efficient factories and discussing how manufacturers can ‘go green’ without going bankrupt.

Threat or opportunity?

Energy costs are on the rise, which undoubtedly poses a threat to inefficient factories. At the same time, there is a growing risk of interruption to energy supplies.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. This focus on energy does also present manufacturers with an opportunity.

It is possible to create win-win situations whereby there are benefits to both the environment and your bottom line.

Many energy efficient technologies are already available, meaning reducing energy use by up to 20% is actually incredibly easy to do. And the less energy used, the lower the energy bills, which means you’ll often see a return on investment pretty quickly.

In addition, making decarbonisation part of your strategy will help you maintain competitiveness in the future as you’ll be more attractive to stakeholders, customers, employees and investors. You’ll also create a better public image if you’re seen to be leading the way in sustainability.

By reducing your carbon emissions now, you also put yourself in a better position for the future, as carbon taxes are likely to rise and regulations will become stricter. Being proactive will allow you to manage the cost far more effectively than having to implement rapid change in response to new legislation.


The road to decarbonisation

There are two key areas that manufacturers can focus on to reduce their carbon footprint: material efficiency and energy efficiency.

Material efficiency

Material efficiency relates to the materials used in manufacturing and the amount of waste produced during production. But best practice doesn’t just look at what happens inside the factory; it looks at the entire supply chain.

Savvy manufacturers are paying 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.

What measures are your suppliers taking to reduce their carbon emissions, and what about their suppliers? What happens when your product leaves the factory? Which components can be reused and recycled? Are there opportunities to encourage end-users to repair or recycle?

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency, as the name suggests, is focused on reducing the energy used (and wasted). This includes lighting, heating, machinery, transport and so on.

Small changes can make big differences – a lighting upgrade, voltage optimisation, variable speed drives and energy efficient motors. Bigger initiatives could include generating your own renewable energy through solar or wind and switching your transport fleet to electric vehicles.

Your approach

Whether you want to focus on material efficiency, energy efficiency or both, you should take a three-stage approach.  

  1. Assess your carbon footprint – conduct a thorough and structured assessment of your carbon emissions, looking at both material and energy efficiency of your entire operation, including supply chain, production and logistics.
  1. Set realistic targets – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t be able to achieve net-zero overnight, so be realistic about your targets. Set short, medium and long term goals for decarbonisation.
  1. Define specific measures – decide which measures to implement by conducting a cost-benefit analysis to determine the environmental and financial impacts. Start with the most financially feasible measures or those that will have the greatest impact.


Making meaningful change

There are plenty of ways you can reduce your carbon footprint, and in this section, we’re going to look in more detail at some areas of focus.

Improve efficiency

When assessing your energy use, look at every piece of equipment or machinery. How can you make it more efficient? Are areas of your warehouse being lit unnecessarily? Are rooms being heated or cooled even when they are not in use? Is machine idling time being minimised? You might be surprised how much energy you could save without making huge investments.

Change processes or technology

 Switching from outdated machinery and processes to modern systems and technology will involve investment, but you could see a return much sooner than expected. Automation and AI are being used successfully by manufacturers around the globe with many financial and environmental benefits.

Switch fuel or power source

How is your power generated, and what kind of fuel are you using? Switching from diesel to electricity, using CHP fuelled by biomass rather than natural gas, or using energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind will reduce your carbon footprint.

Reuse or store

 Some companies convert their waste into reusable material to use in-house or pass on to other manufacturers. This isn’t a new concept – Marmite is a by-product of beer production. Recycled plastics are being used by hundreds of manufacturers. Bioethanol is being used on a large scale in several companies. You may be able to reduce your carbon footprint by repurposing your waste.

Offset or compensate

 Where carbon emissions can’t be reduced, you might want to look at offsetting opportunities. These shouldn’t be used in place of reducing your carbon footprint but can be done in conjunction.

Offsetting initiatives include:

  • Woodland creation
  • Grassland preservation
  • Methane capture
  • Biogas projects
  • Windfarms
  • Solar-powered projects
  • Ocean clean-ups
  • Landfill gas management

Look for projects that can prove they remove carbon from the atmosphere and choose those that wouldn’t go ahead without your support.


Be at the forefront of change

The future of energy efficient factories is clear – they will be the ones that thrive. The pressure on governments is too great for them to allow manufacturers to continue damaging the environment.

But you shouldn’t look at decarbonisation as a tick box exercise. This is an exciting opportunity for forward-thinking organisations to lead the way.

Share your targets publicly

First things first, be loud and proud about your commitment to energy efficiency. Do you want to be carbon net zero in the next ten years? Tell the world. Share your targets with your stakeholders, your customers, and your teams. Make sustainability a core value and a priority.

Lead in innovation

Look for new opportunities to innovate. How can you reduce, reuse or recycle within your business? Are there opportunities for diversification or new product development? Could your business be the first to trial new and revolutionary technology? Don’t be afraid to be an early adopter.


Climate change is everybody’s problem, and we’re all responsible for taking care of our planet. Reach out to sustainability-focused business partners and look for collaboration opportunities. Join the conversations within the industry. Be part of the bigger picture.

 Make CI one of your values

Don’t make a few token gestures and then forget about your targets. Keep working toward that net-zero goal. You might not reach it, but you should always be striving to get as close as possible. That means making continuous improvement one of your values and always looking for the next opportunity to progress.


Working with AES

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 energy reduction services specifically for manufacturers. These include low energy lighting solutions, voltage optimisation, energy efficient motors and variable speed drives.

If you’d like to start your journey to energy efficiency, get in touch to find out how AES can support your sustainability targets.