Why the focus on sustainability in the manufacturing plant?
The construction sector currently contributes to almost 40% of CO2 emissions in Germany. In particular, conventional construction with reinforced concrete structures is up for discussion in the future due to the high emissions from cement production and the increasing problem of sand scarcity. In order to ensure a comprehensive consideration of sustainability, both the construction and operation of production facilities must be illuminated.
Emissions from the manufacturing sector in Germany have been declining in recent years. This is a positive, but at the same time necessary development in order to achieve the climate targets that have been set, such as meeting the 1.5 degree target and the complete decarbonization of European industry by 2050, as well as the reduction of 260 million tons of CO2 by 2030.
The following section presents selected measures that will help to further reduce these emissions.
How can this be implemented in the planning and construction of the production facility?
A central starting point for creating a sustainable production facility lies in the selection of building materials. By avoiding reinforced concrete, as explained earlier, and using renewable raw materials such as wood, emissions can be saved, while at the same time already good heat transfer coefficients / insulation properties can be realized. If required, additional insulation can also be implemented with the help of wood fiber insulation boards. These have the advantage that they are breathable and can be recycled again after use. In the construction industry in particular, concepts of the circular economy are becoming increasingly important, which is why it makes sense to include the entire life cycle of a building material in the material decision. An initial orientation for this is provided by so-called Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), which enable the comparison of similar building products with regard to their CO2 footprint.
In addition, the open-pored nature of wood creates a pleasant indoor climate, as it is able to absorb moisture from the air and later release it again. This contributes to a healthy and comfortable working environment in the production facility.
Another starting point is the combination of green roofs and facades with photovoltaic modules.
Extensive green roofs with low-growing plants offer several advantages. They counteract surface sealing, as they are able to absorb rainwater and slowly release it. This creates passive cooling through evaporative cooling. In addition, the load on the surrounding sewage system is reduced and the microclimate is improved.
The simultaneous installation of photovoltaic modules on the green roof results in several synergies. The main advantage is that the PV modules do not interfere with the roof waterproofing through bolting, but are placed on base plates that are stabilized by the substrate. This means that there are no potential weak points in the roof waterproofing. The amount of substrate required depends on the installation height and wind exposure.
In view of the current development of the feed-in tariff in relation to the electricity purchase price, the greatest added value, apart from the CO2 savings, lies in the self-consumption of the generated electricity compared to the conventional energy mix from the utility grid.
Further potential arises from the use and recovery of process waste heat, which inevitably arises during plant operation. The possibility of using this waste heat for other production processes should be examined on a case-by-case basis. It is desirable to use this energy for other processes and not to let different systems work against each other.
We are at your disposal to further develop these possibilities in your specific case through close coordination between the system supplier and the HLS (heating, ventilation, plumbing) management of the project.
How can this be implemented in the operation of the production facility?
Regardless of whether the systems are operated by electricity generated in-house or purchased from third parties, there are now ways of recording the consumption, temperatures or noise levels of individual machines and displaying them clearly with the aid of digital tools (such as Grafana).
On the one hand, there is the possibility of directly intervening in the machine control system (via file formats such as OPC UA) for data acquisition. However, such integration is often not provided for in older machines, which is why they are regularly connected to so-called smart meters instead. These capture the desired machine data according to their configuration and forward it to the associated display software.
Capturing this data offers the advantage that the largest energy consumers can be identified and optimized, while at the same time product quality can be taken into account. As a result, energy savings can be achieved, product quality can be monitored, and potential failures due to wear and tear can be avoided. This approach is thus not purely sustainable in nature, but touches on various aspects of the business. If successfully implemented, it also reflects the company's digital capabilities. For more information on how to deal with older assets, see our related Insight "Refurbishment of production facilities: Implementation of circular economy approaches in the means of production of discrete manufacturing“.
Another starting point, though with potentially less impact than optimizing the consumption of production facilities, is the sensor-based switching on and off of lights and the zone-based control of air-conditioning technology.
If a company is able to generate a large proportion of its own energy or save it through optimization measures, this has a double economic effect. On the one hand, this self-generated electricity does not incur the usual market price, but a much lower price calculated from the installation costs in relation to the electrical power generated. In addition, the CO2 price does not apply to this self-generated or saved electricity, as this only applies to energy sources that have emitted CO2 in the production or conversion process.
While decarbonization aspects related to the construction and operation of the production facility potentially have a smaller direct impact on the sales figures of the products manufactured, there is long-term potential if a company takes a pioneering role in decarbonization and can demonstrate this.
At Munich Consulting Group, our approach is to take a holistic view of factory planning and thus include the impact of the building envelope and the operation of the production facility on the environmental footprint of the company and its products.
We are looking forward to supporting you in the following tasks:
- Comparison and selection of ecological building materials and products.
- Determination of internal energy consumption and dimensioning of your PV system
- Analysis of your existing production and technical feasibility study for smart meter installations
- Coordination in planning, implementation and operation
We have many years of experience and expertise from more than 250 acquired and completed projects. Our standards go beyond those of digital factory planning. We would be happy to show you how you can design your new or existing production facility with added ecological and economic value.
For more information contact Thomas Horn (Manager Industrial Engineering).