Volume 4 Issue 1 January 2022
In this Issue
Welcome to Industree 4.0 for January 2022, exclusively sponsored by SAP.
By James Sullivan and Fawn Fitter, SAP SE
How to Make Sustainable Materials Use Matter Part 2- Two approaches
A recent SAP Insights survey on sustainability found that companies’ biggest barrier to taking more environmental action is their uncertainty about how to embed sustainability into business processes and systems. Making more sustainable choices about materials use is one way to address that challenge. Part 2 of 2 talks about two approaches to using sustainable materials.

Two approaches to sustainable materials use

The ultimate goal for sustainable materials use is a circular economy that increases value by eliminating waste. However, changing materials in products or using them differently can be complicated and expensive. You had good reasons for choosing the paper, plastics, fabrics, metals, or minerals in your company’s products and packaging. It takes planning to account for all the potential impacts from choosing differently.

“One area of saving can come from your logistics operations,” says Ian Catley, director at Turnkey Group, whose software provides real-time data collection and analytics to help companies more effectively manage environmental, social, and governance efforts and associated risks. “Perhaps you can’t easily switch the materials you use, but with better planning you could switch air freight to ocean freight, with a significant reduction in both cost and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Catley notes that even a seemingly minor decision to change a product wrapper made of polyethylene to one made from compostable materials may require new manufacturing and shipping processes to ensure the revamped wrapper performs as well as what it replaced.

Still, it makes sense to start exploring new approaches to materials use in two key areas: resource recapture and packaging. After all, every resource you recapture is one you don’t have to buy. And every product has to be packaged, even if only for the trip from producer to purchaser.

1. Recapturing resources

Manufacturers are developing alternatives to purchasing raw materials, particularly by reclaiming valuable materials from complex products as Apple does. In fact, these efforts are especially common with electronics: a single circuit board can contain more gold and copper than an entire ton of mined ore, while the cobalt necessary for lithium-ion batteries is increasingly scarce and expensive. In some cases, recovering and reusing resources can be more cost-effective, as well as more environmentally sound, than extracting raw materials.

A handful of manufacturers are creating products that actively sequester climate-changing greenhouse gases. One example is Interface, a flooring manufacturer with a line of carpet tiles that combine recycled nylon and vinyl with latex extracted from exhaust captured on its way out of factory smokestacks. By locking these industrial emissions into flooring instead of letting them drift into the air, each 10’x20′ installation of these tiles keeps about 12 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere – the equivalent of driving more than 13 miles in an average passenger vehicle.

2. Rethinking packaging

Manufacturers are doing more to recycle and reuse packaging. They are also moving away from petroleum-based plastic that lingers in landfills for thousands of years to create new forms of packaging made of cardboard, organic fibers from renewable sources like wool and bamboo, and compostable plastics made from corn or sugarcane that degrade within months.

Catley says that even though manufacturers’ focus on packaging is predominantly driven by opportunities to reduce costs, such as transportation and compliance fees, companies may also see their efforts as benefiting their reputation. As he points out, “Companies don’t want customers to see their branded materials washed up on the beach.”

Sustainable materials use takes leadership

The SAP Insights survey found that companies are more likely to take action on sustainability when their leaders consider it a priority. This finding points to an approach for exploring how to use materials more sustainably.

The Nows report that their top motivation for taking environmental action is CEO and board commitment. They also assign accountability for it to significantly more roles across the organization than other companies do, ensuring a sustainability mindset permeates the enterprise.

The Nows have also been collecting data around sustainability longer, are taking more actions in pursuit of sustainability, and are achieving better business outcomes as a result.

Business leaders can apply these insights in three specific ways:

First, create a sustainability vision and agenda to make clear to the organization why sustainable materials use matters and to get buy-in at multiple levels.

Second, identify and explain the business benefits, such as cost savings or supply chain resilience, of reducing, reusing, and recycling the materials your company already uses, as well as the potential benefits of transitioning to other materials.

Third, spread the responsibility for making materials use more sustainable throughout the organization, from purchasing to design to manufacturing. Getting more parts of the business involved, invested, and actively experimenting with alternatives increases the volume and variety of data you can use to develop and refine your approach.

“The product lifecycle from cradle to grave is on every company’s agenda,” Catley comments. “Even renewable materials aren’t all that renewable yet, so it makes sense to make that a high priority. Materials use sits squarely in the middle of the supply chain, and any smart company is looking at that from end to end to find ways to reduce risk and increase value.”

Digital Twins in Wonderland
By Pat Dixon, PE, PMP

Vice President of Automation, Pulmac Systems International (pulmac.com)

“When I use a word, it means whatever I want it to mean.”

This quotation of Humpty Dumpty from Lewis Caroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass” is referenced in some articles I recently perused. The first article is “How to tell the difference between a model and a digital twin” by Wright and Davidson.

This article begins with:

“Digital twin is a term that is being used for a wide range of things across a wide range of applications, from high value manufacturing and personalized medicines to oil refinery management and risk identification and mitigation for city planning. For some of the definitions, the reason why “twin” is used has been lost. The danger of this variety and vagueness is that a poor definition and explanation of a digital twin may lead people to reject it as just hype, so that once the hype and the inevitable backlash are over the final level of interest and use may fall well below the maximum potential of the technology.” 

A particular example of a poor definition cited in this article in this one by LMS research in which they state: 

“While we see many definitions of “Digital Twin,” LMS Research keeps it simple: A Digital Twin is an executable virtual model of a physical thing or system.” 

Wright and Davidson reply: 

“This definition merely renames technology that has existed for many years, leading many engineers wondering why they are being told that a practice they have been successfully employing for decades is a new and vibrant thing.” 

This is precisely what I ran into when I first heard the term digital twin. How is this different from what I have been doing my whole career?  

When I wrote my article “Digital Twin” in this newsletter in December 2019, I described this problem. I proposed some hypothetical definitions of digital twin, realizing that amidst all the uncertainty it is hard to know what is right. It is quite a bit like the imaginary world of “Alice in Wonderland”.  

If you ask IBM, they say the definition of a digital twin actually is vague, and should be. I have spoken with Lisa Seacat DeLuca (Director Digital IoT Transformation & Digital Twin at IBM) about this and she says the problem is that a digital twin is literally any digital representation of a physical object. If you have an HMI representation in your control system of a Kamyr digester, a dataset of that digester from a historian, or a process model of that digester, they are all digital twins. Lisa says that to be precise, you have to use more direct terms. She would call the process model a simulation twin, the HMI an operational twin, and the dataset a data twin. It is a bit like the difference between the words “vehicle” and “jeep”.

Fortunately my friend Dr Russell Rhinehart has 2 articles “Understanding the digital twin” parts 1&2 in the online publication Control (see links below) that gives further definition. Specifically, Russ describes digital twin as a simulation twin, which is the most common understanding of how we are using this technology. The difference between process models that we have been using forever and a simulation twin is that the model is being adapted with online data. The idea is that to keep the model coefficients accurate, we can use online data to detect changes in the behavior of the process. This is risky. When you are using online data to adapt a model, you need to be careful that the data is valid. Noise or measurement problems will take a model that is reasonably accurate and turn it into nonsense. If this happens in an application that is critical to operation, you can be in trouble.

As we wander through the wonderland of Industry 4.0, we need to understand that terms like digital twin can mean whatever someone wants them to mean.  

The more things change...
As a septuagenarian (I am 71), I am finding more and more license to repeat myself and tell old stories. I have always done this, it is just that now you may expect it. I think the stories are relevant: however, you, the reader, are the ultimate adjudicator. I have another one this month here.

Sullivan and Fitter (in the lead article, above) ably discuss the "circular economy" and sustainability.

The phrase "circular economy" always makes me smile for we were practicing this back in the 1960's on our farms in southern Ohio. Let me quickly explain. We had this 1953 GMC 1 1/2 ton truck. That means it was larger than a pickup; it had a 12 foot long box bed for hauling grain.

One harvest season, the crankshaft in the engine broke hauling a load of soybeans from one of our farms to our home farm.

What to do?

We found a Chevrolet pickup of the same vintage whose engine was a direct swap. We paid $80 for the pickup.

Look what we got out of that:

-an engine for our primary truck

-we took the pickup truck bed and put it on a trailer frame that we had which had a rotten wooden bed

-we stripped everything else off the pickup chassis and built a farm wagon out of the remnants.

At the end of the day, we used everything but the already damaged cab that caused the pickup to be only valued at $80 to start with.

That was the circular economy in action.

But here is the point...

What made us do that? We were cash poor/dirt rich farmers. We stretched every dollar as far as possible. We took that $80 beat up pickup truck and turned it into at least $2,000 of value for us, even in those days.

In my opinion, modern 1st world society, on a case-by-case basis, has been too rich to notice the circular economy features readily available to us. Collectively, however, the aspects of the circular economy are so important we can no longer afford to ignore them--the landfills are filling up fast. Hence you will hear about circular economy for a long time to come.

The industrial metaverse is coming...can you take advantage?
By John Burton
The metaverse is dominating the airwaves and the hype continues as companies scramble to determine how they will leverage this new online real estate. Peek under the hood and you begin to realize that the numbers don’t lie; it seems like the metaverse is here to stay. Bloomberg Intelligence tells us that the value of the metaverse is expected to reach $800 billion by the middle 2020s, with that figure climbing to $2.5 trillion by 2030.
AI Cameras: Can They Replace IoT Sensors?
By Benjamin Daix
The recent progress in imagery analysis powered by artificial intelligence makes us wonder if the camera could in fact replace several types of sensors. For numerous use cases, it makes the hardware far easier to manage and provides more insightful data. Visual intelligence has much more to offer than the human eye. It can observe hundreds of places at the same time, zoom down to a submillimeter scale, see in infrared, and much more. Many things currently being monitored by sensors (temperature, movement, proximity) could be verified and, actually, improved by an AI-powered camera.
Additive, Agility and Automation: a 2022 Triple Threat
Industry Week
The pandemic showed us the importance of business agility. Companies that were able to pivot thrived. From large retailers to mom-and-pop restaurants, those that quickly adapted to offer curbside deliveries and contactless ordering are still standing.
When is a Retrofit Appropriate for Packaging Machinery?
Packaging World
When it is and isn't a good idea to choose to engage in a retrofit. So, first and foremost, I want to clarify what I mean when I say retrofit -- What I'm referring to is the upgrading of old equipment with new intelligent sensors or other more advanced components in order to imbue them with improved functionality that you might otherwise have to purchase a new machine to realize.

Industree 4.0 is exclusively sponsored by SAP