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In recent years we’ve seen technology play an incredibly important part in tackling disruptive and emerging challenges.

It has helped businesses navigate the Covid-19 pandemic and recover, negotiate supply chain disruption and labour shortages, as well as focus on solutions to mitigate the energy crisis.

But there is no bigger challenge that impacts all of us than the climate emergency - and the manufacturing industry must play its part in taking action.

Technology offers manufacturers a huge opportunity to deliver operational efficiencies, decarbonise heat and power, optimise design and materials, and improve logistics and transport, benefitting their business, their bottom line and the environment.

Then there is the reputational gain which helps secure customer loyalty, as well as attract new talent and investment.

To make things greener, we need to make things smarter. This is where digital technologies will be key to the net-zero transition.

But despite the proven impacts, adoption is far from widespread, especially among SMEs.  This is why Made Smarter was launched and we are committed to helping small and medium-sized makers get there with vision, technology, leadership and collaboration.

Here are some key technologies to consider…

  • Industrial internet of things (IIoT)

    The industrial internet of things is a subsection of the internet of things (IoT) – a network of smart devices in the industrial sector that monitor, collect, analyse, and exchange data.

    Adding sensors to existing machines within your setup will improve your understanding of energy use – determining which machines are more energy-efficient and when.

    Vibration sensors could also alert you to machine maintenance requirements – enabling a regular repair cycle and extending their useful life. Not only does this improve the efficiency of your operation, but it will also reduce the number of machines or components that are unnecessarily disposed of.

    Plus, using occupancy sensors can highlight which rooms are occupied, and when, and adjust your heating and lighting settings to match. For instance, if a room is rarely used, it doesn’t need continuous heating or lighting. Switching to a more intelligent heating and lighting system will ultimately conserve energy and save money.

    Other sensors that add value to your operation include:


    • Air flow sensors to check for air leaks and establish when repairs are required
    • Water detection sensors to get ahead of leaking pipes or machinery
    • Door sensors to alert when doors are left open (a drain on your heating system)
    • Detecting machine use and turning off idle machinery


    We helped vinyl-wrapped door specialists Crystal Doors navigate their way to net zero

    by developing an Industry 4.0 manufacturing platform.

    This gave them full visualisation of how their machines perform and identify potential efficiencies to reduce energy use and waste.

    These gradual gains accelerated the business towards achieving its goal of carbon neutrality for which it received the Queen’s Award for Sustainability in 2022.

  • Data and systems

    You can use data and systems technologies to analyse data, improve planning, and ultimately reduce waste. For example, you could plot delivery routes more efficiently to lower emissions from vehicles.

    This technology can also help optimise production by analysing the quality, value, and carbon footprint of materials. And you may find an alternative product with a lower carbon footprint or a local supplier that reduces your delivery miles.

    Finally, take the steps to digitise production information and reduce paper consumption. Not only is this a greener option, but it also makes sense from a security perspective – giving you peace of mind that all of your documents are in one place and backed up in case of loss.

    We helped precision component manufacturer Beverston Engineering, eco-friendly cleaning product maker Organica UK, and heritage valve manufacturer Heap and Partners adopt data and system integration technologies to reduce emissions and environmental impact.

    Clock repair and restoration specialists the Cumbria Clock Company introduced a bespoke digital management system with our help.

    This gave them oversight of all their operations, increasing productivity and efficiency, cutting costs and reducing its carbon footprint.

    They can plan the most efficient routes for their engineers, and combine service visits with call backs and inspections to reduce their annual mileage by 30,000. This will not only save a significant sum of money, but reduce its emissions by 11%, the equivalent to 12 tonnes of carbon.

    The investment is transforming them from offering reactive and regular service and repair to a proactive data-driven service provider.

  • Automation and robotics

    Automation and robotics mean using technology to complete human tasks. In some cases, automation and robotics can improve quality, resulting in less waste throughout production.

    For instance, an automated loading system can improve quality by ensuring a machine is loaded accurately every time, while also increasing operational efficiency and reducing standby times.

    Using automation to load and unload machines could also allow operations to continue overnight unaided by a team of employees. This provides a capacity increase without the significant emissions from heating, lighting, and staff travel that would usually come with it.

    We helped bike component maker Ratio Technology, textile manufacturer Derek Rose and interior design experts Visual Architects, adopt robotics and automation to achieve green growth and reduce waste and energy.

  • Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing

    Additive manufacturing (AM) – more commonly known as 3D printing – is the process of creating a physical object by building it layer by layer. Three-dimensional parts are made by adding material – as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methods, such as machining, where material is removed to create the desired shape. Though it’s highly dependent on the technology used, 3D printing only puts material where it’s needed – successfully reducing what you use.

    AM can also optimise designs, making them lighter without compromising their strength and therefore improving efficiency. For example, building a vehicle with lighter components means less fuel consumption. What’s more, by using AM to test designs before committing to full production, businesses can eliminate wasted production runs or incorrect tooling.

    Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that producing some materials for additive manufacturing is very energy-intensive – so you should thoroughly investigate before using AM as a net-zero technology.

    We helped veterinary orthopaedics engineers Fusion Implants and metal manufacturer Croft AM work towards their decarbonisation goals through digitalisation.

  • Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR)

    Augmented reality uses digital elements to create an enhanced version of reality. Virtual reality uses technology to simulate a real-life environment. And mixed reality combines elements of the physical world with a virtual environment.

    One application of these technologies is remote collaboration, which can reduce travel by allowing experts to discuss designs, challenges, or other data visually, in real time, and in 3D – all from their usual place of work.

    Simulating new factory layouts, the performance of new designs, and the effectiveness of new production processes using these tools increases the likelihood of getting them right the first time too – effectively reducing waste and increasing operational efficiency.

    You can also allow customers to experience products on their phone or through a VR headset – giving them a chance to test before purchasing and decreasing the likelihood of returns. This also reduces emissions as it means they won’t have to travel to your store or warehouse.

    With our help Forth Engineering, a specialist in bespoke robotics for harsh environments is investing in extended reality (XR) to enable its clients to step into a virtual room from anywhere in the world and interrogate a 3D model of their asset.

    The project will be at the forefront of immersive technology, upskill staff, reduce cost and travel, and create a safe inspection environment.

Start your Made Smarter journey

We have helped hundreds of manufacturers to invest in new technology to support their decarbonisation.

Made Smarter can help your business take your first steps accessing our tailored, expert advice and funding for the technology and skills you will need to achieve your green credentials and power your growth.

Get in touch to begin your journey today.

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