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Going Green: Data-driven Sustainability in Operations and Maintenance

The latest climate report by the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change), the world’s leading authority on climate science has certainly sounded the alarm bells around the world. António Guterres, the UN secretary general, has called for investors and businesses to focus all their efforts into a low-carbon future.

But let’s be honest, in a business climate where companies are being forced to re-examine their expenditures, large scale sustainability efforts can be hard to justify.

However, sustainability efforts do not necessarily require extra investments. Implementing changes to increase productivity, improve quality, or reduce cost often cause the knock-on effect of better environmental performance. Consider the fact that industrial activities are responsible for the lion’s share of global carbon emissions and it’s obvious that this could be the chance for industry to not only build back better, but greener.

Predictive rather than reactive maintenance

The rising call for greener solutions and zero waste is shifting industries toward decarbonized and digitized solutions that grant high production levels at low energy costs. While these goals may seem contradictory, a key aspect of their achievability is in the maintenance of assets.

There are three main elements of maintenance. In order of increasing complexity, they are:

  • Corrective: Corrective maintenance is a task performed to rectify a failure and return a working asset to a functional condition.
  • Preventative: Preventative maintenance is routine upkeep to lessen the likelihood of failure.
  • Predictive: Predictive maintenance determines, based on operational parameters, how and when maintenance should be performed.

By waiting for failure before engaging in maintenance, an organisation relying on corrective maintenance will encounter greater downtime, lost productivity, and threats to worker safety.

While preventative maintenance is better than corrective, it is often costly and unnecessary. For example, fixed maintenance intervals for high-use parts such as bearings or shafts may cause unnecessary downtime if there isn’t significant wear on the part. Runtimes from assets are shortened, uptime is minimised, and costs are increased.

Predictive maintenance seeks to avoid this unnecessary cost and downtime by monitoring the ongoing state of an organisation’s assets. It expands the lifetime of an asset, resulting in less inputs and less waste.

The added sustainability benefit of predictive maintenance lies in the process innovation it offers. Predictive maintenance data can also be utilized to identify which unit consumes more energy or which one produces more emissions – thus offering operations and maintenance teams a chance to resolve issues and maintain optimal asset performance as well as simultaneously increase a facility’s environmental performance.

Improve safety 

 Sustainability is usually associated with diversification into renewable energy and relates to business operations; however, safety is an important criterion. Factors that affect personnel safety, such as unstructured information and poor shift handover processes, have been known to cause catastrophic incidents.

A Hexagon PPM division study of 101 industrial accidents, where poor human procedures was a contributory factor, sadly found there were 405 fatalities and 2,163 injuries associated to these devastating incidents.

This is often caused by the lack of digitization in facilities – using paper, spreadsheets, and word processor documents to record and manage certification documents and procedures – thus missing out on numerous modern-day benefits of digitization.

Paper records – although portable on a clipboard – are siloed and must be physically stored for compliance record-keeping purposes. Often these records are handwritten and can also be illegible, tampered with or lost. Important information is also often not carried over to related documents and procedures in a particular certification system for future review.

If archive paper records do need to be analyzed, this involves a cumbersome process of searching through archive boxes, filing cabinets and folders. Values recorded on paper are also often entered into spreadsheets and word processor documents to manage follow-up corrective actions and certification plan modifications, creating unnecessary double work.

Now imagine if all your employees – from the plant floor to the board room – had ready access to historical data as well as real-time information from a single Information Management System. If you include 3D models, laser scans, or integrated operations systems with high-quality structured information, you’ll have relevant data for every asset or piece of equipment at your fingertips.

Incorporate a role-based view of information relevant to specific functions or individuals in an operating facility and you would have put the right information, at the right time, in the right hands – reducing your facility’s risk and making it safer for all.

Boost regulatory compliance

A growing set of global indices means more and more companies are finding the need to report on sustainability performances. Unethical or opaque business practices are increasingly scrutinized, and the impacts can be severe — billions of dollars in fines, criminal censure, and even loss of market share due a damaged brand image.

Digitization ensures that the combination of integration, data exchange, and supply chain management establishes transparency and up-to-date record-keeping that sets a foundation for meaningful sustainability reporting.

This in turn ensures that the documentation used by personnel is meeting compliance when completed and is continually updated in line with the ever-evolving internal reviews and government legislation. Compliance documents and reports which need to be routinely sent to government agencies and regulators can now be completed and distributed in just a few minutes.

 Greener operations are good for business

Even before the pandemic, many of the world’s largest companies recognised the competitive edge that a combined effort between operational excellence and environmental benefit could offer. Those who hesitated to invest in technology-enabled sustainability were already being left behind.

Today however, businesses are in a unique position. The ripple effects of the pandemic present a historic opportunity to recalibrate and pursue a more purpose-driven strategy to not only meet long-term goals of profitability, but also allow for space to do good.

For more information on how we support the sustainability efforts of our customers, visit Hexagon’s Sustainability page

About the Author

Maria Luthström is responsible for driving the company’s Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda, as well as engagement and outreach within the financial investment community. She joined Hexagon in 2015 as Head of Investor Relations. Prior to joining Hexagon, she held various managing positions within Investor Relations and Communications and has extensive experience in implementing sustainability reporting standards and leading sustainability projects. Luthström holds a Master of Science in business administration and economics.

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