Are You Working on Sustainability or Still Waiting for a Sign?
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Are You Working on Sustainability or Still Waiting for a Sign?

Photo by:   Guillermo Bilbao
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By Guillermo Bilbao - Minsait
Director of Energy and Phygital


Chaining himself to the Los Angeles Chase Bank building doors, Peter Kalmus, a NASA researcher , wanted to deliver a clear message to the world: Climate change is real and might be catastrophic. After this event, the movie Don’t look up! came to my mind. It is about a group of scientists trying to alert the government to the imminent crashing of a meteor into Earth. Nobody took them seriously, and even worse, the scientists were used for political purposes. In an unhappy ending (spoiler alert!), the meteor destroys the Earth. So, the question now is: Are we already too late to avoid a climate disaster? Do we still have time? Is the industry ready for radical sustainability policies to reduce and improve our environment? Companies now have the responsibility to develop while simultaneously taking care of resources and the environment. The business of producing n goods and services must consider sustainability issues in the equation, in addition to other indicators, including costs, talent, and efficiency. The implementation of industrial best practices is key to mitigating environmental damage. Overall Efficiency Equipment (OEE) helps companies reduce costs and waste through cleaner processes that require fewer resources, such as energy, water, or any chemical substance. Traceability is the tool that will help improve performance indicators all across the company and all along the supply chain, which means the consolidation of data related to a product, from raw material to appropriate disposal, recovery, and reuse or recycling. Information Technology and Communication systems (ITC) are becoming crucial tools to provide companies with the necessary visibility, control, and analytics to improve processes and reduce the negative impact on the environment. While putting these best practices together, OEE, Traceability, and ITC, a new generation of physical systems, including machinery and peripheral components, are TIC embedded with the capacity to gather and share information and communicate with other parts and machines and with management software applications. Once the organizations have information in their hands, companies can determine what indicators will help with their sustainability plans, such as energy, raw material, scrap in process, gas emissions, water, logistics and material handling, and even personal commuting. A minor improvement on every single indicator can make a difference. Utilities are among the most important fields for observing sustainability policies, whether public or private. TIC also significantly impacts utility companies by controlling flow, leaks, or consumption ranges to help supply efficiency and thus reduce the use of primary resources or raw materials required for each service. In Mexico, it is estimated that 27 water operators provide the service to more than 38 million users. Many of these operators also carry out water treatment operations and pumping and distribution for cities or irrigation for agricultural fields. These operations require a large amount of energy that, added to the resource they manage, can be optimized thanks to information technology systems and even artificial intelligence that reduce unnecessary energy use or immediately warn of leaks. Today, energy is among the most pressing topics in Mexico. Last April, Congress decided not to approve a bill that would have given the government total control over electricity generation. Leaving aside political matters, the opposition argued its decision under the consideration that production and distribution must be modernized to develop clean energy and reduce the cost of environmental impact. One day before the Congressional session, The Washington Post published an article saying US officials were concerned about the risk to US$10 billion in American Investments because, “It would also shift Mexico away from once-shared climate change priorities and could force US manufacturers in Mexico to power their factories with fuel oil, instead of cleaner sources.” This supposed that private investments in energy production and distribution in Mexico would include better technology, allowing control and improvement to the benefit of the environment, compared with what is going to be feasible by the Mexican government alone. Sustainability requires the surveillance of factors and indicators that must be followed up on a timely basis, which considers detailed, timely, visible and available information. Determining and reducing the carbon footprint generated by each product, from the extraction and transfer of its raw material to the delivery and disposal after its useful life, is one of the many ethical challenges combined with financial viability that all industries face today. The importance of the above was demonstrated in 2020 when due to the pandemic, a confinement process was enforced that paralyzed the world and led to a drop in greenhouse gas emissions. According to data from the EFE agency, just in Spain, this drop was greater than 17 percent. Data from the United Nations Environment Program indicate that, globally, CO2 emissions of fossil origin decreased by 1.98 Gt CO2 (5.6 percent) in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, in 2021, pollution returned to pre-pandemic levels. This forces industrialists to continue developing an awareness of caring for the environment without neglecting financial performance, which will be possible by increasing and refining operating efficiency indicators (OEE). Digital transformation could be a key driver to “look up,” and a key building block to support effective sustainable initiatives that allow organizations to see the signal now.

Photo by:   Guillermo Bilbao

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