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How data is helping industrial companies to achieve environmental KPIs

Lisa Wee

Lisa Wee

VP of Sustainability of AVEVA
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Image credit: metamorworks / Shutterstock.com

From spreadsheets and smartphone photos to new software apps, individuals and businesses around the world are generating more data at a faster rate than ever before.

The total amount of data created, captured, and replicated is referred to as the global datasphere. Researchers at market intelligence firm IDC forecast that this datasphere will grow to 180 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025, as compared to 33 ZB in 2018. Each year, the volume of raw data being created grows at a compound annual growth rate of 23%, the researchers estimate. At the same time, the enterprise datasphere is growing twice as fast as the consumer datasphere, partly because businesses increasingly use the cloud for storage and consumption.

Much of this raw data typically resides in disparate silos at the point of collection, limiting its applications for enterprise use. In fact, the average data scientist spends up to 60% of their time gathering, cleaning and collating data, rather than mining it for insights.

Turning data into actionable information

However, when those individual and unfiltered data sets are aggregated and organised into insightful information, businesses can realise greater potential. Aggregated and contextualised into a big-picture view, this information can provide the blueprint for the industrial world to unlock productivity and value gains – and show ways to innovate at scale.

Analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) applications play a key role in transforming raw data into actionable information.

Industrial software solutions based on AI and predictive analytics are already helping enterprises discover patterns and anomalies, to shift business models from reactive to proactive decision-making and to achieve efficient operations and optimised value chains.

Now companies are using data-led innovation to unlock sustainability gains in line with stated commitments to net-zero carbon emissions, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. From managing carbon emissions to unearthing sustainable new revenue streams, the business benefits of information-led digital technologies are manifold, as the following companies show.

Increasing operational efficiency

Efficiency – or doing more with less– must be central to any sustainability play. Using fewer resources both helps maximise supply and reduce business costs. In the process, a company can reduce its carbon footprint.

That’s something that Aker Carbon Capture understands. The company takes a unified engineering approach to create efficient and replicable designs for its carbon capture units. By integrating all its process simulation and engineering (1D, 2D and 3D) data into a single data-centric hub in the cloud, its staff can collaborate across time zones, resulting in an increase in operational efficiency and time to market by over 50%.

Slashing energy consumption

Consumers in many countries are familiar with the way smart electricity meters highlight their energy consumption. When the same concept is upscaled to an industrial plant in real time, managers can track consumption and streamline their operations to reduce energy use.

The US-based food producer Kellogg’s was one of the first companies to set science-based targets to help limit global warming to below 1.5°C. Reducing energy consumption was a key priority on the road to driving net-zero throughout its operations. Kellogg’s used AVEVA PI System to track and manage energy data in its factories, creating a digital ecosystem that benchmarked usage and identified savings opportunities. The digital suite yielded savings of $3.3 million each year, while identifying an additional $1.8 million in rebates, and elevated abatement measures, such as optimising the use of HVAC units across its plants.

Surfacing new revenue streams

Beyond savings from efficiency and optimisation, digital solutions can also help unlock new business opportunities. Sharing relevant data with customers and partners is one way to do so.

Dominion Energy aggregates data from remote wind and other assets in the cloud. Sharing this energy source and performance information with customers lets its customers verify that Dominion is using energy from low-carbon sources. In turn, customers can provide proof of their own net-zero commitments to investors and environmental, social and governance (ESG) auditors – creating a new source of revenue for Dominion.

Besides realising a 50% increase in speed to market for vital environmental data, Dominion has increased its own profitability and is now helping accelerate North America’s low-carbon energy transition.

Investing to drive sustainable change

As businesses recognise their roles in achieving key net-zero targets, nine in 10 corporate leaders expect to accelerate their sustainability activities, according to a 2021 global AVEVA survey. Approximately 85% plan to increase their investment in digital transformation over the next three years in order to tackle climate change, embrace automation and unlock the performance benefits of advanced technologies.

As digital technology is embedded within organisations’ DNA, data is being generated at every level of the enterprise. Turning that data into actionable insight can help power positive change while improving profitability at every level.

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