Reducing Environmental Impact Through Digital Transformation

Written by: Greg Kaminsky

Read Time: 3 min

Successful enterprise-wide digital transformation initiatives deliver a bounty of positive business outcomes – faster product innovation, greater workforce productivity, and lower operational costs, to name a few. Business leaders commonly focus and report on the digital transformation benefits that correlate directly to ROI and bottom-line improvements, but there are oftentimes additional indirect benefits that technology can bring to an organization and its employees.

We’ve been exploring some of these more unsung benefits of digital transformation in a recent blog series that breaks down how executives, knowledge employees, and frontline employees each perceive the value of digital technology. In this blog, we’ll focus on one potential digital transformation outcome that’s becoming increasingly important to manufacturers: the ability to reduce an organization’s environmental impact. 

How digital transformation helps manufacturers curb their environmental impact

At the ground level, digital transformation facilitates sustainable innovation by providing employees across the value chain with modern tools and technologies that help them work more efficiently. When those tools and technologies work together, they form a powerful digital foundation that creates additional value by helping businesses share meaningful operational insights between functions.

Optimizing product designs for the environment

Design engineering teams are using artificial intelligence (AI) to conceptualize new, oftentimes unimaginable ways to optimize product designs, including for environmental impact. At Cummins, a group of design engineers were able to quickly reduce the carbon footprint of their internal combustion and fuel cell engine systems by using AI-driven generative design to minimize the amount of material in the design.

When Cummins’ engineers first learned about the ambitious sustainability goals their company had mapped out, they knew they would need to play an influential role in helping achieve them. By leaning further into the capabilities of Creo, the CAD solution they were already using, and exploring generative design, the team was able to efficiently lightweight and dematerialize their product, creating significant CO2 and cost savings for the business.

Minimizing waste during production

On the production floor, digital technology helps manufacturers reduce waste by providing real-time visibility into operational bottlenecks, monitoring how efficiently (or inefficiently) production lines and equipment are performing, and guiding frontline employees with augmented training and work instructions.

CIMC, a leading supplier of logistics and energy equipment, credits digital transformation for helping its factories reduce energy consumption and driving down electricity costs. Using PTC’s industrial IoT technology, ThingWorx, CIMC monitors different aspects of its production performance in real time, unlocking data-driven insights that create opportunities for more efficient energy management, as well as predictive maintenance and quality tracing.

Reducing emissions from service

In the field, many of the same technologies driving manufacturing efficiencies are also helping companies to deliver more sustainable service outcomes. Service providers are reducing truck rolls and travel-related emissions by empowering their workforces to monitor, diagnose, troubleshoot, and resolve customer issues remotely, without travelling on-site.

In addition to remote service, digital transformation enables businesses to better optimize their spare parts inventories so that they can effectively meet demand while maintaining a smaller supply chain of service parts. Instead of producing or procuring unnecessary spare parts, businesses can accurately forecast when and where the existing parts within their network will get utilized and then optimize their service supply chain as needed.

Digital transformation is accelerating sustainable innovation

With new product and process regulations surfacing each day, manufacturers must begin thinking expansively about how digital technology can help them deliver more sustainable business outcomes. Many are already seeing success and differentiating their products, services, and brand by prioritizing sustainable innovation early in the product development process, where up to 80 percent of a product’s environmental impact gets determined. With technologies like CAD, PLM, IoT, and augmented reality, there are solutions available today for driving high-impact sustainability improvements and reducing costs associated with material use, energy consumption, and waste.

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Tags: CAD Sustainability Sustainability Initiatives Digital Transformation Generative Design

About the Author

Greg Kaminsky Greg Kaminsky is a Senior Brand Marketing Manager at PTC based in Boston, Massachusetts. He focuses on sharing customer innovation stories and exploring how digital transformation helps product companies become more sustainable and efficient. With a background in marketing, video, and content creation, Greg is inspired by examples of people and technology that are pushing the boundaries of cutting edge. Outside of the office, Greg also enjoys volunteering and finding ways to positively impact the community as part of PTC's global ambassador group, Green at PTC.

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