According to Sébastien Wiertz, General Manager of Paul Wurth InCub, most organizations focus on optimizing their processes and businesses, but they do not measure their own energy consumption. Startups could help them be more efficient, innovative and sustainable.
Luxinnovation and its clusters organized their annual Smart Manufacturing Week event. The 2021 edition focused on digital technologies, industry 4.0 and sustainability.
Around 750 companies are currently active in the Luxembourg manufacturing industry: 455 operate manufacturing as a core business; 298 enablers provide Smart manufacturing products, solutions and services; 52 are startups.
Their main activities are metallurgy (34%), followed by pharmacy (11.87%), machinery and equipment (9%).
Enablers are mainly solution providers around digital transformation, data mining, analysis and management or business intelligence.
Startups collaborate with this ecosystem on projects and solutions based on technologies including cloud computing, artificial intelligence and internet of things.
During the event, Sébastien Wiertz, General Manager of Paul Wurth InCub, told Silicon Luxembourg how the manufacturing industry can gain in energy efficiency.
What main challenges do manufacturing companies face regarding energy consumption?
Companies face 3 challenges: Efficiency, Innovation and Sustainability. A focus on their energy consumption could help them tackle these issues, as 36% of the energy consumed by the sector can be saved, a study by the International Energy Agency shows.
Indeed, most organizations focus on optimizing their processes and businesses, but they do not measure their energy consumption.
“Luxembourg has enough researchers and scientists, and lots of sleeping solutions and technologies that could help companies tackle the issue.”
What solutions do you suggest?
Simple steps of common sense can easily address the energy saving issue, and this at low cost: Companies should first implement good housekeeping practices, such as measuring the energy of their machines, or optimizing their processes. These could already help them gain up to 5% efficiency.
They should also implement the available technologies that will make their organization and value chain more energy-efficient. This could lead up to another 15% return on investment.
Third step is Innovation, which could add a further 10% gain on efficiency.
Luxembourg has enough researchers and scientists, and lots of sleeping solutions and technologies that could help companies tackle the issue. For example, research on hydrogen is a promising solution to decarbonize the steel production.
How could VSEs and SMEs be more efficient, innovative and sustainable?
In any digitization or sustainability project, companies must have dedicated people who carry out the project. The difficulty of small companies is to have such resource available, who has the time and know-how conduct such initiative.
The Digital Innovation Hub can put SMEs in touch with enablers who can help implement an efficiency program.
However, small companies need to have someone internally, who can first identify and define the pain points, and then solve those with the help of an external consultant.
To externalize such project, a climate of trust shall however exist between the enabler and the small company. The consultant needs to understand the functioning of the client and its organization.
How can VSEs and SMEs reduce their own energy consumption?
They must start by looking at the consumption of their machines and tools; In particular, they should measure the energy intensity of each machine and then identify the sources of their high consumption.
Large companies have already done the job. They could therefore share their experience with the small ones through joint projects. For that, VSEs and SMEs should also dedicate some time and resources to it.
Indeed, those cost saving issues can be addressed very easily, through small investments and simple actions, such as mapping the daily operations of the factory, and then identifying their pain points together with a project leader who could be someone external.
This will work for industrial processes. It is however more difficult to measure the energy consumption of administrative tasks and processes.
“Large organizations should ask their own suppliers to share their own experience with providers of VSEs and SMEs.”
What role can startups play in this process?
We should keep in mind that startups do not only focus on research or innovation. Many of them already provide products and solutions that are operational and have already proven records.
Some others have developed solutions which are ready to go to market and now need a user-case and a market validation.
Therefore, manufacturing companies could help these startups validate their business model. In return, startups are the most dynamic suppliers that manufacturing companies can find on the market.
The current problems VSEs and SMEs face today, are those large companies experienced on a larger scale 10 years ago.
Indeed, large organizations should ask their own suppliers to share their own experience with providers of VSEs and SMEs, in an altruistic exchange of knowledge.