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Rapid urbanisation has resulted in two major issues for developing nations – carbon emissions and waste management – both of which carry socio-economic repercussions for densely populated cities. By Shreeharsha Aithal, Commercial Manager, Solutions & Services, Southeast Asia, Rockwell Automation.

Shreeharsha Aithal, Commercial Manager, Solutions & Services, Southeast Asia, Rockwell Automation

Shreeharsha Aithal, Commercial Manager, Solutions & Services, Southeast Asia, Rockwell Automation

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Asia was the fastest-growing economic bloc with the World Economic Forum projecting that the region would overtake the GDP of the rest of the world combined by the end of this year and account for 60 per cent of global growth by 2030.

This meteoric growth has been fuelled by the mass industrialisation of rural regions resulting in the expansion of and domestic migration to megacities. 

However rapid urbanisation has resulted in two major issues for developing nations – carbon emissions and waste management – both of which carry socio-economic repercussions for densely populated cities.

Businesses attempting to better manage their emissions and waste management processes face the roadblock of having significant costs already divested into legacy infrastructure as well as justifying the added expenditure required to improve the process. 

What these companies need is a flexible and adaptive technology solution that can optimise pre-existing machinery as well as analyse hard data and numbers to track the effectiveness of the upgrades.

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Automating The Approach To Carbon Emissions Control

While the global lockdown has resulted in a landmark decrease in carbon emissions, it also highlighted the challenges faced in bringing emissions down to levels recommended by the United Nations (UN) to combat global warming, with some experts citing reductions made by the private sector as the single biggest factor in making a long-term impact.

Coal demand has increased in Asia, accounting for over 50 per cent of energy use generating around 10 Gt of emissions the International Authority of Energy (IEA) reported in 2019. 

In particular, the energy sector, as well as industrial processes such as metal and cement refineries, account for nearly 20 per cent of all anthropogenic carbon emissions. 

Governments and statutory boards have also started doubling down on monitoring the emissions output of manufacturers. 

These requirements include periodic accuracy verification as well as continuous uptime monitoring. As regional, national, and global regulations have become more stringent, many industries and processes that were once exempt are now required to account for their impact on the environment.

Manufacturers looking to navigate these complex environmental regulations or minimise their carbon emissions, in general, can implement monitoring and reporting systems to help ensure that emissions trading decisions are made with a high degree of confidence. 

This can be achieved by an automated real-time approach to data collection and the validation of actual and predicted air and wastewater emissions. These systems must balance meeting the myriad and complex regulatory demands while ensuring cost-effective operations and maintenance.

Companies can consider installing a traditional hardware Continuous Emissions Monitoring (CEM) system, but these often come with high installation and recurring costs, limited product lifetimes and difficulty attaining 95 per cent uptime. 

An alternative that manufacturers are now looking toward is software-based CEM. For example, the patented Rockwell Automation Software CEM is a model-based, Predictive Emissions Monitoring System (PEMS) which provides a certifiable, cost-effective solution with reliable emissions monitoring capabilities to meet or surpass regulatory requirements worldwide.

Using an online model based on historical and real-time source data, it provides continuous predictions of emissions from a wide range of sources and fuels. In correlation with existing instruments, systems like this provide accurate, fast emissions information and are key to addressing this ongoing environmental challenge.

Maximising Waste Management Processes

In ASEAN alone, the UN estimates that the per capita Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation has reached 1.14kg per day, not accounting for healthcare, industrial, construction, and electronic waste – much of which is not always correctly disposed of. 

Many waste management plants today still rely on the traditional Distributed Control System (DCS), which were built decades ago with the sole purpose of process control. 

Modernising the DCS would integrate all automation operations wirelessly, allowing for complete centralised control over a facility. 

End-to-end solutions such as the Process System Estimator (PSE) design tool and DCS & Web Reporting System are also capable of precise real-time data, equipped with expended diagnostics capabilities for ease of operation. 

This has an added advantage of minimising waste across the entire production chain, both for waste management plants as well as general product manufacturers.

When it comes to effective waste management, manufacturers can look to implement process technology that delivers high yield at low operating costs. 

Different process solutions are utilised to address a wide range of industry challenges and help manufacturers achieve their production goals, and this includes waste management. 

Process technology capabilities within waste management include batch, quality and traceability management, thermal and biological treatment and co-incineration plant control.  

For example, intelligent data-driven batch management solutions harness large-scale data management to provide serialisation for product tracking and traceability. 

The best solutions have been designed to be scalable on a global level while simultaneously integrating with pre-existing machinery to drive tangible results in waste reduction and materials consumption. 

From an operational perspective as well, a modern batch solution is a key component of The Connected Enterprise, helping users view real-time data on manufacturing processes, compare performance across plants, seamlessly scale production up and down, and manage energy consumption. 

All these factors contribute to optimising productivity and the efficient management of waste throughout operations. Solutions such as this can help turn challenges into business advantages, and reduce the environmental impact of business operations.

Tangible Data-Proven Business Results

The pressure for energy producers and manufacturers to go green has been mounting for the past five years, with governments, shareholders, and the general public alike calling for the private sector to take the lead in committing to more rigorous global standards of environments, social, and governance standards.

While many companies have made proactive efforts towards reducing waste and adhering to clean manufacturing standards, it is important to monitor the improvements made while balancing business results at the same time.

Regardless of the industry sector, what businesses ultimately want is to invest in solutions to drive productivity, increase effectiveness, and reduce costs. 

The possibilities represented by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are vast and can be used to maximise business results across operations, and this includes minimising environmental impact. 

Cost-efficient and resource optimising software enabling advanced treatment solutions within this field can be tailored to suit the needs of manufacturers and are the next logical step towards sustainably reducing waste and emissions in the manufacturing process.

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