Sten Grüner, Thomas Gamer, Ralf Gitzel, Jan-Christoph Schlake, Marco Ulrich ABB Corporate Research Ladenburg, Germany, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org; Kai Garrels ABB Electrification Heidelberg, Germany, email@example.com
Sustainability is central to ABB’s purpose. In line with the UN’s global goals for sustainable development, ABB aims to achieve a full life cycle circular approach for 80 percent of products and solutions by 2030.
The circular economy concept implements a self-sufficient system: Products are used as normal, but when they are no longer needed or no longer work, they are repaired or reused by others. At the end of their life cycle, they are dismantled and their components and raw materials are used to manufacture new products →01. Along with environmental benefits, a circular economy also boosts economic competitiveness and resilience. ABB’s circular approach includes both ABB’s and the customer’s perspectives of the entire product lifetime.
To reach the ambitious 80 percent goal, all relevant product data – over the entire life cycle – that relates to materials and processes has to be transparent, traceable and easily accessible. For example, manufacturers need to understand the environmental costs of their actions over a product’s lifetime and plant operators must understand the CO₂ footprint and optimization potential of their operation. Unfortunately, such insights are often unavailable as the amount of data needed to create them is vast.
Digitalization is the key enabler that makes these large amounts of data manageable, accessible and usable . The following exemplar describes three ABB activities that address the different sectors of ABB circularity and the role of digitalization in these.
Circularity and carbon footprint data availability
The ABB closed-loop circularity approach encompasses ABB’s view of solution design and materials, sourcing, operations, logistics and waste avoidance, as well as the customer’s perspective of optimized efficiency and lifetime, and end-of-life processing  →02. Such a system requires comprehensive information about a product’s environmental footprint – for example, its CO₂ equivalent. This type of information is the focus of an ongoing digital product passport (DPP) initiative driven by the European Commission.
Guidance is also given by ISO 14067, which is part of the ISO 14060 family of standards for quantifying, monitoring, reporting and validating greenhouse gas emissions. ISO 14067 defines the product carbon footprint (PCF) as a sum of all emissions and removals of greenhouse gases along its life cycle, expressed in a CO₂ equivalent. The PCF can include the so-called cradle-to-grave life cycle part of a product’s life cycle – ie, the CO₂ equivalent of the product’s components, production and intralogistics. A cradle-to-grave PCF additionally incorporates the CO₂ footprint of a product’s runtime aspects – for example, transport to the place of use, installation, use and end-of-life events.
ABB participates in a German initiative  to showcase how carbon footprint information can be exchanged between companies and combined into a PCF for a complex product based on open standards and Industry 4.0 technologies. To this end, a demonstrator electrical cabinet has been equipped with components from 14 vendors. The cabinet includes components implementing Industry 4.0 standards, such as QR-code-based identification of assets and access to each asset PCF via a so-called Asset Administration Shell (AAS) →03. An AAS is a technology- and vendor-neutral, interoperable implementation of an industrial digital twin that covers an asset’s representation through its full life cycle . A digital twin, in turn, is a digital representation of a physical asset that enables industrial applications by providing data, models and services around the asset.
With access to each asset’s digital twin and the cabinet’s digital twin containing the component topology, analytics applications can sum up a correct cradle-to-gate PCF value of the cabinet based on the known PCF of its components.
Material flow optimization
The mining industry provides a good backdrop for demonstrating how digitalization and digital twins can help improve sustainability. Mining accounts for 4 to 7 percent of the world’s emissions of CO₂  and about 6 percent of global energy consumption . It is unlikely that this share will decrease fast but nonetheless, key players are targeting carbon neutrality by 2050. To meet this target, a holistic approach to optimization of energy consumption and CO₂ emission from pit to port is needed. Here, an ABB research concept called material flow digital twin (MFDT) helps to provide the necessary transparency that allows tracking of the continuous flow of material. An MFDT consists of an information metamodel based on international standards, a discrete event simulator, a model library and analytics modules that allow calculation of online key performance indicators (KPIs) like specific CO₂ emission per produced ton or specific energy consumption per produced ton.
04 MFDT-based material tracking in continuous industries helps calculate specific CO₂ emissions per produced ton.
Activity-based analytics derived from International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines can be fueled by material flow information provided by the MFDT →04. This combination provides an online overview of the entire value chain and its actual emissions. MFDT digital technologies like state estimation, uncertainty quantification, what-if analysis and flow optimization help identify strategic actions to reduce emissions in mining processes.
ABB’s Mission to Zero
Digitalization and digital twins are crucial elements of ABB’s Mission to Zero – a carbon-neutral and energy self-sufficient ecosystem for industry, homes and cities . Transparency of Internet of Things (IoT) data from production, electrification and buildings is mandatory for a more resource-efficient operation and the fulfillment of Mission to Zero aims. Such transparency is achieved by collecting IoT data from all involved entities and digitally connecting the physical entities such as electric vehicle (EV) chargers, solar panels, or building automation appliances to achieve interoperability and allow for holistic optimization.
An installation at an ABB Busch-Jaeger site in Lüdenscheid, Germany, demonstrates how IoT data and digital energy management enable energy transition and sustainability. Featuring a 1,100 MWh/year solar power plant, the installed ABB equipment, which includes ABB’s OPTIMAX® scalable energy management system, can cover the site’s entire power requirements on sunny days, reducing CO₂ emissions by 630 t per year.
Requirements and Industry 4.0 technologies
From the discussed use cases above, two key prerequisites for a digital solution to a life cycle-based sustainability approach emerge:
• Asset life cycle information needs to be collected in the digital twin during the life cycle.
• Infrastructure is required to store, serve and connect the digital twin data.
Further high-level requirements can be derived from these prerequisites and the Industry 4.0 technology solutions proposed. Regarding life cycle information, high-level requirements are:
• Unique identification of an asset.
• Knowledge about the asset type and structure, and semantically enriched other information.
• Versioning of changes directly related to an asset over its life cycle.
• Migration and backward compatibility of updates to the Industry 4.0 ecosystem – eg, of the Industry 4.0 information metamodel.
And for the infrastructure to store, serve and connect digital twins, it is necessary to have the following:
• Interoperability of all involved entities, eg, IT, OT and ET systems of different organizations.
• Connections to physical objects and digital representations, using, for example, industrial IoT and cyber-physical systems (CPS).
• Lifelong availability of information via long-time storage.
• Immutability and consistency of information.
Technologies that partially address these requirements already exist. For example, a unique asset identification can be linked via a QR code or near-field communication (NFC) tag, as proposed by the vendor-independent “Identification Link” set out in the IEC 61406-1 standard. Such a link delivers both a stable identification and a connection between the physical object (the QR code or NFC tag is physically attached to the asset) and its digital representation.
To store and access knowledge about asset type and structure, Plattform Industrie 4.0 (a network of research facilities and industrial companies driving Industry 4.0 and the digital transformation ) and the Industrial Digital Twin Association (IDTA)  have specified and agreed on the AAS that implements the generic digital twin concept.
The secure connection of the physical object to the digital representation – by, for example, industrial fieldbuses, Ethernet-based industrial IoT technologies, or interoperable technologies like OPC UA – is transparent to the user when interfacing with an AAS. Interoperability is accomplished by integrating vendor-specific models, such as ABB Ability™ Information Model, with vendor-independent and standardized AAS or OPC UA information models. Moreover, digital concepts such as AAS provide an easy way to integrate digital twins with, for example, simulations in a CPS. Finally, analytics and optimization based on machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI) techniques provide the means to benefit from the large amounts of data accessible via digital twins and digital infrastructure. There is research and standardization work ongoing in addressing as yet uncovered requirements.
Digital twins can also be highly beneficial in meeting requirements related to environmental laws and regulations for sustainability – after all, the circular economy is only possible if products can be properly reprocessed without loss of material or the release of dangerous substances. Many laws and regulations – such as RoHS, WEEE, or REACH – typically require specific types of documentation. These can be provided using digital twin technologies and models adaptable to changes over the product or material life cycle and guarantee accessibility over the long term.
A full life cycle circular approach
Sustainability is central to ABB’s purpose and the value that ABB creates for stakeholders. To ABB, sustainable development means progress toward a healthier and more prosperous world  →05. The digitalization concepts and solutions described in this article are central to this purpose and will help to achieve a full life cycle circular approach for 80 percent of products and solutions by 2030. Further, the opportunities that digitalization offers – especially where digital twins are concerned – are open to almost any company to assist them in further improving sustainability within the organization and across their value chains.
 M. W. Hoffmann et al., “Developing Industrial CPS: A Multi-Disciplinary Challenge,” Sensors Journal, 21(6), 2021.
 ABB, “SUSTAINABILITY REPORT 2021: From ambition to action,” March, 2022. Available: https://sustainabilityreport.abb.com/2021/servicepages/downloads/files/sustainability-performance-abb-csr21.pdf. [Accessed August 20, 2022.]
 German association of electrotechnical industry (ZVEI), “White Paper: ZVEI-Show-Case PCF@Control Cabinet,” 2022. Available: https://www.zvei.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Presse_und_Medien/Publikationen/2022/Mai/Show-Case_PCF%40ControlCabin/22-05-25_Whitepaper_ZVEI-Show-Case-PCF-Control-Cabinet-HMI2022.pdf. [Accessed August 20, 2022.]
 S. Grüner et al., “Products have a digital twin and you can find it too!“ ABB Review 03/2021, pp. 26 – 31. Available: https://new.abb.com/news/detail/80772/products-have-a-digital-twin-and-you-can-find-it-too. [Accessed August 20, 2022.]
 McKinsey & Company, “Metals & Mining and Sustainability Practices. Climate risk and decarbonization: What every mining CEO needs to know,” 2020.
 K. Holmberg, et al., “A. Global energy consumption due to friction and wear in the mining industry,” Tribology International, Volume 115, November 2017, pp. 116 – 139.
 ABB, “Mission to Zero™ – The future of electrification is safe, smart and carbon neutral.” Available: https://new.abb.com/mission-to-zero/about. [Accessed August 20, 2022.]
 https://www.plattform-i40.de [Accessed August 20, 2022.]
 https://industrialdigitaltwin.org [Accessed August 20, 2022.]