Industries most often associated with high emission rates have already seen how automation can drive progress. “In many energy-intensive … industries, such as transport, manufacturing and data centers, automation is already well-established as a key contributor to energy efficiency,” said Rajesh Ramachandran, chief digital officer of ABB Process Automation.
Shipping is one industry with a high environmental cost. “Thirty-five percent of all heavy-duty trucking miles are driven without freight, resulting in unnecessary cost, hassle and carbon waste across the freight industry,” said Juliet Horton, chief of staff of product and engineering at Convoy, a trucking software company. The inefficiencies stem from a lack of visibility and communication between shippers and carriers.
Convoy’s system connects truck drivers (via an app) with shippers (via a web platform). Using machine learning and automation, the system looks to help truckers spend less time hauling empty trailers, thereby reducing the sector’s carbon footprint, Horton said.
Convoy also provides its customers with the automated optimization of transportation routes and flexible appointment windows that lower both transportation costs and carbon emissions. By highlighting the environmental benefits of its services, Convoy can tie sustainability to a tangible business benefit. “By branding the appointment window option as a ‘Green Appointment Window,’ we focus a shipper’s attention on the importance of reducing their carbon emissions,” Horton said.
Challenges, even contradictions, remain inherent in the use of automation for improving energy efficiency and operations, but there is also plenty of potential.
“Ultimately, achieving energy savings through increasing the efficiency of operations is key to helping enterprises reach their sustainability goals,” Ramachandran said. “Technologies that help enterprises optimize their energy use are already available today, and advances in innovation are continuously being made to further improve these.”