Decarbonisation and digitalisation: our industry can take the lead

Weidmuller Pty Ltd

By Rafael Koenig
Wednesday, 13 October, 2021


Decarbonisation and digitalisation: our industry can take the lead

At this point in history, the big trends and issues that we see affecting the automation and control industry are twofold: decarbonisation and digitalisation. It is in these two areas that our industry can take the lead to drive successful outcomes.

The active mitigation of climate change risks is thankfully not just in the hand of our politicians. The reluctant commitment of our political leaders to achieve net-zero and the threat of being left behind by the rest of the world are certainly less than ideal. We see an increasing number of initiatives driven by large resources, energy and manufacturing companies to accelerate their efforts to decarbonising their processes and switch to clean and renewable resources for their energy needs, and I see our role within our industry as offering vital solutions in renewable energy (wind, PV, battery storage and green hydrogen).

In addition, using technology to reduce the energy demand for our manufacturing industry will optimise this industry’s cost structure while reducing its carbon footprint. Decarbonisation also means replacing or at least dramatically reducing the need for fossil fuels for areas like transport, and the use of gas and coal in heat generation in industrial processes. While hardly anyone can solve all these challenges alone, we as an industry can contribute substantially.

Digitalisation, IIoT and Industry 4.0 have also for some time now been promoted as technologies that will shape the future of our process and manufacturing industries. As an industry, we now must move from using buzzwords to real-world action. If we can use digitalisation to improve productivity, we are less reliant on lot sizes and make investing in local manufacturing more attractive. If we use condition monitoring, machine learning and analytics smartly, we can reduce maintenance costs and increase the efficiency, safety and reliability of most processes. In addition, if we use the data we collect sensibly we are able to optimise energy usage and contribute even more to reducing our reliance on traditional energy sources and of course the associated costs.

While we cannot move away immediately from all uses of fossil fuels, we have in Australia only scratched the surface in making their use efficient. Future investments in oil and gas, LNG and coal (for example) need to drive efficiency and should go hand in hand with the eventual transition towards renewable and clean energy sources. Digitalisation is a key enabler in this field and our industry has a responsibility to optimise processes and engineering to drive sustainable outcomes.

Automation, instrumentation and process control are shaped by organisations with international footprints. As an industry, we have a body of knowledge, experience and capabilities that cannot be matched by individual organisations. Our industry has proven in the past that it can work together to drive common outcomes but also compete where needed.

If there is one thing that I learned from the challenges we have had during the COVID pandemic, it is the realisation that there is no time to wait. Our industry has a vital role in the big picture that is protecting our climate and our economic livelihood. The question is not “What are we entitled to?” but, “What can we do now to start change?”

Rafael Koenig is the Managing Director of Weidmüller Australia. He holds a degree in electrical engineering attained at the University of Paderborn, Germany and a Master’s Degree in Business and Technology from the University of NSW, Australia. Rafael has more than 25 years of experience in automation technology and innovation management in Australia and Germany.

Image: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Framestock

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