Western Digital sustainable manufacturing sustainability environment

Sustainable Manufacturing: How Global Organizations Can Reimagine Operations

Sponsored by Western Digital

Organizations of all sizes and across industries are examining processes and evaluating how to combat the effects of climate change and work toward a more sustainable future. This is especially important as manufacturing companies evolve toward the fourth industrial revolution and identify ways to automate traditionally manual processes. One way corporations can reduce their carbon footprint is by embracing a more sustainable approach to manufacturing processes. Specifically, companies should focus on the 3 P’s – Prosperity, People, and Planet—when developing products and pushing the envelope with technology innovation.

Let’s dig in and look at how Western Digital is addressing these challenges and how corporate leaders can transform their manufacturing processes to meet the needs of current climate goals.

Products with Sustainability in Mind

When identifying how Prosperity, People, and the Planet are impacted when developing products, companies are forced to look at their processes through an alternative lens and make changes for the better.

Innovative and efficient product design reduces raw materials usage and power consumption of devices while increasing the capacity of storage devices. The result is better energy and materials management per byte of storage. Additionally, enabling product life cycle assessments has the potential to minimize environmental impacts for each phase of a product’s life.

Western Digital, a leading technology company in data storage solutions, has taken significant steps to reduce its carbon footprint by taking a more sustainable approach to product manufacturing processes. In FY2021, Western Digital formally committed to ambitious emissions targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 42% by fiscal year 2030 from a fiscal year 2020 base year—and since then, the company achieved nearly 15% absolute scope 1 and 2 emissions reduction. Most recently, the company set new corporate sustainability targets, including a commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy, reduce water withdrawals by 20% and divert more than 95% of operational waste from landfills by 2030, as well as achieve net zero emissions in operations (Scope 1 and 2 emissions) by 2032. Additionally, Western Digital is a founding member of the World Economic Forum’s First Movers Coalition, a group generating demand for sustainable technologies.

From production to end of life, measures are taken to minimize the environmental impact at each point in a Western Digital’s product journey. When the time comes to dispose of drives, customers in the United States can utilize Western Digital’s free Easy Recycle Program. It has recycled 26,000 drives from April 2020 through December 2022, diverting nearly 11.5 metric tons of waste from landfills.

Think Big and Encourage Innovation

Technology plays a large role in building more sustainable manufacturing best practices. For example, AI/ML (artificial intelligence/machine learning) is redefining the way organizations manufacture by designing efficient systems to reduce waste, water, and energy usage in production environments. By weaving advanced technology into processes, manufacturers can tackle obstacles and contribute to minimize environmental impact.

The World Economic Forum recognizes manufacturers that exemplify leadership in using Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to transform factories, value chains, and business models to adapt for more sustainable and efficient processes. The organization has recognized Western Digital factories in Penang, Malaysia, and Shanghai, China, as Sustainability and Global Lighthouses for their smart factory models and technology adoption. These facilities leverage technology innovation for more sustainable manufacturing initiatives—limiting waste and reducing water consumption and environmental emissions by leveraging automated technology and machine learning algorithms.

Western Digital’s factory in Penang, Malaysia, uses automation with digital twin capacity optimization for sustainability and smart energy usage optimization via real-time IIoT (industrial internet-of-things) applications to achieve its sustainability goals. The factory adopted a lights-out integrated operation through the use of robotic transportation, storage automation, and material management. This automation of production and logistics delivered a 32% factory cost improvement and transitioned to build-to-order with intelligent planning system, thereby reducing product inventory and order lead time by 50%.

Western Digital’s factory in Shanghai, China, is one of the leading end-to-end (E2E) Lighthouses in Shanghai. Western Digital’s facility in Shanghai is a large packaging and testing facility for advanced flash storage products. The site doubled its petabyte (PB) output between 2017 and 2021 while reducing its environmental footprint per PB to achieve corporate goals.

The facility implemented an advanced monitoring and controlling water management system using real-time production data that made a significant impact on water usage and recycling. This solution capitalized on machine learning to more efficiently determine how water should be recycled by predicting the quality and volume of wastewater. This water recycling system reduced water consumption by 62% per petabyte.

The company also developed a machine learning model to predict anticipated energy consumption based on actual production to adjust power consumption as needed. The innovations have helped the site reduce its energy consumption by 51% per petabyte.

A Path Forward for Sustainable Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a critical contributor to carbon footprints around the world. As the planet faces climate change and environmental challenges, companies need to reimagine their processes to be sustainable. Minimizing environmental impact starts from the moment product planning begins and influences each step along the manufacturing process.

Sustainable manufacturing is not just a buzzword but a practical and essential approach that all organizations should embrace. By capitalizing on automation and advanced analytics and re-examining product production, companies can implement significant savings and operational efficiencies while reducing the impact on the environment. Companies that adopt sustainable manufacturing practices will not only reduce their carbon footprint but also contribute to a better world for future generations. It is time for global organizations to reimagine their manufacturing processes and take the necessary steps to ensure a sustainable future for all.

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