Grass projected over a factory

What Is Sustainable Manufacturing?

Smarter processes and practices powered by Intel are driving sustainability.

Sustainable Manufacturing Key Takeaways:

  • Doing more with data is at the core of sustainable manufacturing. Powered by intelligent edge solutions, manufacturers can collect and analyze data across their organizations to gain a comprehensive understanding of their impact and identify ways to reduce waste and pollution.

  • Intel® technologies for the edge and cloud are helping businesses become more sustainable through automation and by revealing critical operational insights.

  • Sustainability-focused manufacturing technologies that can reduce costs and waste are more attainable and powerful than ever.



Innovating Our Way to a Better World

From an increase in destructive weather events to growing economic inequality, the costs of environmental degradation are increasing. Our planet—and its people—are paying the price for unsustainable practices.

Industry, which contributes 23 percent of greenhouse gasses,1 has a special obligation to reduce the impact of its operations on the environment through sustainable production. Manufacturers can contribute greatly to the cause of keeping our planet habitable and hospitable by reducing waste and energy consumption. Over 75 percent of manufacturing leaders cite achieving carbon neutrality as one of their top three business objectives.2

More and more manufacturers are exploring and implementing new ways to act more sustainably. They’re finding that actively working to protect the environment is also increasing their efficiency, decreasing costs, helping them secure government benefits, and bolstering their brand credibility.

Intel is helping businesses find and follow their path to sustainability by providing sustainable manufacturing solutions that enable them to capture, analyze, and act on operational data in near real-time. Leveraging more data with edge intelligence gives businesses the flexible controls and deeper perspective they need to solve their unique challenges and to become sustainable factory leaders.

What Is Sustainable Manufacturing?

Sustainable manufacturing (also known as green manufacturing or sustainable production) represents a holistic approach to the process of creating goods with a primary focus on reducing negative environmental, societal, and economic impact.

Advances in digital manufacturing technology have lowered the barriers to developing and deploying intelligent edge solutions and systems capable of enabling sustainable production.

Sustainable Production and the Environment

Industrial businesses are among the biggest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions and need to innovate to find new sources of raw materials and energy. Smarter management of production processes is crucial to protect the environment from irreversible degradation.

To meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target for limiting the global temperature increase, industrial companies need to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent.2 They also need to find and develop new ways to optimize their production, supply chain, and product life cycle to reduce waste and carbon emissions.

How to Achieve Sustainable Production

Becoming more sustainable begins with quantifying and understanding impact. The ability to capture, aggregate, and analyze more data quickly and from comprehensive sources is key to enabling sustainability initiatives such as analyzing machine performance in near real-time and studying the effect of the supply chain on local economies.

Sustainability in the factory requires near real-time analytics, which can be achieved through the convergence of information technology (IT) (e.g., procurement and fulfillment) and operational technology (OT) (e.g., machine controls) systems. Consolidating both types of workloads onto industrial-optimized, intelligent edge compute platforms merges intelligence and control and gives businesses avenues to solve unsustainable practices.

Converged industrial platforms create a responsive, interconnected system that can eliminate data silos, streamlines asset management, and increase productivity. The move to a software-defined architecture with highly optimized industrial platforms and virtualized machine controls allows manufacturers to closely manage the performance of their machines and to make small adjustments, which can have a big impact on the sustainability of products.

Sustainable consumption is another key sustainable business practice that requires comprehensive and fast data analysis. Gathering and analyzing data throughout the supply chain and studying consumption of material components and energy allows businesses to make choices that enhance sustainability, such as selecting suppliers who share their commitment.

Making a Business Case for Sustainable Manufacturing

Creating the organizational momentum to pursue green manufacturing can be complex and daunting. However, the pursuit of green manufacturing and sustainability is rooted in measurable business value and essential business practices.

Many governments set demanding sustainability objectives, while also offering incentives for those who meet key sustainability goals. IT/OT convergence makes it easier to track compliance and progress toward sustainability targets.

Sustainable businesses are also gaining an advantage in the marketplace as more and more consumers consider sustainability in their purchase decisions. A recent study found that consumer packaged goods (CPG) products marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than those that were not.3

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) products marketed as sustainable grew 5.6 times faster than those that were not.3

Achieving near real-time, system-wide analytics can also reveal opportunities to reduce operational expenses by making machines and processes more energy efficient and less wasteful. For example, a sustainable factory can cut downtime and idle time by implementing predictive maintenance, which analyzes machine performance to detect issues before they become costly problems. Automated quality inspection can find assembly faults earlier and more reliably, thereby cutting down on materials waste, energy consumption, and the cost of replacement products. For example, Audi found that automating weld inspection detected faults with over 99 percent accuracy.4

Sustainable Production Technologies and Tools

The advancement of Industry 4.0 technologies, powered by intelligent edge solutions, is making sustainable manufacturing efforts more attainable and more impactful. These solutions make it possible for businesses to manage the massive new streams of data and the intensive near real-time analytics workloads required for sustainable manufacturing.

Fully integrating the cloud by virtualizing machine controls and other operational workloads also advances sustainability. Cloud integration allows for the centralization of diverse data sets for big data analytics, which can lead to sustainability insights. New edge technology platforms can discriminate between data that needs to be sent to the cloud and that which should stay local, reducing latency and data transmission costs.

Bringing artificial intelligence (AI) to the edge is another key to sustainability. Machine learning‒powered computer vision on the assembly line can reduce waste by improving quality inspection. In the cloud, deep learning algorithms can comb data lakes for hidden opportunities to increase efficiency or eliminate problematic procedures.

An emerging trend in sustainable production is the creation of a factory digital twin. When an industrial business is capturing and analyzing sufficient data at the edge, a virtual version of the factory can be generated in real time. This digital twin can be used to test, predict, and examine the results of adjustments to the factory to make it more efficient or less pollutant.

Intel’s Commitment to Sustainable Manufacturing

As a global leader in manufacturing innovation, Intel is committed to reducing the impact of its production processes and to helping our customers do the same.

Our RISE 2030 strategy and goals raise the bar for our commitment to corporate responsibility and our bold ambitions to overcome global challenges. By 2030, our goal is to achieve net positive water use, 100 percent renewable power, zero total waste to landfill, and additional absolute carbon emissions reductions.

By 2030, Intel’s goal is to achieve 100 percent renewable power, zero total waste to landfill, and additional absolute carbon emissions reductions.

We are working with our customers and others to transform product energy use and apply technology to reduce computing-related climate impacts across the global economy. For example, we collaborated with ExxonMobil to develop the Universal Wellpad Controller (UWC), which allows oil and gas companies to manage and scale their field automation more efficiently and cost-effectively. Open architecture and off-the-shelf solutions based on Intel® technology are reducing the costs of repairing or updating the wellheads.

The Intel® portfolio of hardware solutions for industry, built for demanding environments, is making it faster and easier to develop and deploy intelligence at the edge in the pursuit of sustainability. We’re helping to create machines that can see, networks of connected sensors that enable predictive maintenance, and edge servers capable of massive computing tasks. These solutions are powering gains in efficiency, reducing carbon footprints, and helping businesses cut waste in their operations and supply chains.

Intel’s global network of innovators offers a wide variety of intelligent edge and industrial solutions on the Intel® Solutions Marketplace. Intel also provides powerful software tools to speed the development of sustainable factory solutions. Intel® Edge Insights for Industrial and the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit are helping bring AI, machine vision, and other smart factory technologies to a broader range of businesses. Together with our partners, we are helping to put more and more businesses on the path to sustainability.


Frequently Asked Questions

Sustainable manufacturing (also known as green manufacturing) represents a holistic approach to the process of creating goods that reduce negative environmental, societal, and economic impact. Using edge computing and data-driven operational practices, manufacturers can reduce materials waste, carbon emissions, energy consumption, and other activities that degrade the environment.

The purpose of sustainable production is to reduce the negative impact a business has on the environment and people. Green production can reduce costs such as energy and materials and can qualify businesses for government incentives. Sustainable business practices also help brands win the loyalty of consumers.