Solutions for Sustainability

Discover how you can use low-cost digital solutions to address sustainability in manufacturing.

Manufacturers have many different challenges, constraints and resources to work with when tackling sustainability. Many realise that by meeting their sustainability goals, they also save cash, however knowing where to begin is often the biggest challenge. Shoestring offers an easy place to start, with low-cost digital solutions that will provide insights and information to inform future actions and decisions which can help a company to start moving towards meeting their sustainability goals.

Researchers and manufacturers collaborating with Shoestring are investigating how low-cost digital solutions can help a company introduce more practices that contribute to meeting sustainability goals. Below they illustrate how companies can build their knowledge to help them make decisions to move towards net zero by using one of Shoestring’s current starter solutions. More details on the study by researchers from the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, and Politecnico Di Milano School of Management, can be read in their latest peer-reviewed paper.

Actions to take

To start the move towards net zero companies can take three actions: 

  1. Identify waste

  2. Monitor waste

  3. Reduce waste

Shoestring’s low-cost digital solutions can help with the first two steps, giving the knowledge required to help take action to reduce waste. Waste reduction often has the biggest sustainability impact and the potential benefit of reducing the cost of operations, as highlighted by lean manufacturing practices.

1. & 2.  Identify & monitor waste

The principles of lean manufacturing guide many organisations on how to create the most amount of value for their customers whilst simultaneously maximizing efficiency. There are eight types of waste associated with lean manufacturing, four of which are worth investigating in relation to sustainability: 

  • Transportation
  • Inventory
  • Overprocessing and overproduction 
  • Defects

The table below illustrates which of the currently available Shoestring starter solutions can help address these wastes.

*this starter solution is in development

** several starter solutions help deliver this solution

How Shoestring solutions can help address waste problems

Transportation Waste: The Job location tracking solution can be used to track the movement of pieces across a shop floor; the unnecessary movement of material and equipment can then be reduced. This is especially beneficial when the transport mode uses energy (e.g., a forklift or van).

Inventory: Excessive inventory that takes up valuable space and resources and ties up capital could be reduced by using the Job tracking solution to calculate the Work in Progress (WIP). This allows accurate calculation of the capacity needed to store WIP and accurate buffer sizing. Additionally, the Inventory monitoring solution will allow the monitoring of the amount of inventory present within a given time frame and the calculation of how long the pieces stay within storage, on average, over a given time frame. This enables the optimisation of inventory and planning on when to order new pieces, depending on the inflows and outflows of inventory to match demand. Reducing inventory can reduce the need for storage facilities, which take up energy to maintain and materials/resources to set up. Reducing the time that inventory is stored on shelves is also vital when materials (such as chemicals and food) have a shelf life. Knowledge of your inventory from Job tracking or Inventory monitoring can also show you information about your material use and help indicate when they may be growing even if production output is still the same. The inventory management solution is in beta testing, email us if you are a member and would like to try it.

Overproduction and Overprocessing: Quality inspection and Scrap monitoring solutions can be used to record and view the percentage of defects expected from different processes. This helps avoid over-ordering for part buffers and helps estimate how many extra products you will need to make to cope with defects. When a solution such as Scrap monitoring is applied to multiple machines or process lines, it could indicate poor set-up conditions or machine defects, leading to wasted time or material. Job tracking can indicate the location of products, avoiding lost products or orders which then need to be remade using new resources.

Product defects: Temperature monitoring can be used in temperature-sensitive processes to detect when the process exceeds the allowed limits, to help reduce defects or scrapped products, and indicate when maintenance to the machine or process might be required. Additionally, the Quality inspection and Scrap monitoring solutions allow the automatic identification of defective products as well as the number of defects. This can be used to identify trends and patterns of defects in set machines or operations.

Energy usage: Power monitoring does not directly impact waste reduction but can be used to determine where energy is being used and highlight how it can be reduced. This could be especially useful for identifying idle machines drawing excessive power, or help inform when it is time to upgrade existing machinery.

  3.  Take action to reduce waste

The data and information from these Shoestring solutions are only the starting point, companies need to act upon them to see real benefits. Actions could include the following:

  • Identify machines or equipment that need repairs or upgrades (e.g. replacing tool heads) because they are causing faulty products or using excessive energy.
  • Reduce material waste by identifying causes of scrappage or by monitoring material with an expiry date.
  • Try to group orders or move storage closer to production to reduce the transportation runs needed.
  • Turn off machines which are idle and not in use or on standby

More advanced strategies could include monitoring your waste outputs and identifying potential uses for this waste. This could involve processing or sorting the waste by material to ensure it has value for a recycler or another manufacturer. You could even investigate how the waste could be reused inside your factory for other products.

Starter solutions for sustainability

The following starter solutions will help you to identify and monitor your waste, as outlined above. The air quality monitoring solution could help you identify how you could improve working conditions

Power monitoring (up to 50A)

Solves questions such as:

  • Which equipment uses the most energy?
  • Are machines using power out-of-hours (phantom load)?
  • Which parts, products or operations have higher energy usage?
  • Would new, more efficient machines save power and money?

Provides company benefits:

  • Reduces energy usage and bills
  • Contributes to sustainability goals
  • Enables more accurate reporting on the carbon footprint of parts / products

Job location tracking

Solves questions such as:

  • Where is a particular job right now?
  • How many jobs are waiting at a location or are in production, how long they been there?
  • Has a job been delayed or forgotten at a location?

Potential benefits:

  • Quickly identify and address misplaced or delayed jobs
  • Spend less time finding jobs
  • Provide customers with instant updates on job progress

Scrap monitoring

Solves questions such as:

  • How much scrap is produced?
  • Which parts/products or operations have higher scrap rates?
  • What are the most frequent reasons for scrap across production
  • Is our scrap control improving?

Potential benefits:

  • Produce more good parts
  • Quickly identify and address problems
  • Improve stock planning accuracy

Temperature monitoring

Solves questions such as:

  • How hot is this process getting?
  • What is the optimum temperature for this operation?
  • When does this temperature exceed safe limits?

Potential benefits:

  • Helps you optimise production processes
  • Helps you stay on top of quality control of materials and components

Air quality monitoring

Solves questions such as:

  • What is the air quality like in my factory?
  • What is the CO2 concentration in my workplace?
  • Is my ventilation effective at improving air quality?
  • How does the air quality change through the day?

Potential benefits:

  • Helps create a safe and comfortable working environment
  • Helps you evaluate the effectiveness of ventilation solutions

Starter solution package

Mentored self-start programme | Special early adopter* rate of £400 (reduced from full cost of £800).

As an Early Adopter* you will get the starter solution package / mentored self-start programme including:

  • Bill of Materials – list of all the low-cost components you need to buy (costing you under £200).
  • The starter solution’s software download.
  • Full instructions on how to build and deploy the starter solution.
  • Access to the online forum for support with problem solving.
  • Places on the technical support programme led by the Shoestring engineer, with a cohort of 3-5 businesses, which includes: 
    • Specification and planning workshop (run online, c. 1.5 hours).
    • Access to a series of online check-in sessions (each usually lasts 10-30mins).
    • The Impact and review workshop (run online, c. 1.5 hours).

*Shoestring early adopters work in collaboration with Shoestring. They are among the first to trial the Shoestring starter solution package, receive direct support from the Shoestring technical team, and help Shoestring improve and develop the starter solution offering. 

Tried and tested

Shoestring solutions have been deployed in over 70 companies, helping them to improve productivity, reduce waste and energy usage, and also to give their staff the digital skills and confidence they need to introduce more digitalisation throughout the business. Read or watch some of the industry case studies >

Get started today

Buy your starter solution package now via our ecommerce site, and if you are a manufacturing company, take advantage of our half-price early adopter offer .

If you would like to talk to us, email or fill out our contact form.

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