We live in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous (VUCA) World where the only constant is Change. Our planet has to deal with accelerating urbanisation – an additional 1Bilion people will be living in cities by 2030. The Consumer Goods market, including Foods & Beverages, will almost double to $14 trillion by 2025. Previously emerging markets, such as the Asian market, have become developed economical hubs with strong local competition. The influence that consumers have on producers is increasing, instead of mass production there will be a shift to customised and personal production and the need for biological products and sustainable production is increasing because of this.
All the more reason for industry to carefully re-evaluate their way of working, what resources they use and how their production process harms or benefits the world around them.

An important driver for industry to improve on its products and processes is water scarcity. Not only does it affect large numbers of people on a daily basis, it also poses a serious threat to production processes and business continuity. In almost every production process water is needed. Even if it is not in the actual product itself, you will need it for heating and cooling in the process.

Water is such a big part of industry processes that, when managed right, it can easily:

  • Improve a company’s sustainability
  • Improve the company reputation
  • Reduce CAPEX
  • Reduce OPEX

Sustainability is key

Sustainability is an important driver for industrial companies and specifically for Food & Beverage and Consumer Goods companies, which use significant amounts of water in their production process. The population worldwide is growing, and fresh, clean water therefore becomes scarcer. Sustainable water use is indispensable.

During the design of an entirely new industrial site, a greenfield project, the engineering company in cooperation with the industrial client needs to make sure that usage of water is minimized, optimized and the water footprint is managed as much as possible. As an example, an organization can collect rainwater on the roofs of the industrial facility and use that water, after treatment, for cleaning purposes. Optimizing the actual process of the factory and its production can also reduce water use. This can be achieved by for instance optimizing cleaning systems using AI and advanced computer software. Minimizing water use is even more a key priority for sustainable design projects like LEED or BREEAM. Certification for such projects would not be possible or would lead to a lower rating if water usage wouldn’t be minimized in the future factory. Access to clean water needs to be safeguarded, not only for the industry, but also for its surrounding areas and communities. Steps need to be made by industry to guarantee this access. Luckily, more and more companies see the need for sustainable water use, but we still have a long way to go.

Modernize, improve and reduce

Companies with existing, older, factories are modernizing and improving their facilities. Reducing water usage is often one of the key areas for improvement. A lot of factories that need to be modernized were built between the 1960’s and end of the 20th century. This offers a great opportunity to improve sustainability and frugal water use. Additionally, water usage can be reduced when a factory is extended (capacity increased). Increasing capacity of a factory can be combined with modernizing and optimizing the existing part of the factory. For instance, modernizing the industrial cleaning systems (CIP-systems); you can decrease piping, change tanks and install software to drastically improve water usage. LEED and BREEAM certification are also possible for brownfield projects, but far more difficult to implement than in greenfield facilities. The challenge is to adapt the existing processes and (water) infrastructure of the factory to reduce the consumption of water. Technically such changes to the existing factory can be difficult but can drastically improve the sustainability of the production process. So, it’s worth exploring this option.

Informed decision making

Industry 4.0 makes it possible to monitor every aspect related to production in a factory and make informed decision about production processes. AI can improve the production efficiency and therefore also the use of water. Using Industry 4.0 technology, sensors and AI is becoming more and more popular and will be used more in the nearby future to monitor and optimize plant performance and decrease water consumption in the factory.

Benefitting the community

The interaction of industry with surrounding communities in sustainable water use is growing stronger. Industrial multinationals are looking at sustainable water use during their entire supply chain. As an example, sustainability for food producers starts with the farmers. Many food production companies will help and support their farmers to improve sustainability and sustainable water use.

Likely the most important community and driver for the industry is the consumer. Especially in the last ten years consumers are hungry for information and want transparency. Information on nutritional aspects, whether the product is biological, healthy and sustainable have become extremely important and can heavily influence an organisation’s reputation. Especially since the planet’s resources are stretched with a growing population, the environmental impact of any industry needs to be minimized as much as possible. Sustainable and environmentally friendly production are becoming more and more important for consumers.

What’s next?

A very promising possibility for the Food & Beverage industry is using recycled water. This could however affect the image and reputation of the company. An important condition to make recycled water use a success would be convincing the public that it’s not only sustainable but also completely safe to use. Wastewater purification is technically so advanced that there are fantastic options to use recycled water in production processes. Instead of releasing the wastewater of the factory to a sewer, the water can be re-used after treatment. This development takes time before the public will accept it and industrial companies will embrace the technologies. However, in the coming years we could possibly see “made with recycled water” on our products.

Contact us to discuss how we can improve your sustainable use together.

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