Sustainable development in the mining industry

Economic development depends on the mining industry to a large extent. Extensive exploitation of fossil fuels and strategic minerals like lithium and bauxite has enabled incredible growth across the value chain for everything from plastics to EV car batteries. While this leads to a better quality of life – especially for developing economies – the resulting damage to the environment is bad enough that it may do the opposite.

Soil erosion, water contamination, ecosystem disruptions and air pollution are all existential threats to human well-being caused by the mining industry. Solving these issues is one of the most fundamental problems facing sustainable development today.

Many nations have begun to adopt more comprehensive and rigorous standards around mining. In China, the world leader in mining metals and minerals, the 14th five-year plan has singled out green mining as a strategic goal. Internationally, markets are regulating themselves using ESG standards, calling on companies to follow various principles at the governance, social and environmental levels. Globally, consumers are also awakening to the fact that reducing human impact on the environment is one of the most important issues of our time. They are holding businesses more accountable for their actions through spending and investment choices.

But how can the mining industry balance economic development and environmental protection?

Smarter mines and mining operations

Meeting both the operational goals of the mining industry and the compliance standards set to be more sustainable can only be done with a thorough digital transformation. Networking, data processing and automation technology can optimize the groundwork and administration of mining sites to extract resources with minimized disruptions to the surrounding ecosystem.

Some of those solutions are as follows:

  • Mining automation systems: used to integrate real-time data collection with AI-driven processing power
  • 3D simulation & digital twins: the dynamic real-time display of mining work and personnel that can also run AI-backed simulations to help plan operations to be more efficient. This can also be used for camp management to optimize living spaces, equipment performance and energy use.
  • Cloud-network integration technology: Integrate the Internet of Things and cloud computing to realize intelligent identification, positioning, monitoring and management functions.

Creating a smart mine makes progress on both fronts: it optimizes operations and makes them more sustainable in the process. The key to improving the environmental impact of the mining industry is creating a solution that allows businesses to still perform at their best. However, there are still steps for mines to take at the operational level to improve their environmental impact.

Material and resource efficiency

Mines of course do not only extract lots of resources from the earth, but they also use lots of resources to operate in the first place. Keeping a mine operational requires large amounts of electricity and water, both of which result in waste in the form of emissions and wastewater. Rethinking energy and waste management can easily reduce the environmental impact of mines.

Solar panel installation at Essakane mine

Solar panel installation at IAMGOLD’s Essakane mine by Total-Eren, joint-founder of Tera Energies with Aden Group

Energy management at mines

The old way mines powered to their sites was by plugging into the grid and running equipment on diesel fuel. The burden on the grid was enormous and would produce emissions depending on the local energy mix (coal, petrol, natural gas). Diesel, used by equipment and vehicles, is also a major contributor to carbon emissions. Both of these factors can be addressed with decentralized energy infrastructure.

Mines that construct a local grid can opt for clean energy sources in the mix, rather than stay reliant on coal power. Solar panels are easily installed on roofs and can also be constructed on surrounding land to send clean energy to the mine. Depending on the size of the project, it may even be suitable to build wind turbines. Pairing these renewable energy resources with battery storage will allow the site to produce and store clean power for consistent use in its electricity mix.

For vehicles on site that are using diesel – opting for electric would be a better method to reduce environmental impact. Electric transportation and material handling vehicles are widely available at this point and can replace a large chunk of fleets at mines. Furthermore, for mines with a clean energy mix, EV charging can be directly hooked up to the microgrid which means they are running on renewables.

Water management at mines

Mines that pump in fresh water with no plan on how to manage it wind up creating thousands of gallons of wastewater a day. Often, this is then pumped out to evaporation ponds surrounding the site. The ecological impact of this practice is obvious, as freshwater is now one of the most precious resources on the planet. But wastewater can also leave behind harmful chemicals that seem into the groundwater, leaving lasting negative impacts on the people and animals in the area.

Moving towards a better water management practice, such as recycling water can reduce the amount of water needed in the first place and eliminate the need for so many evaporations ponds.

Mining is still one of the most important industries worldwide to keep economies moving. They create value at every level of operations and across the supply chain, providing the resources to drive economic development. Ultimately these resources are meant to improve the quality of life for people around the world, but the challenge is to ensure that the trade-off does not create even more problems in terms of environmental damage. Green and sustainable mining is achievable using technology and the commitment of industry leaders to adopt practices that minimize pollution and emissions.

 
 

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Five ways to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and facilities

A carbon footprint is the total amount of carbon released into the air by an individual, organization, or community. It considers all activities and processes, such as transportation, operation and consumption of goods. It is no surprise that buildings (industrial, commercial, and residential) account for 40% of global emissions today.

As more and more focus from governments, institutions and the public goes towards reducing global carbon emissions, buildings can no longer remain such big polluters. Now this is not necessarily a choice, with governments enforcing low-carbon initiatives through policy and investors encouraging corporate boards to reduce carbon through ESG-based investment. Even employees and occupants of buildings are playing a role, demanding that their workplace be more environmentally friendly.

The carbon footprint of a building stretches back to the design phase and continues through construction and operation. At every stage, there are decisions that stakeholders can make that set the building on a path towards a lower overall carbon footprint.

Here are five key strategies to reduce carbon footprints in the built environment:

Start low-carbon planning early

For new buildings, the best opportunity to reduce their carbon footprints is to begin by evaluating and measuring the carbon impact of the building design. At this stage, building designers, architects and engineers can plan for optimal floorplans, layouts, materials, sourcing, and timelines that will contribute to reduced carbon footprints at the construction and operational stages of a building. As the design progresses and planning for building systems and utilities gets added into the blueprint, there are even more opportunities to design for smaller carbon footprints.

Building stakeholders need a complete life-cycle assessment of a building, accounting for all the flows in and out of the building system — including energy, water, materials, waste, etc.—to calculate its environmental impact. Such inventory data can specify and quantify the environmental impact of each sector of the building’s operation.

Many different rating systems provide standards for green building design. There are international standards such as LEED and country-specific standards like China’s 3-star System and Singapore’s BCA Green Mark Award. One of the best ways for new projects to start on the right low-carbon footing is to follow guidelines set out by these standards. However, existing structures still have many options to get on top of their emissions.

Low carbon building exterior

Properly maintain carbon-heavy equipment

One of the most effective ways to reduce a building’s carbon footprint is to ensure that all equipment and structures are adequately maintained. Building utility optimization (HVAC, electric, etc.) is essential for reducing the energy input needed to keep your building operational and comfortable.

Regular inspection and maintenance of HVAC systems, air-compressors, and electrical room equipment work to reduce carbon footprints in several ways. First, it can ensure these systems are running efficiently – meaning no leaks or flaws are causing the system to work harder (using more energy) to reach baseline performance. Second, it will reduce the need for replacements, reduce spending, and avoid creating more carbon costs inherent in the production of new materials, transportation, and installation.

A building with a proper maintenance plan reduces the amount of grid power it needs and directly reduces its contributions to carbon emissions while keeping equipment running longer reduces secondary carbon impact.

Low-carbon workplace management

A low-carbon facilities management plan should involve ways to cut emissions from both hard services and soft services. Buildings and workplaces can reduce carbon footprints not only through better equipment and system controls but also by creating a more sustainable workplace through administrative, technology and office amenities management.

Go paperless

According to statistics, 50% of commercial waste is paper. Many businesses have adopted a paperless office policy, which has greatly reduced overall generated waste. For example, replacing one paper letter with an email can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 52.6 grams. Paperless offices reduce carbon impact by scaling down the demand for paper production, but also by reducing the transportation needed to move the waste to a landfill or recycling plant.

paperless workplace

Maintain and recycle office electronics

Electronic products are essential to office operations, but they are constantly in a state of iteration and upgrading. Both personal and office consumers tend to regularly replace and upgrade outdated electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers, and tablet computers, but this is also stressful for the environment. Most of the e-waste generated around the world comes from small electronic devices, most of which are sent to some developing countries for disposal (i.e., shredding, incineration and dismantling), producing emissions that are harmful to humans and the environment.

With the idea of reducing carbon footprint in mind, office managers should first determine if they need to replace their equipment, or if what they have now will work for a while. If replacement is necessary, electronic waste needs to be recycled appropriately. By recycling 20 pounds of electronics, your building can save 52 pounds of contributed carbon dioxide emissions.

Opt for sustainable catering and food service

Many offices, industrial facilities and remote sites provide food services for employees, guests, and occupants. The choices that they make regarding the type of food they serve and how they source it can have a significant impact on their carbon footprint. To offset this, the managers of canteens, cafes, or pantries at a workplace can scale back the amount of meat on their menus and try to source as locally as possible.

The public is increasingly aware of the impact of industrial meat production on the environment. Factory farming for livestock accounts for 80% of the earth’s agricultural land and 27% of clean water sources, while only accounting for 20% of the world’s supply of calories. Beef farming and production consume 50 times more water than plants, while global livestock produces about as many greenhouse gases as all the cars, trucks, planes and ships on earth combined. Replacing some protein on menus with plant-based protein can therefore reduce the carbon footprint of your facility.

The supply chain for food likewise can take a toll on overall carbon impact. Even beyond the fuels used for transportation, there are factors such as refrigeration and climate-controlled greenhouses necessary for out-of-season produce. Eating locally and seasonally can reduce the carbon footprint of your food by around 10% and is well worth planning menus to do so.

Waste management

Proper waste management can bring value from the three dimensions of sustainable development: environmental, economic and social. In terms of the environment, waste management can reduce environmental impacts on groundwater and air and reduce the threat to ecology and communities. Identifying byproducts or waste with some resell value can also be a source of income. A more holistic approach to managing waste, however, also reduces carbon emissions.

Having a robust recycling and reuse program cuts down on the need to produce more materials, and therefore the emissions inherent in that process. It also reduces the size of landfills – one of the largest sources of methane (another greenhouse gas) released into the atmosphere. Adopting a disposal strategy that cuts down on the need for pick-ups and transportation distance will also cut the emissions caused by (usually) diesel-burning vehicles.

Reducing waste is extremely important because how it pollutes air, water and soil damages local ecology and can hurt communities that depend on the environment near production sites or landfills. However, it is equally important as a way to reduce a facility’s contribution to carbon emissions as well.

digitalize building operations

Digitalization

Digitalization is one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon footprints because it creates the transparency necessary for optimizing carbon-saving operations. From building design to maintenance to waste management, the centralization of a building’s data and processes in a single source of truth enables businesses to reduce carbon footprints more effectively than ever before.

With a mix of hardware (sensors) and software (AI, data processing), a smart building is not only capable of streamlining day-to-day operations but can automate many processes as well. For example, data-driven maintenance can automatically remind relevant responsible persons to conduct timely inspections and assign tasks appropriately, while digital systems can track and collect data and generate reports on maintenance activities and costs.

Most importantly, a smart building gives every party from upper management to building managers and technicians the power to operate their facility in a low-carbon way.

 
 

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How IFM is key to better ESG compliance

IFM, integrated facility management, is a one-stop solution that brings together asset and equipment maintenance, workplace experience services, supply chain management and more. Because IFM operates in the built environment, from factories to office towers, it influences the overall business operation, which then impacts the economy and environment. It has a direct, effective and visible impact on a company’s ESG performance.

ESG is an investment concept and global standard that focuses on how businesses operate regarding the environment, society and their internal governance. Based on ESG evaluations, investors can assess the overall contribution of a given company towards sustainable development and responsible social practices. Companies with a higher rating carry less investment risk, as they are more likely to remain compliant with environmental regulations and employment policies.

ESG was born out of necessity; it is proactive, forward-looking risk management established upon the planning for real and emerging issues. As IFM spans nearly every industry and business sector and involves operations that touch on a variety of ESG factors, done well – IFM can be an engine to boost ESG performance.

Environment

The “environment” in ESG generally covers corporate practices relating to climate impact, environmental protection, waste prevention and control, green technology, renewable energy and more. In the built environment, it involves carbon emissions and pollution. Co2 emissions produced by the built environment account for approximately 40 percent of total global emissions, 90 percent of which is generated during the actual operation of the facilities (as opposed to construction).

For any company of scale, a corresponding carbon reduction strategy is indispensable, so in what ways can IFM add value to these strategies?

Energy and environmental management dashboard

ESG management dashboard in Akila

HVAC optimization

At present, the technology and market development trend of HVAC mainly focuses on energy saving and low consumption, as well as the application of new equipment and technologies such as solar energy, air and water source heat pumps, and energy storage. Digitization is driving HVAC optimization. Innovative technology like IoT and AI is upgrading traditional systems to achieve higher heating and cooling efficiency with lighter environmental impacts.

Smart energy management

In building operation and maintenance, monitoring energy consumption is essential. Building managers need to look at overall energy used as well as consider variables like price fluctuations and weather to plan and predict how to conduct operations in a way that optimizes use and conservation. Meeting energy efficiency targets is core to better ESG performance, but proper management of the energy-using assets themselves is necessary to maintain operational efficiency. A holistic approach to smart energy management needs to integrate a preventive and predictive maintenance plan to avoid unnecessary energy waste in the daily building operation.

Digitalized maintenance management

Sustainable supply chain

A key aspect of ESG ratings is ensuring compliance throughout the supply chain, which requires proactive supplier and vendor management. There are four key features of sustainable supply chains – low carbon, low waste, social responsibility and transparency, which can reduce costs and risks while creating value. Regular evaluation of your supplier’s impact on the environment is needed to maintain higher ESG ratings. 

Digitalized waste management

Waste treatment and management have a complicated governance structure, but digitalization offers improved transparency. Through the application of digital software systems, the integrated collection, reporting and sharing of data offers full life cycle supervision of waste. With deeper analysis, businesses can make more educated and comprehensive action plans to address waste production and treatment. IoT, AI, blockchain and other advanced technologies are being used to digitalize waste management, reducing the complexity, difficulty and danger of improper waste practices, and optimizing governance capabilities.

Localized catering services

Companies that provide on-site food service have to consider a multitude of environmental factors that come from food; ESG metrics will encompass the energy used and waste produced from food service. It will also involve sustainable sourcing – what is the environmental impact of your suppliers and the transportation used to deliver it to your site. 

Cooperating with local suppliers to achieve centralized food purchases can reduce related emissions and pollution and help companies reduce their carbon footprint. Closer proximity to a supplier also offers more transparency into their operations, with site visits as a possibility. Paired with digitalized waste management, on-site catering done the right way can boost ESG compliance. 

Social

The social requirements of ESG standards measures how a company contributes to society, and IFM is naturally inseparable from it. Office occupancy and overall employee satisfaction are two of the key areas measured by ESG standards, and good facility management is integral to performing well on those fronts. A better workplace experience provided by IFM will directly improve scores along with ESG social metrics, and at a secondary level, help contribute to employee retention.

Some of the ways that IFM contributes to a better workplace experience are:

  • Improving the energy efficiency of buildings and facilities can create more comfortable workplaces;
  • Proactive air quality monitoring and excellent indoor air quality contribute to employee health;
  • Adopting an eco-friendly, local, innovative catering service strategy.

It’s not just the policies of the business that affect ESG social scores. Because an IFM provider is part of the supply chain, the IFM company itself must adhere to proper ESG-compliant employment practices, such as fair hiring and pay.

Investing in good IFM is one of the best methods to improve ESG social ratings. Building a better work environment with an ESG-conscious IFM provider can significantly increase employee wellbeing and ensure a more positive social impact.

IFM operations managers building a better work environment

Governance

Corporate governance in facilities management comes down to transparency, trust and ethics. Businesses and IFM providers must work closely to set a structured, sustainable commercial building operation model. A tech-driven IFM solution improves efficiency, optimizes resource utilization and saves time. It also helps companies better comply with ESG guidelines.

Digital transformation places data at the core of corporate business governance and workplace data management is crucial. Today, workplace and facility data systems make corporate governance an actual reality, and the rationalization of facility management processes is supporting the other two pillars of ESG. IFM that strives to be fully digitalized is an IFM that places compliance and transparency at the center of its foundation.

 
 

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Renewable energy is driving China’s “dual carbon” goals

Achieving a low-carbon energy infrastructure is a top priority for many countries to combat climate change or reduce pollutants that harm air quality and local ecology. Growing demand for low-carbon development will drive up the construction rate of renewable energy resources and lead to more comprehensive carbon emissions policies. In China, where energy demand is still growing, the primary balancing act is how to transform energy infrastructure to have a smaller carbon footprint without suppressing energy demand.

The key has been to act quickly to build renewable energy capacity and make policy decisions that encourage the development of decentralized renewable energy infrastructure. Although this is a challenge, it is also an opportunity in the Chinese market. Developing renewables helps to decarbonize the grid and brings new employment opportunities and a refreshed momentum for economic development and social transformation.

For China to achieve its “dual carbon” goals of peak emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, the renewable energy industry, driven by developments in wind and solar power, boasts huge potential to achieve these goals while also boosting the economy and ecological recovery.

Wind farm installation

Wind & solar power

China’s push for decarbonization will involve a broader approach that includes the build-out of nuclear energy, hydroelectric, and ultra-high voltage transmission lines. However, the bedrock of its energy transformation is wind and solar power. Wind and solar power installations can be built quicker and decentralized. Decentralized renewable energy is when businesses (or individuals) install renewable power generation directly on their property, which can in turn power their buildings. If those assets produce enough power, they can even sell the excess energy back to the grid. Both centralized and decentralized renewable energy play a role in pushing towards a low-carbon future.

Wind Power

China’s onshore wind energy resources are unevenly distributed. Currently, wind farms are mainly located in Northern China, in areas that are sparsely populated and do not have significant local demand. But in economically developed regions, such as the eastern and southern regions, which account for more than 70% of electricity demand, wind energy resources are scarce.

Furthermore, the geographic requirements for wind turbines to be most effective makes it difficult to achieve wide decentralization.

Solar power

Every year, the cost of producing solar panels decreases. Today, the price of solar panels is even more competitive with coal and natural gas. At the same time, the development of new technologies and materials is constantly improving the efficiency of photovoltaic conversion. Furthermore, China’s photovoltaic industry has a full capacity up and down the entire industrial chain from upstream high-purity crystalline silicon and midstream high-efficiency solar cell production to the construction and operation of photovoltaic power plants. The Chinese solar panel market already has a well-developed value chain as well, including key intellectual property rights.

Solar energy is also a much more flexible source of green power, with application scenarios including large, centralized power stations, commercial or industrial rooftops, or off-grid power for people in remote areas. Providing reliable solar electricity does face a few challenges – namely instability due to weather and cloud cover. However, there are already a variety of solutions in existence or development, such as energy storage, solar thermal power plants, and intelligent photovoltaic generators.

Bolstering public works with policy

While the industrial capability to build out renewable infrastructure is a major part of reaching a low-carbon grid, it is not the only tool in the arsenal. Pushing businesses to take responsibility for their contributions to emissions is also a core part of the decarbonization strategy.

Last year, the National Energy Administration announced a list of pilot zones for county-wide solar panel roof installations, involving 676 counties and cities. In 2021, China’s new PV installation reached 53GW of capacity, generating 29GW, accounting for about 55% of new energy generation in the country, which for the first time accounted for more than half of the new generation.

On April 1 this year, China rolled out its first mandatory code for carbon emissions in buildings, the General Code for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Use in Buildings, which sets higher requirements for the use of renewable energy, and new building complexes and buildings must also contain planned usage of renewable energy. The code requires new buildings to install solar energy systems and establishes detailed requirements, including the minimum lifespan for solar thermal collection systems (15 years), and photovoltaic modules in solar photovoltaic power systems (25 years).

Solar panels up close

Solar energy & ecological restoration

In the context of economic development, Chinese officials often evoke a deep concern for nature as well: “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.” This means that the overarching approach to promoting energy transformation and improving energy structure is not only to stimulate rapid economic and social development but also undertaken to protect the environment and hurry the repair of the ecology that has been damaged.

In recent years, China has taken an initiative to revitalize the environment around abandoned mines, attempting to restore the immediate areas around the old mine through ecological restoration, land reclamation, landscape preservation and reconstruction, reuse of abandoned mines, and construction of national mine parks. These sites are also being used to construct solar power installations – turning a once desolate area into a generator of clean energy.

The construction of solar power plants on some abandoned mines makes full use of the deserted mine sites. Many of the largest mining areas suffer from soil erosion and desertification, as well as damage to vegetation. Photovoltaic power plants, when installed in these areas, can promote soil restoration, prevent further soil erosion, and restore local ecological damage to improve ecosystem functions.

Meanwhile, photovoltaic projects can also be integrated with agriculture, fisheries, tourism, and other sectors to achieve cross-industry development. In Datian, Fujian Province, there is a “terraced field” created by solar panels installed on a former agricultural site. In Houshe coalmine in Shangjiang, a similar project was undertaken to reuse abandoned fields, warehouses, courts, coal platforms, sheds and other lands.

Transforming areas in a state of disuse into a new generator of renewable energy revives abandoned work sites without needing to develop a separate, untouched plot of land.

Decarbonization is not a choice

China has committed repeatedly to its “dual carbon” goals of peak carbon and carbon neutrality and encouraged the use of renewable energy as the method to achieve them. For many reasons, wind and solar are the foundation of this infrastructure due to improving cost, efficiency, and flexibility in installation. Over the past year, we’ve seen a continuous rollout of policies pushing both public and private actors to reduce carbon emissions with solar panels – and those are unlikely to slow down. Aligning with the national interest of decarbonization and ecological restoration is now less of a choice, and closer to being law of the land.

 
 

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Material handling automation is a process, not a purchase

Overview:

  • Automation has high potential to improve efficiency in logistics
  • Acquiring, deploying and maintaining robots represents a large initial cost and ongoing optimization
  • Developing an appropriate automation strategy is critical, and partnerships are key

As automation technology matures in the material handling and logistics fields, it is increasingly common for logistics, warehouse, and process managers to think about integrating robotics and AI-automated processes—and for good reason.

Industrial handling automation offers real advantages in safety and efficiency, which are only improving with time. Robotic intelligence is maturing rapidly and is able to solve issues like queuing, responding to equipment and pathfinding with increasing sophistication. Better technology and continuous learning through application have reduced the required preparation needed for deploying robotics and simplified integration into existing processes. However, even as the field matures, there are still numerous technical and operational challenges that remain.

Think partnerships, not vendors

Challenges aside—automation provides a competitive edge, one that no business can afford to ignore for long. But training and acquiring skilled staff to manage a fleet of robots and complex equipment, not to mention the challenges of planning, programming, and testing for deployment represent a large initial and ongoing investment of time, capital, and human resources.

Usually, the first step for most businesses starts with thinking of robots like computers or devices. While there are some parallels—automation is better understood as a process, not an out of box purchase. Businesses that wish to automate are better suited to looking for a partner first, rather than looking at hardware.

Finding the right equipment, then designing a plan for deployment, integration, maintenance, and upgrade support is a daunting challenge to handle completely in-house, especially when technology and processes are still developing. Navigating the various software and hardware on offer can actually wind up hurting businesses if done without the right expertise. Therefore, many businesses choose to seek partnerships to automate, and why finding the right partner, one who considers the full lifecycle of an automated fleet and is dedicated to 360-degree service is key.

>>>Watch: Aden Group’s automation partner ASAP Rental designs AGV solution for Namei

Process and strategy are the first steps

Automation takes time and is an intensive process that requires reimagining operations and making commitments to change. And as with any long-term process, it’s important to think in terms of both goals and first steps. The goals are clear—safety, efficiency, scalability. But instead of focusing too much on technical specifications, a facility’s operational needs should be approached more holistically. It’s important to think thoroughly about a strategy.

The first steps in the process start with a careful look at your facility in terms of layout, operations, and processes. Robotics are smarter now, yes, but like anything with intelligence, it requires planning and training to integrate into a workforce. Analyzing your facility, equipment, and operations is a critical first step—what exactly can be automated? What company’s AGVs suit the job best? Thinking about strategy first before moving to hardware is critical and will avoid costly missteps in this process.

There’s no shortcut to experience and expertise

By way of analogy, let’s think about deploying a set of workstations for CAD or some other purpose. Ask IT, deploying a new set of computer hardware in your facility is a large undertaking—now imagine if each computer had to be programmed with accurate spatial data and operational instructions. This is the singular challenge of automation. Deployment can take months, and inaccurate data can mean inoperable equipment. If a part of your facility has a graded incline, this data has to be programmed appropriately, or the robot may not be able to scale it.

Think of this deployment process as training for your fleet of robots. Hiring the right personnel is of course key, but providing them with the best training, and putting their intelligence to work is the only way to ensure they perform as required. The same is true with robots, though their training is directly programmed in.

Building and iterating a competitive edge

Integrating the robotics and automated equipment into the software that runs the facility is critical, and yields important dividends—scalability, iterability, and safety. Integrating robotics and automation into the facility control software (the ERP or WMS) improves their visibility in the management process—and what can’t be seen can’t be managed. This level of integration will also make automation another process that is continually optimized in regular operations, and ensure normal functioning.

Iterating and optimizing automation means keeping pace with the progress in a fast-moving field of technology. This poses another challenge—every year AGVs and automated handling equipment are faster, more precise, and more integrable into teams. This means that agility is a priority, a key factor in strategy, the same as analysis and deployment reliability. Finding a partner who prioritizes agility in providing their service is critical. It’s important to not be hung up on finding ‘the next big thing’ in automation, but rather a partner who can provide service that integrates incremental progress without disrupting operations.

Finding the right partner for safer, human-centric, and more efficient warehouses

The purpose of automation is as much efficiency-oriented as it is human-centric. As workloads in logistics skyrocket with global demand, it becomes ever more critical to ensure workplace safety. Robots, as everyone knows, don’t get tired, and don’t make the same kinds of costly, dangerous mistakes that can happen on the floor in a warehouse. Reducing forklift and loading accidents means a safer and healthier workplace.

This doesn’t mean displacing existing workforces—it means providing them with more skills, more safety, and more assurance that they are not overworked, overstressed, or exposed to undue risk. Workers can step back from repetitive, grinding tasks and to value-adding tasks. Automation is a chance to unlock human potential as much as technological potential.

Automation is a challenge—but also an incredible opportunity for logistics. The challenges of planning, deployment integration and upgrading mean that a business requires high-skill partners, ones that take into account the facility’s operations and characteristics, reliably taking strategy, data, hardware, and integration seriously. The opportunities mean that logistics in warehouses, ports, and depots can begin to explore new vistas in safety, efficiency, and employee development.

 
 

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Waste and water management is in the spotlight for Asia

Waste and water management is a growing concern for businesses, manufacturers and building managers around the world. More companies are looking for trusted partners to ensure their operations are 100% compliant with local waste and wastewater management policies and regulations.

Governments, too, have aligned on the need for safe water sources—among the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals is providing clean, sustainable sources of water for everyone on the planet. Additionally, across the business landscape, there is growing demand from investors and other stakeholders to reach more transparent and documented environmental and sustainability goals.

Waste and water management is a cross-sectoral need. ESG and government regulations aren’t just targeting manufacturers. Every built environment from retail to healthcare and education is faced with the new challenge of upgrading how they manage environmental impact.

New regulations governing waste and water management in Asia

In Asia, governments are taking a more proactive role in environmental regulations for businesses. For example, earlier this year China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment issued its “14th Five-Year Plan for Ecological Protection and Supervision,” marking the first governmental regulatory plan for ecological protection in the country. The plan mandates improved management of pollutants as an important part of promoting environmental quality and low-carbon development to maintain both health and safety. The new regulations also improve measures for the coordinated disposal of urban waste, domestic waste, food waste, medical waste, hazardous waste, garden waste, sewage and other types of waste.

Elsewhere in Asia, such as in Vietnam, there are ongoing projects to strengthen regulations on environmental impact, pushing for a system of assessment, inspection, permitting and enforcement. There will doubtless be increased pressure to stay compliant with environmental laws to improve water quality and waste management, as well as to be more transparent to the public.

Expectations for businesses

The scope of waste and water management has expanded beyond just the need to control hazardous materials. As more information about the environmental impact of buildings across the entire lifecycle (design, construction, and operation) becomes clear, regulations are only becoming more comprehensive.

Here are just some of the areas that businesses can expect to be regulated:

  • Risk assessment,
  • Groundwater impact
  • Landfill contribution
  • Recycling and composting
  • Hazardous waste
  • Reporting and transparency

Even for businesses that have set up a basic infrastructure for the general management of waste and water, staying compliant and up to date can be a challenge. For those that don’t have any infrastructure in place to deal with these needs, in-house management may prove to be a major financial burden.

Digital transformation of waste management

The extent and complexity of managing waste and water can make proper oversight difficult– either leading to increased costs or, when done improperly, leading to fines. Recently though, digitalization is injecting new vitality into the ability to manage waste transparently and with added value.

Implementing digital software systems to collect, report, and share data, makes full-lifecycle supervision of waste achievable. This new availability of data and analysis is instrumental for decision-makers and meeting ESG goals. Advanced technologies such as digital twins, IoT, AR and blockchain can help digitalize the full lifecycle governance of waste and wastewater. These emerging technologies reduce the complexity, difficulty and danger of environmental management, simultaneously optimizing governance capabilities.

In addition to regulation, digitalizing waste management works like a “matchmaker,” matching waste generation with appropriate treatment. Using big data on the production of waste and lowering information barriers can improve the efficiency of waste treatment and utilization. The availability of comprehensive data on waste and water enables businesses to connect with market players, contributing to the formation of a more comprehensive waste management system. In this sector, three trends dominate: sustainability, digitalization, and waste and they offer substantial advantages for compliance, efficiency, and the environment.

Outsourcing transparently

Waste and water management is critical to building sustainable and livable cities, and the weight of this responsibility is borne on the shoulders of businesses. On top of the fact that effective waste management is not only costly and challenging, it also requires a combination of support and services.

With the right partner, however, much of this pressure can be dealt with in a way that adds a net gain for businesses. For example, Aden has partnered with waste and water management experts to include them in a more comprehensive facility management offer. Together we designed a digitalized solution that provides total transparency for clients to monitor and track waste. This streamlines regulatory and reporting burdens while also offering more valuable data for decision-makers to adjust operations to have a lighter environmental impact and improve their ESG scores.

 
 

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Localism and sustainability are key in Indonesia’s growing economy

Indonesia is the largest economy in ASEAN by nominal GDP and continues to push forward aggressively in commercial, industrial, and mining sectors. With a recent carbon tax policy, Indonesia has signaled that this growth need not be at the expense of the environment.

The push towards sustainability and ESG is happening all over Asia, Indonesia included. Domestic and multinational organizations that fuel the Indonesian economy still strive to be greener and more responsible for investors and employees. Businesses operating in Indonesia – especially in the built environment – should pay close attention to the developments concerning carbon emissions, ESG and digitalization.

A strong signal for low carbon development

One of Indonesia’s biggest sustainability signals is a recent set of regulations calling for carbon pricing mechanisms. This new regulation makes it the second country in Southeast Asia to establish a carbon valuation scheme. Indonesia has tried to balance the growing trend of improved environmental regulation to meet COP21 goals with its desire and need to attract FDI and foreign technology. Increasingly, to qualify in the eyes of some investors, companies must be able to meet investor ESG criteria—and while this new policy is a positive development, history has shown that there are challenges turning regulation into action. This is even more reason businesses must lead the way in low carbon development.

To fully realize Indonesia’s potential, partnerships are key

Indonesia isn’t waiting to embrace the digital and green revolutions. The country has even stated its intent to relocate and build a brand new capital city to be a haven for sustainability and foreign investment. Commodities and raw goods, which account for a large part of the Indonesian economy, have, up until recently, been offshored for manufacturing purposes, but that is shifting as well. Indonesia is taking its resource-richness and access to strategic metals and minerals like nickel and lithium to build itself into an EV battery powerhouse. As the country broadly progresses from commodity extraction to manufacturing and technology, the old way of doing business won’t be viable for much longer.

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There are huge amounts of opportunities for newer, upmarket businesses in Indonesia, but without the right partnerships, several challenges remain. The nation’s dynamism, diversity, and scale—more than 17,000 islands in its large archipelago—means deploying in this dynamic and diverse environment requires strong local cultural knowledge as well as an established supply chain network. Being able to understand the environment, stay up to date with regional policies, work with local communities by hiring locally, and meet changing demands from both consumers and labor means clients have effective, uninterrupted, locally compliant service.

Facility management: the frontline of sustainability

Facilities management provides businesses an everyday opportunity to make progress in sustainability: it’s where the battle is fought and won. But, until recently, businesses in Indonesia have taken a traditional view of FM—single soft services or hard services often with multiple suppliers. A more modern FM approach recognizes that a broader, more holistic approach is needed to create more sustainable facilities.

Waste and water management, for example, is a major problem in Indonesia, where open dumpsites predominate the waste management system and have led to pollution and environmental degradation. Likewise, utility assets like electricity, HVAC and compressed air are run inefficiently – leading to increased carbon emissions. Meeting increased pressures to stay sustainable and low carbon from the government, investors and clients means that managing facilities must address environmental and carbon impacts. The best way to do so is to have a single integrated supplier who can provide a holistic approach to more sustainable and responsible corporate practices.

Furthermore, digitalization is a key element of ensuring transparency. Any modern approach to facility management will be smart, digitalized and managed by experts who use tech like digital twins to make data-driven decisions about how buildings can operate more efficiently. Integrating modern FM and data offers businesses powerful new insights into performance and sustainability, alongside verifiable ESG benefits.

Indonesia’s next generation

Indonesia is still a young country—and the new generation won’t settle for business as usual. The economy is moving up the value chain with tech deals booming and the EV battery sector on track to expand rapidly. As the economy strengthens and more skilled labor starts to enter the workforce, there will be a real demand from the employee base to work for companies that are more environmentally conscious. They will also expect higher standards of workplace experience, and businesses that can offer those will have a distinct advantage for attracting better talent.

Embracing the challenges of a changing Indonesian economy

Looking at the current trends in Indonesia and the greater ASEAN business world, we can see that to be successful requires more than great staff and powerful tools—it requires a mindset that takes every challenge seriously. Greenwashing business practices no longer work in the ESG age. Knowledge and experience in the local business culture are a must for international companies as technology improves how a generation of more skilled workers communicate. Sustainability efforts like carbon reduction, community-forward policies like hiring locally, and a deep understanding of creating lasting supply chain infrastructure are all instrumental to the success of businesses in a changing Indonesia.

China’s new green building regulations are here: what you need to know

Overview

  • New regulations on low-carbon buildings set to take effect in April 2022
  • New and existing projects will be required to submit full energy audits
  • New buildings are required to utilize solar and improve renewable energy mix
  • Continual improvement targets are expected
  • Ambitious Residential and industrial targets for energy savings are set
Background

In 2020, China made the pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, as well as peak carbon emissions by 2030. These promises were reaffirmed with the 14th Five-Year Plan release in 2021. Since then, there have been several policies that have come into effect, starting with a national carbon trading scheme.

Last October, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a new regulation, the General Code for Building Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Utilization, which goes into effect on April 1, 2022. This is the first mandatory regulation for carbon emissions from buildings and construction, and its scope is wide—including existing buildings, new buildings, construction commissioning and approval, renewable energy systems, as well as buildings operations.

Why now?

The construction industry in China accounts for more than half of the total carbon emissions nationwide. In order to meet the country’s ambitious carbon reduction targets, this policy is one in a line of many that will come into effect over the coming years. The new General Code will require stringent energy savings in residential, industrial, and in new building construction.

Shoring up and improving existing standards

This regulation is intended to solve multiple issues in the existing green regulatory framework, introducing mandatory policies around green buildings, including for the first time a clear mandatory standard for carbon emission intensity, which solves the problem of no clear quantitative index requirements for building carbon emissions in the past.

Residential area buildings will be required to have average energy savings of 75% in cold and extremely cold areas, and other climate zones will be expected to have an average energy savings of 65%. These numbers are pegged to energy consumption levels in 1980-1981.

Industrial targets will be increased by 20% as well.

Energy audits to set a baseline for emissions reduction

First and foremost it means a new layer of planning and forecasting energy consumption in line with international standards. In order to meet reduction goals and hit the national “3060” goal of peak carbon by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060, a baseline must be established in order for reductions to be made verifiably.

In addition to a full energy audit, renewable energy usage and carbon emissions reports will have to be submitted as well. Lifecycle emissions will have to be calculated based on projected energy use and energy type for both new and existing buildings. At every level of the building’s lifecycle, from surveying and design to live management to demolition, energy usage reports will have to be calculated and submitted. These will have to be approved according to the specifications within the law.

Energy calculations for new buildings will have to be calculated across 3 distinct levels:

Direct emissions

This will include the direct hydrocarbon fuel usage of the building’s operation. Cooking, steam, and any other direct usage of hydrocarbon fuel in regular operations are all included.

Indirect emissions

This includes consumption of grid electricity for heating and general operation. This is the primary source of emissions for a building during operations. Direct and indirect emissions combined represent the total emissions of a building’s operations.

Embodied emissions

These are the emissions involved in the design, construction and materials of the building—estimated to represent about 20% of a building’s lifetime emissions cost. New construction is encouraged to use low carbon construction methods and materials where possible in order to continually produce more energy savings.

Improving the energy mix

In addition to focusing on the reduction of energy use through design, construction, and operation, businesses and building owners will need to improve efforts to source power through clean energy sources.

Currently most energy in operations is generated using fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas. On average, the proportion of renewable energy used is only about 6%. Audits will require the determination of carbon emissions based on the carbon emission factor of different energy types including coal, natural gas, etc. in order to encourage use of renewables.

New buildings will also be required to implement solar energy via photovoltaic panels and submit the total energy generation. This drive towards renewable energy will be met in design goals including an increase in the use of natural lighting, insulation, air thermal energy, biomass fuel sources, and geothermal power where appropriate.

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Reductions in emissions through retrofits and smarter management

The scope of this policy applies to more than just new buildings and standing ones. It’s regulations will also extend to retrofits, renovations, and feasibility studies. Each of these processes will need to at the least match baselines, but reducing carbon will be heavily encouraged. Any increase from current levels of emissions will be forbidden.

There are many ways to reduce a building’s overall emissions profile in operations. Reducing direct electricity or fuel consumption, retrofitting utility assets like HVAC and compressed air to improve energy efficiency, using building or operational materials that are recycled or recyclable.

For buildings where retrofits prove to be too difficult or costly to implement, building standards for any future renovations will have to meet their current energy savings standards.

Building managers will have to think proactively and deeply about meeting emissions reductions targets and make changes wherever possible. To make serious carbon reductions will require partnership with energy and environmental management firms and technical asset management vendors. Building management will need to become smarter and more digitalized using software like digital twin building platforms. Daily facility operations can also benefit by sourcing facility management providers who are experienced in reducing carbon impact through sustainability best practices.

Stronger standards, greener buildings

Since the outlay of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, it is clear that green buildings will be a major focus going forward. Policies will grow increasingly broad and granular, reaching across sectors and industries, and even into consumer goods and the promotion of new energy efficient standards for items such as lights, doors and windows.

In the past decade, there have been many successful green buildings seen in China, but there are also many projects embarked on with little regard for the new standards of green buildings—for various reasons such as shortcomings in the planning stage, lack of expertise, or lack of know-how during the construction process. Although compliance with green building standards and regulations represent a higher initial cost, over time the social benefits and total cost reductions in operations from green buildings will be worth it.

 
 

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Robotics is already a reality in China’s facility management market

Workplace robots have been with us for a long time. Manufacturers have used them for decades in the assembly line, revolutionizing industrial processes. Over the years, the robotics industry has produced innovation after innovation, resulting in advances in the agility, precision, and functional intelligence of robots.

Now, with China’s recognition of robotics as a strategic industry, and personnel pressures on the horizon, there is no question we will start to see them moving into a wider range of facility management functions, technical services and other operations for the built environment.

China’s five-year development plan for robotics

The transformational opportunities of robotics are being recognized at the highest levels. For instance, one can look to China’s recent development plan for the robotics industry, unveiled by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology 14 other government departments as part of China’s 14th five-year plan. The plan sets out detailed targets and priorities for robotics between now and 2025, with an overarching ambition to make China the center of global robotics innovation. The plan outlines five key points on its agenda:

  • Boost innovation in the Chinese robotics industry
  • Consolidate the foundations of the robotics industry’s further development
  • Increase the supply of high-end products
  • Expand the depth and breadth of applications
  • Optimize the innovation structures of the Chinese robotics industry

China already leads the rankings for robotics patents, and over the next five years, the government expects to average more than 20% annual growth in the robotics industry’s operating income.

There is more at stake here than impressing neighbors; robotics will increasingly be needed to answer growing economic and social challenges. Labor costs are growing, and will only continue to grow, creating a challenge for every business in the coming years. Since 2016, wages have grown an average of 8% annually in China – with a considerable 10% bump in the private manufacturing sector in 2020. China’s slowing population growth rate is also exacerbating this problem. As China’s population becomes more and more educated, the supply of young employees willing to take on unskilled work will only shrink. Put together, it is not hard to see that labor shortages will continue in traditionally man-powered roles, or that there will be a great need for new solutions in automation.

Robots to the rescue in the built environment: transforming facility management

With a variety of factors driving the need for robotics, and support from a government that considers it a strategic industry, the integration of robots into the built environment will continue to accelerate. Robots are already proving useful in a variety of applications in buildings – from soft services up to more complex technical procedures. When combined with smart building technology such as IoT and digital twins, they have the potential to do a whole lot more.

Here are just some of the most impactful ways robotics can transform facility management:

Maintenance and inspection

The monitoring and maintenance of critical utility assets (such as electricity) are among the most important process in a building. However, it is still heavily reliant on 24-hour rotating on-site teams. Additionally, these teams may be put in dangerous situations due to environmental conditions or machine and material-based hazards. Robotics not only reduces the need for round-the-clock manpower but also reduces cost and removes people out of harm’s way while allowing personnel to focus on higher-level tasks.

Drone working at industrial facility

Inspection robots can be ground-based or air-based (like drones) and come equipped with advanced cameras and sensors. Technicians program the robots to take photographs of gauges, thermal imaging, and video recordings and send the data back to a centralized monitoring station. Meanwhile, the onboard sensors can detect anomalies in machinery through sound or heat. When used together with a digital twin or smart building management platform, they can even predict when a fault might happen to the facility or equipment.

Beyond sensing, robots equipped with robotic arms can operate physically in the environment by handling dangerous operations, performing high-precision tasks on machinery, or repairing components. From this perspective, robots are more than just replacement eyes and ears but highly customizable workers that can cover routine tasks.

Cleaning and disinfection

Cleaning and disinfection robots were already being integrated into buildings before the break of COVID-19. Since then, however, they have become more and more in demand. Cleaning went from a topic discussed at the operational level to one discussed by top leadership. Executives now take an active interest in how their organization cleans, including how frequently, with what resources and efficacy, and how performance is measured. Customers, employees and partners now demand a safe and clean environment free of dust, dirt, debris and biological contaminants—meaning cleaning protocols have increased across industries.

In terms of value proposition, a cleaning robot is a fully autonomous floor care solution that delivers an efficient, consistent and measurably clean environment. A robotic scrubber is ready to clean 24x7x365. It can clean up to 4000 square meters an hour with a single charge lasting up to 6 hours. In theory, with interchangeable batteries, an organization could clean its facility non-stop. Cleaning efficacy is also measurable. Using sensors, we can obtain metrics to optimize floor care operation over time.

Every facility needs cleaning, whether schools, offices or factories. Organizations that choose cleaning robots or disinfection robots can reallocate labor to higher-value tasks, moving cleaning from a cost to a source of revenue.

Security and surveillance

The use of security robots in business is downstream from the defense industry, which has been using robotics with proven results for well over a decade. One of the most powerful features of security robots is advanced facial and vehicle recognition attachments, which allow robots can identify intruders. If linked to a smart security platform, any detections will trigger alarms or notifications to personnel who can respond more quickly.

Robotics positively disrupt the current arrangement of building security – which relies heavily on patrol. Enhancing or fully replacing patrol duties with robots can provide 24/7 continuous and unpredictable surveillance (a deterrent to thieves). Instead of guards assigned to repetitive tasks, they can focus more on management and response. Through a combination of ground and air devices, site security and surveillance can be managed more efficiently with fewer people.

Food, delivery and service

Robots are excellent at taking care of rote and repetitive tasks, but they are also proving useful when it comes to responsive service-based tasks as well. That task might be as simple as those for fixed-location delivery robots or information kiosk-style robots, which help guests navigate through spaces like malls, aquariums or large corporate offices. On the more complex side, service tasks for robots could even cooking and delivery.

Delivery robot on the street

While navigating as a guide or on delivery, robots can sense space accurately and move in a more precise way due to a stereo camera system, seamlessly meshing with built environments. This allows them to navigate busy streets, sidewalks, hallways, and floors quickly, avoiding obstacles in its path due to sophisticated sensor systems. Outside, they can even reduce congestion caused by delivery vehicles, with the added benefits of reduced pollution. Inside, they increase safety for all due to less human contact.

One example of a largely robotic service force is what was deployed at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The Olympic Village set up an autonomous workforce, who provided service ranging from guest information to fully robotic dining halls, where robots prepared food, cocktails or coffee and delivered it to tables or rooms.

New trajectories in robotics: AI, data and multifunctionality

While we can expect continuing advances in the physical capabilities of robots such as agility, precision, battery life and durability; the biggest jump for robotics will be seen in the realm of data & IoT. The biggest value of autonomous robots is multifunctionality and modularity. Robots can perform their main tasks in the facility while simultaneously carrying out advanced data collection. Depending on the needs of the facility manager, robots can be equipped with AI-integrated sensors and cameras to gather environmental and operational data metrics related to air quality, occupancy, acoustics.

A cloud platform is a fundamental component to support and manage a fleet of facility robots. This platform centralizes and processes the valuable data collected by robots and plugs it into any smart building management platform to be made accessible for key stakeholders from anywhere across the world.

 
 

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MRO is more than spare parts: it’s an insurance policy for your assets

MRO. Spare-parts supply. Supply-chain optimization. Whatever you call it, keeping your site properly stocked is a core business concern for any industrial facility. While the term “MRO” (standing for maintenance, repair and operations) may sound like technical jargon, the consequences of good or bad MRO strategy directly affect your bottom line. Lacking the right spare parts when needed can have devastating consequences for asset owners or operators. MRO is essential to technical asset management and is best seen as insurance against various risks threatening facility operations.

Bad MRO is a cost you don’t want to pay

Take one instance from a retail store in Ningbo, East China. Recently, during a power outage, the diesel engine on the site’s backup generator failed to start. Discovering that they lacked the needed spare parts for a repair, and would need 24 hours to source a replacement, the facility was forced to shut down for a full workday, with all fresh and frozen food thrown away. For lack of proper MRO strategy, the site lost huge sums of money on revenue and inventory – a disaster that could have been reduced enormously by having the MRO inventory on hand and combined with a solid preventive maintenance plan.

Good MRO is increasingly digitalized & strategic

Optimizing MRO is a highly specialized inventory management task, requiring deep understanding of each asset’s operational context and its contributions to overall plant performance. In short, different assets have different levels of criticality and the best MRO strategy draws on principles of ISO 55000 to identify the strategy for each spare part. As seen in the case from Ningbo, the single biggest source of savings lies in harmonizing your site’s level of MRO inventory against the criticality of various assets they serve.

For MRO, risk analysis usually takes precedence over logistics and direct cost reduction considerations. A good MRO team can conduct this important task jointly with the client, facilitating the whole process through a digital platform, such as Akila.

Integration with a digital platform brings many advantages. Among two of the biggest:

  • Providing a single source of truth on information about asset criticality, asset health & maintenance plans, as well as spare parts movement based on data (either collected from a fresh audit or from clients’ existing system).
  • Continuous running of advanced marketplace analytics. These can proactively point out optimization opportunities.

Through this continuous analysis, substantial performance improvements are identified & captured:

  • Better protection against unanticipated breakdowns whose costs can quickly reach millions.
  • Reduction of “ghost stock” and an immediate clean-up of inventory not related to critical or important use.
  • An opportunity to integrate multiple teams doing MRO on their own as “small fish” with little pooling or coordination.
  • Definition of an MRO care plan. This typically avoiding 5-10% write-off yearly through the proper preventive care of stored items.

Business benefits from an MRO plan

Once the risk & opportunities are clearly established within the framework of the overall asset performance, and the MRO stock is managed accordingly, the following optimization strategies – or a combination of those – can be executed:

Cost control

Optimizing MRO procurement has a measurable impact on your bottom line. Too many businesses underestimate the total amount they’re spending on MRO due to hidden costs within the procurement process. While individual products are typically inexpensive, research suggests that the average organization spends twice as much on procurement as on the product itself.  With the right strategy, you can find and eliminate those inefficiencies and maximize your purchasing power.

Strategic partnership keeps your costs down in several ways:

  • Supply chain consolidation
  • Price deflation – volume leverage, global supplier network
  • Inventory optimization – inventory reduction, buyback, etc.
  • Reduced downtime

Easy plugin, easy scale-up

When you shift from decentralized to unified MRO, getting all teams on board can take time. The fact is, different teams may have different levels of readiness for change, and some may hesitate to disrupt familiar purchasing networks.

The good news is that nothing speaks like results. One of MRO partnership’s greatest advantages is how easy it is to run a pilot that plugs just one team into the global MRO network and then scale up after value has been proven and wider acceptance begins building up.

Aden’s MRO team has done just this for hundreds of MRO customers in Asia. But, by linking one team into our wider MRO services by being on-site for collaboration every week, and delivering concrete value in a short time, we were able to produce an immediate gain that opened the door to further gains on other teams.

More time for core business

MRO is a high mix, low-volume business. If you do it on your own, that means continually making small orders, with plenty of time drain on various teams. Remember, switching to a strategic MRO partner isn’t just about what we’ll do for you. It’s about what we free your people up to do after we come in.

The fact is, many companies only realize how much of a time and energy burden doing their own MRO is after they have outsourced to a strategic partner. The numbers can be staggering – hundreds of suppliers and thousands of purchases at a time.

With a strategic partner, that’s all shifted away from your employees, with your teams seeing a marked freeing of resources and attention to detail in work.

Sustainability & waste reduction

Good MRO is about pinpoint accuracy: forecasting maintenance needs and parts replacement, then buying just the right amount – no more, no less.

This leanness isn’t just a financial win, it’s an environmental win. With every surplus purchase comes extra packaging, energy consumption and carbon burning through the shipping and transport process.

With a strategic MRO partner, you can improve sustainability and reduce your carbon footprint by:

  • Streamlining your supplier network – ship more parts in fewer C02-burning trips.
  • Cutting out redundant purchases.
  • Specifying what kind of suppliers you want to buy from and making sure all purchases meet your in-house sustainability commitments.
 
 

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Technical asset management: more than maintenance

We tend not to think very much about the equipment that keeps workplaces comfortable and functional. Technical assets can be described as a sort of “invisible infrastructure” under a building, behind the walls and over one’s head, but not often noticed. Yet, this infrastructure is absolutely central to the experience of a building. How would you feel working in a building with poor heating, lighting and air circulation?

It is also critical to the carbon footprint of a facility and the total cost of ownership (TCO) for building owners. Technical asset management is a strategy designed to optimize performance and reduce carbon impact with data-backed transparency.

What is a “technical asset” anyway?

According to ISO 55000 GB/T 33172 an asset is anything that can create value for your organization. Technical assets, in this regard, are highly critical equipment and machinery that power the most essential systems in a building, such as electricity, heating and water. In other words, technical assets are the bedrock of your entire operations. If any one of these assets went offline – your production and operations would have to stop, leading to potentially disastrous financial impact.

Technical asset management (TAM) is a holistic and comprehensive approach to keeping critical machinery and systems running reliably and efficiently. It covers the spectrum of needs regarding upkeep, namely:

  • Corrective, preventive & predictive maintenance
  • Flying teams & remote asset management
  • MRO (Maintenance, repair and overhaul) & spare parts
  • OEM (Original equipment manufacturer) & asset installation

All these services rely on robust documentation, equipment data & processes; the whole operational chain is highly digitalized. Aden clients see the results & monitor in real-time the asset management performance through digital dashboards.

TAM is a service that provides businesses with comfort and safety in the office, a controlled production environment and creates a context in which businesses are freed up to focus more on their core needs.

CMMS, MRO, OEM… why are there so many acronyms?

Engineers and technicians love acronyms, but too often they are used as magic words to solve operational and industrial problems. Most of the time, the real answer lies in a deep understanding of the operational and material situation of the client, long experience, and healthy work discipline based on international standards. Never let your service provider hide behind jargon!

Is TAM only used at manufacturing and industrial sites?

Wherever an organization is relying on an asset to perform well and sustainably, TAM has a role to play. We all need high-performing office buildings, schools and hospitals as much as industrial clients need a reliable supply of compressed airHVAC and electricity. Technical asset management is a service needed across the built environment. By ensuring assets are running properly, TAM ensures the safety, comfort and performance of those relying on them to do their daily work.

What is the difference between predictive, preventive and corrective maintenance? And which one is best?

Corrective maintenance is the basic form of maintenance. In short, it means responding to problems after an issue or a breakdown has occurred. If your maintenance plan is heavily reliant on corrective maintenance, you probably have a problem – but that said, corrective maintenance has its place and is often sufficient for rudimentary and less essential assets. Paired with a good maintenance management system, corrective maintenance work orders can also happen in a timely and efficient manner. For critical assets, however, corrective maintenance is something you want to avoid.

Preventive maintenance relates to upkeep before a breakdown happens; it includes inspections and regulatory visits to standard exchange. Highly critical assets at your site should all have a preventive maintenance plan and MRO strategy in place to ensure that assets perform more reliably and at their peak for as long as possible.

Finally, predictive maintenance sits somewhere in the middle, where patterns of wear & tear are identified (often detected through high-level expertise and devices) and used to predict the breakdown potential of an asset before it impacts operations. Using a combination of IoT devices, vibration analysis, and even AI, engineers can pinpoint red flags and act on them to avoid costly downtime or asset failures.

But which one is best? Don’t get fooled by companies that say you need all predictive maintenance, all the time. Proper technical asset management uses a mix of all three types of maintenance, according to the risk profile of the client (operational, reputational and regulatory). The goal is to strike the right balance between the three to optimally use available manpower and to keep systems functioning better and without interruption.

Good asset management vs. bad asset management

In simple terms, a bad TAM provider thinks in day-to-day terms, while a good TAM partner builds a strategy based on where a client wants to be in the coming months and years, proactively finding ways to bring the organization to that point, whether the goals are financial, environmental, or both.

The best asset management takes a deep dive into a client’s operations to understand the criticality and risk level of each piece of equipment, machinery or system. It comprehensively documents which assets are linked to strict governmental regulations, compliance requirements, or ESG targets. All of this information is then used to craft a customized and responsive TAM strategy.

Good technical asset management systemically ensures transparency of this process by digitizing and centralizing all information, making it easily accessible for all stakeholders as required by ISO 55000.

Finally, technical asset management relies on its teams. TAM professionals should be certified, trained and evaluated using a standardized framework focused on the client’s success and asset lifecycle performance.

What’s the connection between technical asset management and Net Zero World Initiative?

TAM combined with digitalization is one of the most concrete areas for action for net-zero efforts. It’s estimated that the building sector accounts for 39% of global C02 emissions. A huge share of this can be traced back to technical assets such as chillers, boilers, compressors, HVAC systems and more.

The lowest carbon-emitting assets are the ones that have been properly designed or selected, correctly installed and tested, and given the proper amount of care throughout their lives. This is the fundamental work of technical asset management. Selecting a TAM partner rather than a simple provider is a critical investment in your organization’s impact and future.

What are the main business outcomes of good TAM strategy?

Businesses with a successful TAM strategy consistently outperform their peers in terms of supply chain agility, operational efficiency and financial profile. Most importantly, they can sustain their performance over long stretches of time, benefitting in the long term from all the value created.

Better performing assets means more comfortable facilities and more reliable business operations, which leads to higher performing employees, steadier business development and stronger relationships with clients. It also makes you more prepared to present operational data for clients, governments and investors. This puts your business at a distinct advantage over your competitors.

 
 

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Digital twin technology and the built environment

A digital twin is a contextual, data-driven model of a physical object. It is a system of systems (SoS) built on the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI technology. While traditionally used in manufacturing, digital twins are now used in many other contexts, particularly in buildings.

Built environments are gaining unprecedented operational efficiencies from digitalization. A digital twin enables users to manage their assets proactively by simulating conditional changes and quickly surfacing inefficiencies. In doing so all building stakeholders can work in sync to extend its lifespan while providing a more comfortable and ecologically sound environment for occupants.

What is a digital twin?

Simply put, a digital twin is a 1:1 virtualized version (or “twin”) of a physical object in time and space. A digital twin can be described superficially as a highly complex digital model of an object. If that object is an engine, the twin incorporates every single component from screws to chassis and entirely replicates its functions. If that object is a building, it does the same for every component of every asset, all its systems, processes and environmental data (temperature, humidity, AQI).

A critical point to note is that a digital twin is not just a 3D snapshot from one point in time. The 3D model is only the top layer, a visual interface for a much deeper and more powerful system that actively monitors, structures, and transmits rich, real-time data occurring in the physical space. Whatever the object does, and any changes which occur, are quantified and precisely represented in the digital twin, which continually feeds data into AI applications and machine learning.

A short history of digital twin technology

Although digital twins are considered an emerging technology and have only recently begun to gain attention among the general public, their history is much longer than might be expected. NASA implemented the first rudimentary digital twin during the 1970 Apollo 13 mission. In the early 1980s, Dassault Aviation pioneered some of the first commercial applications of digital modeling for product design and testing, subsequently expanding these early endeavors to a widening range of uses.

Since then, digital twins have continued to evolve, becoming vastly more powerful and sophisticated. Today, a digital twin can be created with an almost limitless number of applications and scopes. For instance, the entirety of Singapore now exists in parallel as a virtual Singapore.

Virtual twin Singapore

Virtual Singapore, made using Dassault Systèmes Catia

Digitalizing built environments

Digitalizing the built environment in some ways is more complex than a digital twin of a rocket ship. That’s because a digital twin of a building is more than just a model of the structure itself. It integrates every system, object and process occurring within it. Asset monitoring, operational management, energy use – all systems within the building feed data into the digital twin. The digital twin building is a system of systems, which takes all siloed data into a central platform powering an interactive, scalable, and actionable single source of truth.

Digital twin application in the built environment is the logical culmination of previous developments in smart buildings and PropTech. The functional capacities of the built environment are exposed and digitalized, enabling a wide variety of use cases. With this powerful tool, building management is no longer limited by what is readily apparent but regulated by a single source of truth, fed by real-time data. And the market is noticing. Digital twin usage in the built environment is exploding in growth currently and is predicted to reach nearly $36 billion in value by 2025, an increase of nearly 1000% since 2019.

Building a digital twin building: BIM, BAM, BOOM

Architects and contractors have been using 3D technology to design and construct buildings and other structures for decades. Today, around 2/3rds of all architecture, engineering and construction firms in developed markets are working digitally using BIM (building information modeling) software. When integrated with Information and Communication Technology (ICT), this is the beginning of the single source of truth.

Dassault Systemes Catia platform

Dassault Systèmes CATIA

BIM is the 3D blueprint of the structure created during the design phase. It is a complete mapping of all physical aspects and functional systems, such as lighting, HVAC, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP). A BIM is not only a powerful tool for architects; it also offers benefits to engineers, like the ability to share data and collaborate with building designers. Collaborating digitally with a single source of truth streamlines traditional mires such as compliance and compatibility checking.

After the design is complete, the construction stage also benefits from the data and technology handed over from the BIM. Many contractors rely on BIM data to help optimize construction processes, known as a Building Assembly Model. BAM continues to build on the BIM database created during design, bringing in new information related to budgeting, materials, timelines, inspection data and more.

Using the BAM as the single source of truth and collaboration platform significantly decreases construction costs and timelines with enormous gains in efficiencies and accuracy. For example, ARUP saw dramatic cost reductions in planning and executing Queensferry Crossing upgrades for Transport Scotland in 2016. In partnership with Jacobs Engineering UK, ARUP leveraged BAM and BIM systems to deliver an incredible cost reduction from 4.2 billion pounds to 1.4 billion in budgeting, with additional savings in project management.

Queensferry digital twin

Queensferry digital twin construction

A 67% reduction in costs is impressive, but when put in perspective of the total lifecycle cost of a building, construction accounts only for 1/3rd (Source). That still places the lion’s share of the financial burden in the operational phase. This is what led building and property managers to utilize BIM as a tool for operations. At this stage, the model is known as a Building Owner-Operator Model (BOOM).

BOOM offers more potential to increase operational efficiency in the built environment. After construction, the BIM can continue to serve as a single source of truth for processes such as asset management and maintenance. It can track the lifecycle of various parts, the installation dates, physical properties, servicing history and more. As a BOOM, the system acts as a record keeper, warranty manager and maintenance scheduler.

What is the difference between BOOM and a digital twin? Real-time data, simulation and actionable insights.

The difference between BOOM and a digital twin is the real-time virtualization of the building and all its systems and processes. To do so requires linking the entire building components, assets, systems and processes, with IoT. It also requires migrating the BIM into a platform capable of receiving and processing data.

Once linked, the digital twin aggregates data from all building processes and operations and replicates them visually on the BIM. All asset and systems performance data, maintenance records, environmental data – everything perpetually feeds into the twin. Digital twins also leverage the power of AI to help managers and owners optimize daily operations by simulating conditional changes and turning raw data into suggested actions.

Akila Asset platform

Akila Asset platform

The power of the digital twin rests in its dynamic data quality and its ability to fuel machine learning algorithms and control. These algorithms are capable, for example, of optimizing power use based on seasons. China Energy piloted a digital twin system for managing power plants and was able to realize annual cost savings of 4 million RMB per generator unit through algorithmic management based on BIM data—optimizing for power demand differences in summer and winter automatically.

Smart from the start…or better late than never

Every building has a lifecycle, moving from design, engineering, construction, use and eventually replacement. It is more convenient to create digital twins for buildings constructed using BIM (and BAM and BOOM), but they can still be made for existing buildings. IoT installation and retrofitting allow digital twins to be developed as part of a building upgrade plan. A BIM can also be created for existing and heritage structures using 3D scanning technology and original blueprints. Considering most of a building’s lifetime costs come from its operation, digital twins still serve their purpose for built structures.

Using digital twins in the built environment

Digital twins are an exciting technology because they enable dynamic and powerful building or facility management. The ultimate purpose of the digital twin is to manage costs via surfacing a contextual, data-driven model of the building. There are a variety of ways this model is used to enhance building operations.

Growing plateaued operational efficiency

Constant streams of data fed into a single source of truth model of operational intelligence enable actionable insights into business operations. Digital twins link operational data across building systems and processes such as energy use, maintenance and occupant health. It surfaces multifaceted insights that might look like this:

  • If you don’t fix this broken air purifier, it will lead to x amount of energy increase, x amount in risk of viral spread.
  • The air purifier is predicted to have a serious issue in x amount of time, leading to increased energy use and causing x amount of excess carbon

The digital twin is the visual symbiosis of all building systems and processes, unlocking unprecedented decision-making power. Which areas of operation are lagging? Which areas of operations are excelling? The built environment can speak to you via digital twin and offer compelling new information through simulation and advanced analytics.

Cutting carbon footprints

According to Ernst and Young, digital twins can realize up to a 50% increase in sustainability and resiliency for buildings by reducing emissions. It can do so by integrating energy management into every level of a building ecosystem, from assets to systems to processes, and leveraging AI algorithms to optimize energy use.

Improving occupant satisfaction

The human-centric goal of a digital twin building is to improve user wellbeing; in the case of a building, the occupant. Data surfaced in the digital twin, such as environmental data (air quality, cleanliness, etc.), building space and infrastructure use, and maintenance and asset management provide actionable intelligence that can improve the occupant experience in a building. A building backed by a digital twin is a visible, built manifestation of a commitment to occupant comfort and environmental responsibility.

Akila digital twin

Akila digital twin

Transitioning from reactive to proactive operations and maintenance

Building operators and facility managers commonly use Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) to manage and optimize maintenance processes. Digital twins go further by integrating the functions of a CMMS and then contextualizing asset information and maintenance history with wider building operations. This provides more insight into the why and how while surfacing more actionable insights than just a CMMS. It also opens up the realm of predictive maintenance by running all data through AI algorithms, which can identify at what point in the future a given asset would need repairs in regular use and offer the same for simulated alternative conditions.

Improving the efficiency of new construction

Implementing digital twin early in the lifecycle of a building allows for the simulation of new equipment and architectural changes at each stage to optimize the assembly of the building. Building Assembly Modelling is a key component of a digital twin approach used in sustainable construction and operations.

Full Business Digitalization

Transitioning to a modern model for business intelligence and operations requires, almost definitionally, the transition to a single-source-of-truth model which a digital twin provides. The SSoT model has innumerable benefits for business processes, but it requires a constant and steady input of data to be usable.

Optimizing building operations using digital twin simulation

The ability to simulate equipment, infrastructure and environment is one of the high-powered capabilities of a digital twin. The digital twin can use current data to forecast interoperability issues, energy use, airflow, foot traffic and many other aspects of building use data. It also enables the user to project the multitude of effects on operations arising from environmental, infrastructure, or equipment changes using simulation models. These models empower stakeholders to make accurate and informed predictions about operational efficiency and forecast and eliminate bottlenecks before they appear in the real world.

Doosan wind farm digital twin

Doosan wind farm digital twin

Businesses such as Doosan Heavy Industries are already doing so. At Doosan’s wind farms, physics-based simulation is used to minimize waste in planning and construction and machine-learning algorithms adjust operations to match ideal performance models. Through the digital twin, the lifetime performance of any building becomes a manageable and optimizable asset.

Scaling digital twins to manage property portfolios

Up until recently, PropTech has been thought of as a way for homeowners and real estate owners to manage their equity and unlock the value of their property (AirBnB, etc.). Now, the understanding of PropTech is expanding as digital twin technology is fundamentally a way to increase property value for owners and occupants—especially when applied across a portfolio of assets.

Because digital twin represents a platform and not just a single-purpose tool, it enables scalability, meaning the digital twin platform for one environment will be the same core system used to manage another. The benefit of scalability makes multi-property management efficient and rationalizes smart building investment. Because you invest in a platform, your smart building strategies are more future-proof Digital twin enables dynamic, real-time management of diverse property portfolios with ease and simplicity. Optimizing property use via these powerful platforms reduces costs, avoids unnecessary costs, and links the totality of the built environment to decision-makers in a comprehensible way.

The built environment becomes virtual

Digital twins are the penultimate transformation of modern building management software and tools into a holistic, full-environment platform, primed for the future. It represents a new approach to management that is oriented toward continuous optimization and growth. Digital twin technology in the built environments signals the entering of a new era of digitalization and a strategic shift towards data-backed decision making to improve costs, operational efficiency, environmental impact and the human experience.

 
 

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