Could Sustainable Water Clues Be Hiding in Your Data?
Chances are good that most readers have running water. A twist of the handle will make Earth’s lifeblood pour from a spigot and fill your awaiting cup below.
What if you turned on the faucet and no water came out? It’s a life-challenging concern for the 2.3 billion people who live in water-stressed countries, and it’s a sustainability challenge for organizations in the process manufacturing industry. Companies making sustainable water management decisions could find clues hidden in their operational data.
According to the United Nations, 26% of the global population lacked safely managed drinking water when the survey was taken in 2020. Natural wetland areas also shrank by 35%, or more than three times the rate of forest loss, between 1970-2015. Furthermore, 129 countries are not on track to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030. Progress would have to double to meet the deadline, the UN said.
What Is Water Sustainability?
In a nutshell, sustainability is a mindset. Businesses adopting sustainable practices set standards that meet certain environmental, social, and governance criteria (ESG). Today, sustainable manufacturing is no longer simply nice to have. Rising cost of materials, changing customer expectations, regulatory fines, and public opinion are some of the factors that have transformed environmental stewardship into business necessity.
Water is a particularly scarce and vital resource and is monitored closely. Industries that use water move it through large pumps and pipe networks. Managing the high volume of water that flows through these networks is an energy-intensive process that can add extra financial and environmental burdens.
According to McKinsey & Company, two-thirds of businesses have substantial risk for water stress based on the efficiency of their direct operations or in their value chain. When water stresses occur, they are not only internal. Water woes can affect public and investor opinion. All these factors have negative consequences on an organization’s bottom line.
Conversely, organizations that create solid sustainability policies are seen favorably. From a business perspective, water sustainability policies should have four core goals: cutting costs, reducing regulatory interventions, increasing employee efficiency, and optimizing assets.
How Can Data Help?
Clues in process data can be used to help achieve sustainability goals. Engineers who evaluate time-series data using an advanced analytics solution find opportunities for process optimization and cost reduction along the value chain. Put in context with data from other business systems, this information will compose a story of process behavior over time.
Using a self-service advanced analytics solution, process experts can get a more holistic view of productions. Time-series data, collected from sensors and stored in a large industrial database known as a historian, can be used for a wide range of operational improvements. These include determining good and bad periods of operation, diagnosing energy-intensive processes, predicting when to perform preventive maintenance, and even determining the efficiency of specific raw materials.
Contextual data resides in third-party business systems. Examples of contextual data include a laboratory information management system (LIMS). These store test results from water quality samples, which must be imported for certain kinds of analysis. Contextual data also contains controlled starts and stops, which need to be filtered out before performing the root cause analysis of a process anomaly.
Together, these provide water process experts with valuable information, such as:
- Where to look for problems in the case of an excessive number of effluents in the water,
- How to detect, respond to, and resolve pipe network anomalies,
- When to perform maintenance to prevent fouling of biological aerators, and
- Which pumps are identified as the most energy-intensive and solutions to reduce their energy consumption.
Achieving Water Sustainability
Organizations wanting to achieve a sustainable future for water should not wait until the faucet runs dry. The bottom line depends on being a fiscally responsible environmental steward. Data from manufacturing processes can provide the path to become one.
From operational improvements to cost-saving techniques, an advanced analytics solution can leverage the power of time-series and contextual data for water sustainability success. Who knew searching for clues in data could be so rewarding?