Sustainable manufacturing and autonomous production
Pandemics, cyber threats and geopolitical conflicts have recently served as a reminder for organisations about the importance of supply chain security. The fight against climate change has put an increasing emphasis on sustainable manufacturing. In a time when skilled manufacturing labour is hard to find, both self-sufficiency and sustainability require developing autonomous production processes.
Key facts about sustainable manufacturing and autonomous production
Resilience to sudden changes, such as pandemics or geopolitical conflicts
Better production efficiency and employee satisfaction
Concrete steps towards green transition
On this page
Societal instability and work trends bring manufacturing challenges
There are several challenges that the manufacturing industry must tackle in the near future:
- Sustainability: Fighting climate change requires rapid action in the manufacturing industry. A green transition in production requires significant improvements in efficiency and material utilisation.
- Security of supply: The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the global supply chain our manufacturing has relied on isn’t as reliable as we thought. Geopolitical conflicts and cyberattacks also threaten the availability of manufacturing components. More flexible production processes are required.
- Labour shortage: Manual labour in factories doesn’t attract workers anymore. There is a global need to diversify tasks so that manufacturing work would become more attractive, flexible and scalable.
Autonomous production supports sustainable manufacturing and resilience
Your organisation will reap significant benefits by partnering up with a pioneer of autonomous production. Adopting a holistic approach to the optimisation of your production processes is a key factor in gaining a competitive advantage both as a manufacturer and as an employer.
Strategic insight with a future-proof roadmap
With VTT as your partner, you will make the right strategic decisions in the long term. The future is never certain, but you must be able to react to changes and trends in sustainable manufacturing and autonomous production in the right way. First, we create a realistic long-term vision for your industry and then backcast the vision to the present day. With a clear and future-proof roadmap, your organisation is ready for different scenarios.
Automating your production processes improves your production rate and makes production more cost-efficient and flexible. With relevant data on the whole value network, you can design new production methods that support autonomous production.
Autonomous production enables your employees to focus on creative and empowering tasks that optimise your operation. Leaving repetitive manual tasks to machines makes your operation safer and more attractive to ambitious experts. Shifting the focus from manual work to creative and remote ways of working allows your employees more freedom and flexibility.
Autonomous production will decrease your environmental footprint throughout the value network. Higher flexibility allows you to manufacture products that are more environmentally friendly. You can minimise the negative impacts of your operation by having better visibility into emissions.
The optimisation of operational efficiency, energy and raw material use and logistics results in smaller material losses and waste outputs. Adjusting the production facilities in factories enables the adoption of more sustainable materials and a longer useful life for assets and spare parts.
Resilience and self-sufficiency
Resilience enables companies to develop continuously and adapt to changing needs and disruptions. In crises, such as trade wars or pandemics, the technological autonomy of manufacturing lines, factories and supply chains helps you to organise production according to the availability of critical resources.
Utilising the same facilities and equipment for producing various goods increases your economic resilience by allowing faster response to market volatilities. Disruptions may even result in pivoting new, more sustainable products. Social resilience allows your organisation to learn, transform and use people’s skills and competencies wisely.
What kind of challenges can we help you with?
At VTT, we understand that every project is unique. This is why our services in sustainable manufacturing and autonomous production are always tailored to suit your operation. Instead of being a provider of standard production automation solutions, we step in when the standard solutions don’t do the trick and you require out-of-the-box ideas.
Wondering what kinds of challenges we can help you with? These examples are just some of the concrete questions our experts can answer:
- How can we make our manufacturing processes more sustainable and efficient?
- How can we robotise or automate a process that has been impossible to automate with commercially available solutions?
- How can we boost employee satisfaction and productivity by enabling remote work for industrial, non-knowledge workers?
- How can we utilise mobile robots and other digital solutions to optimise our in-house logistics?
- How can we enable optimal collaboration between humans, robots and artificial intelligence?
- What kind of job descriptions and requirements should we have in the future?
- Is our development plan for production automation holistic? Are there low-hanging fruits from other industrial domains?
Creating a long-term impact with sustainable manufacturing and autonomous production projects requires a wide range of capabilities. At VTT, we have both vast experience in global partnerships and the expertise to plan and implement projects that bring you growth. .
These are some areas of expertise that we use to create synergies:
- Production processes with advanced technologies
- Production, delivery and value chains
- Sustainable materials
- The evolving role of humans in manufacturing
- The business impact of technological change.
Our projects optimise your whole operation. Anyone with data can optimise parts of processes without contributing to the big picture. Making a true impact, however, requires having experts and knowledge from all relevant fields and utilising an interdisciplinary team. That is what we do best.
How to work with us?
The starting point for our collaboration depends on your needs. We can begin by exploring your strategic needs or by accelerating the development of an already identified future opportunity from your R&D&I portfolio.
Potential service steps:
Opportunity identification: Systematic approach to identifying strategic, process-specific or operational topics for further R&D&I activities.
Opportunity validation: Efficient validation of selected topics, requirement specification, impact analysis and creation of development plans.
R&D&I activities: Solution development and piloting. This includes utilising VTT’s cross-disciplinary expertise and sometimes our extensive partner network.
Meet our experts
Karoliina Salminen has lead VTT’s vision work towards autonomous manufacturing. She’s responsible for the smart manufacturing framework at VTT, which means she is continuously working with several companies and other stakeholders to build together a sustainable industry through increased automation and digitalization. She’s especially interested in human-centric manufacturing with enabling technologies and new work roles.
Dr. Heli Helaakoski is a research manager of Cognitive Production Industry at VTT. Her research interests are focused on autonomous systems, digitalisation, IoT, artificial intelligence in the field of technology, especially in manufacturing industry. Her focus lies particularly in the application of advanced ICT technologies in various industrial environments.
Dr Riikka Virkkunen is Professor of Practice at VTT with passion for industrial renewal and digitalization. At VTT, she has led VTT’s strategic topic Industrial Renewal with the focus on business disruption in manufacturing industries and renewal of production. She boosts European collaboration in the manufacturing sector and is currently the Co-chair of the Made In Europe Partnership.
Virtual and augmented reality
Virtual and augmented reality give users multifaceted access to a complex world. VTT is studying, among other things, how VR and AR can be used to promote safety and better planning in the mechanical engineering and construction industries.
Industrial 3D printing
With industrial 3D printing, companies can produce light-weight components locally. That reduces logistics and warehouse costs and emissions. VTT offers a metal printing research service for industrial companies and develops 3D printable biomaterials.
Remotely-operated machinery can be used to perform work in locations that are dangerous or inaccessible to people. VTT develops remote operation solutions that have applications ranging from surgery to mining, and from agriculture to space research.
Watch our video: New ways of working through robotics
Automation of repetitive tasks reduces the need for manual labor. The research topic of robotics includes various disciplines such as mechanical design, mechatronics, control systems, machine vision, software development, IoT and machine learning. In our robotics lab, we focus on programming and mechatronic systems. We study and implement mobile robots that are fully autonomous, smart vehicles that are best suited for labor-intensive routine tasks.