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How Swedish industry will become sustainable

With representatives from industry, institutes, academia, and social partners, RISE has developed a Future Plan for Sustainable Production. The aim has been to create a consensus on priority areas in sustainable production and strengthen regional and national initiatives in the production area. The plan was launched in a digital kick-off at the end of November 2021.

In the Future Plan for Sustainable Production, Climate and environment combined with competitiveness, Resilience, and the Supply of skills, have been identified as the main challenges for the industry. To meet these challenges, four key development areas have been highlighted as enablers:

  • Production development
  • Circular transition
  • Digital transformation
  • Competence transition and education

Each of the above is a field of development that addresses the central challenges.

During the kick-off in November, all participating speakers from the industry, academia and institutes agreed that sustainable production is crucial for our competitiveness as an industrial nation. However, the speakers also agreed that a shift towards sustainable production only be can successful if there is an industry consensus on directions and investment areas.

“As we are a small nation, we must agree on an overall level within industry, academia and institutes. Therefore, we must have a holistic perspective and agree on the plans; what challenges there are, what we need to do, what methods and which skills we need, in order to achieve the vision of zero emissions of greenhouse gases with maintained or increased production volume”, explains Anders Gotte, Head of Manufacturing Processes at RISE.

we must have viable companies that make money so that we can afford to continue investing in the development towards more sustainable production

Production development

The Future Plan for Sustainable Production states that the production systems must have high resource utilisation, high durability and low environmental impact in their application and in their return to the value chain. Furthermore, it states that new materials, circularity and digitalisation are crucial for efficient resource utilisation.

The goal for the Swedish industry is to generate zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2040 while maintaining or increasing the production volume. Out of the three challenges identified in the plan, the climate and environment combined with competitiveness are the most demanding.

Lars-Henrik Jörnving, Head of Global Industrial Development at Scania, says that since the 1990s, they have developed their production system SPS as an interpretation of Lean and as their tool for continuous development and improvement.

“Developing the production towards sustainable production does not differ much in that perspective. Of course, the part with climate, climate impact, and natural resources is an essential part of our development. […] But we must also have viable companies that make money so that we can afford to continue investing in the development towards more sustainable production,” he says

Johan Svenningstorp, Director Research and Technology Development Truck Operations, Volvo, does not believe that reduced natural resources and increased competitiveness need to be opposites.

“For us, there is a synergy between increased production and competitiveness combined with environmental issues. Moreover, conversion work is a fantastic opportunity since digitalisation increases traceability and process speed,” he says.

companies must own their digital development, go into details, and absorb the new technology

Digital transformation

The future plan states that digitalisation is an essential tool for sustainability through traceability and interaction services for sharing economy. It also states that digitalisation increases automation and process control, enabling more robust processes, resource utilisation, and productivity.

“In our industry, we face a massive transformation that we can manage only via digitalisation. For example, the automotive industry has spent 100 years of manufacturing engines, but now comes a significant change as our product will be electrified, autonomous and connected, and to achieve this, we must increase digitalisation. Therefore, digitalisation is not only an opportunity but also the only way to increase production, sustainability, and traceability”, says Johan Svenningstorp.

Clas Tengström, CEO at Bror Tonsjö mechanical industry in Kode, agrees with the line of thought. The company has invested heavily in digitalisation since 2017 and has managed to increase productivity. Nevertheless, there have been considerable challenges along the way.

“Our competence has been a limitation in taking digitalisation in our company to the next level. As there is no ready-made solution to buy, we have had to build up the competence in our factory ourselves”, he says.

Johan Svenningstorp emphasises that companies must own their digital development.
“You cannot naively bring in an IT consultant to digitalise the factory. You must take responsibility for your entire process, dare to try it yourself, go into details, and absorb the new technology,” he says.

Owning your own digital development does not mean that the industry cannot collaborate and share common costs and investments.

“Partnership is the new leadership. By this, I mean that the industry can share investment costs in education, as qualification and skills development are the most essential enablers for the digital transition.”

primarily it is a matter of changing perspectives from silo models to a circular economy

Circular transition

The Future Plan for Sustainable Production says that it is necessary to identify all actors in all value chains to achieve circularity. Furthermore, by taking advantage of the possibilities of digitalisation, advanced manufacturing processes and new business models, the requirement for increased resource efficiency is met through circular conversion.

How should the Swedish industry move forward and prepare for circularity? The Future plan points out the way, says Mats Lundin, Operations Manager for the National Node for Sustainable Production (SuPr). Nevertheless, it will be a great challenge for the industry to switch to circularity, he says. It is no longer enough to pay attention to sustainability in the production process. The industry must show how their products can be returned to production again.

“During the past 100 years, the production apparatus has been built and trimmed, but now it is a matter of recycling materials and components efficiently. It is a massive leap for both companies and researchers to define a production process covering the entire life cycle of a product and prepare for the recycling of materials and components. Primarily it is a matter of changing perspectives from silo models to a circular economy,” he says.

Mats Lundin says Northwolt is an excellent example of how to build a factory for the future, as they both invest in manufacturing batteries and returning resources from used batteries into production again.

“Of all the challenges we face now, the biggest challenge is to start thinking circularly. Above all; How do we measure that we are moving forward? How can we prove what we have really done to our customers and suppliers? This is an essential question for the continued work with the Future plan”, says Hans Olofsson, Senior Advisor Global Industrial Development Scania.

the need for individual competencies will require lifelong learning throughout working life

Competence transition and education

The future plan indicates that developing an efficient system for skills conversion, education, and lifelong learning is necessary to cope with the digital transformation and the green transition. In the technology and manufacturing industries, the need for further training for professional operators and engineers will emerge due to increased automation, digitalised production, circularity and electrification.

Education and skills development are critical factors in the transition to sustainable production. It is not only about the education of new students; it also covers a skills adjustment of today’s workforce to match the changing skills needs of technology development and digitalisation.

“The need for individual competencies will require lifelong learning throughout working life”, says Bengt-Göran Rosén, Professor at Halmstad University, and therefore, he believes that the education must comply with the needs of the industry.

“We in the universities must be responsive and link our research and education to the market’s needs. We must understand the importance of courses linked to real projects and problems relevant for companies. We are now trying to solve this within the Swedish Production Academy, where we are 13 universities that collaborate on the future competitiveness in production, he said.

Future sustainable business models will typically include more services and service solutions, not just the goods produced. Therefore, skills that may be needed are organisational change and business development, modelling and simulation, and circular economy and life cycle analysis.

the industry must take the lead forward, and thus a tremendous industrial commitment is required for the transition to be successful

An agile and living plan

The Future Plan for Sustainable Production will be revised annually by RISE, and the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries´ Forum for sustainable production will lead the work ahead.

”The work ahead is not about creating new structures; we will collaborate within existing initiatives, such as Produktionslyftet, The Swedish Manufacturing R&D Clusters, National Node for Sustainable Production and Production 2030. Our task is to make investments visible and spread examples of successful initiatives,” says Anders Gotte, RISE.

Anders Gotte stresses that those companies and regions that do not successfully shift to climate neutrality will lose their competitive edge. Therefore, the industry must drive the practical adjustment work.

“The rest of us can not tell the industry how to tackle the challenges. The industry must take the lead forward, and thus a tremendous industrial commitment is required for the transition to be successful.The development of the Future plan for the sustainable industry has shown that we already have an industrial commitment in Sweden, mainly from the large companies. Small and medium-sized companies can then follow the industrial giants and let them show the way and point out the direction,” he concludes..

Forum for Sustainable Production

RISE initiated the Future Plan for Sustainable Production, and the work began in the autumn of 2020. For the continued work, the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries has created Forum for Sustainable Production, which gives RISE the task of annually revising the future planParticipating in the work are the Technology Companies, the Swedish Production Academy, Production 2030 and the National Node for Sustainable Production (SuPr), IF Metall, Vinnova and Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth.

The work is led by Björn Ekelund, Ericsson, appointed by the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries. The reference group of the Association of Swedish Engineering is also the reference group for Forum for Sustainable Production.

Published: 2022-02-28
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