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Siemens Congleton reveals productivity and sustainability formula

Siemens’ manufacturing facility in Cheshire is set to achieve carbon neutrality 8 years early, having already increased output by over 1,000% without changing its physical footprint or headcount.

The Congleton site, which manufactures more than 1.2 million controls and variable speed drives (VSDs) each year, is on track to neutralise its carbon footprint – originally a target for 2030 – after deploying a range of sustainable solutions for energy generation and demand.

The trailblazing story was shared at Siemens’ recent Transform 2022 conference at Manchester Central, which is now available to watch on-demand.

Measures taken at Congleton include a building management system (BMS) which automatically adjusts to drive energy efficiency improvements, while modern windows and LED lighting have reduced energy bills by 13 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. The factory has also been taken off the grid thanks in part to renewable energy supplied by a hydroelectric plant on the nearby river Dane.

The site is also considered ‘fully digital’, having embraced lean manufacturing methods to achieve continuous improvement and adopted leading-edge Industry 4.0 processes such as virtuality reality, digital twin, Internet of Things (IoT), advanced robotics and additive manufacturing.

In 1990, around 400 workers at the factory were able to produce 50,000 VSDs and controls per year. Today, a similar number of workers manufacture 600,000 VSDs annually, along with tens of thousands of other electrical devices that can be produced in thousands of variations.

This has all been achieved within the same physical footprint. The factory is bounded by industrial units and housing estates, with no room to expand, meaning it has one of the highest productivity rates per m2 of any of Siemens’ sites worldwide.

Speaking to The Manufacturer, the site’s Managing Director Andrew Peters said:

“Over the last few years the backdrop at Congleton, and where digitalisation, automation and seamless data has come into play, has been about making more complicated products as efficiently as possible. The essence of manufacturing sustainability is being able to do more with less, and that’s the story of Siemens Congleton.

“You can’t just capture lots of data and then decide what to do with it. It’s a journey of understanding the opportunity to make your business more efficient and productive. Working backwards from there enables you to see where [technologies like] IoT can help achieve that. Many organisations misunderstand automation for example. If you’re going to deploy a robot, you need to tell it what information it will need. What often happens in the UK today, is companies put in place dumb robots, which will move things from A to B. However, if you need it to perform anything more detailed and take the process to the next step, it gets tricky, because the importance of data hasn’t been understood at the start.

On sustainability and achieving carbon neutrality, he added:

“The approach we’ve taken is to be crystal clear in terms of what success looks like before we start. Unless you know what success looks like, you’ve not got much chance of getting there. It’s about being able to demonstrate next month, next year or in five years’ time that we have sustainability processes that are continually monitored and improved, in much the same way as our productivity. It’s not a one-off, it’s a never-ending journey, and you have to have mature processes in place that allow you to regularly monitor, reassess and make improvements.”

GC Business Growth Hub’s expert Manufacturing Service can help SME manufacturers to replicate Siemens’ successes themselves by identifying and implementing productivity improvements through our one-to-one guidance and dedicated training programmes.

Dedicated support on sustainability and starting your journey to net zero is also available through our Sustainability and Net Zero Service.

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