Energy Leaders Urged to Collaborate With Industrialists to Decarbonize Manufacturing

At the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit America Forum in Pittsburgh, expert speakers from governments and the private sector discussed how digital technologies can accelerate the global energy transition.

Design News Staff

October 11, 2022

6 Min Read
Manufacturing Panel with Covestro USA University of Pittsburgh Nova Chemical Alliance to End Plastic Waste.jpg
Representatives from Covestro USA, University of Pittsburgh, Nova Chemical, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, and others came together at GMIS America to explore innovation in a circular economy.Image courtesy of Global Manufacturing & Industrialization Summit

The inaugural U.S. edition of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) kicked off with a "firm call" for energy leaders to increase collaboration with industrial players to plot out a roadmap for rapid decarbonization during the final decade of action leading up to sustainable development goals, according to a press release issued by the GMIS

With 81% of the global energy system still based on hydrocarbons—the same percentage as 30 years ago—the day’s first panelists discussed how Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies can solve the trifecta of challenges facing the energy sector — security, access, and climate progress, stated GMIS.

Panelists included Hilary Mercer, senior vice president of Shell Polymers at Shell; Allyson Book, vice president of energy transition at Baker Hughes; Mark Johnson, special advisor at the Advanced Manufacturing Office of the United States Department of Energy; Marcelo Carugo, vice president of global industry programs and alliances at Emerson; and Patrick Gallagher, chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh.

Book emphasized that the burden to reduce carbon emissions is not just on energy companies like Shell and many of its customers, but also on the global economy. She explained that industrialists are the fastest-growing carbon producers in the world, followed closely by power utilities, home-heating providers, and transportation, according to World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. Mercer pointed out the importance of data in reducing the carbon footprint and that companies should be able to document their efforts.

A later panel discussion focused on a future enabled by 4IR technologies and the potential benefits from decentralized supply chains as stakeholders push towards net-zero goals. Eng. Omar Al Mahmoud, chief executive officer of the ICT Fund, was joined on the panel by Dr. Lonnie Love, corporate fellow of the Energy & Transportation Division of Oakridge National Laboratory; and Tariq Al Hashimi, director of technology adoption and development at the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, in a discussion on financial policy mechanisms and increasing local production amid a decline in globalized supply chains.

Mahmoud commented that innovation is at the core of the fourth industrial revolution and companies should approach innovation as they would manage a supply chain. Al Hashimi emphasized the importance of having financing toolkits that enable the private sector to drive the fourth industrial revolution.

Following was a discussion on the circular economy and the role of innovation and technology in developing industrial processes. Participants included Dr. Hakkan Jonsson, chairman and president of Covestro USA; Dr. Melissa Bilec; William Kepler, Whiteford Professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; John Thayer, senior vice president, sales and marketing, of Nova Chemicals; and Steve Sikra, vice president and head of Americas at the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.

The panel explored how decoupling economic growth from finite resources would require fundamental changes to supply chains, export markets and production, and manufacturing processes. For example, Thayer noted that the demand for the world’s most widely used plastic, polyethene, is expected to continue to grow, but feedstock sourcing will change.

“What’s changing is where the feedstock comes from,” Thayer reportedly said. “More and more, we will be looking for different feedstocks of recycled material. Those that are traditionally recycled like PET and high-density polyethene, but it will also be more hard-to-recycle items like low-density polyethene, and integrating those products into the feedstock.”

On day two of GMIS America, experts pointed out that the regionalization of supply chains and 4IR technologies are among the most critical components in future-proofing global economies against systemic shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the press release. The day also included the initial launch of the manifesto of the Global Initiative for Industrial Safety (GIFIS) outlining guidelines for a safer world enabled by technology.

The day started with a discussion on how regional trade agreements can be structured to protect supply chains and global economies, resulting in profound effects on innovation, technology transfer, and citizen prosperity, according to a press statement from GMIS. Such agreements more and more are covering policy areas such as technology, labor, investment, and intellectual property rights. Speakers included Petra Mitchell, president and CEO, Catalyst Connection; Thomas Bruns, regional senior commercial officer at the U.S. Embassy Abu Dhabi; Mohammed AlAhmedi, CEO, Ducab Metals; and Kendrick Tang, director of rail planning and sales, Etihad Rail.

“The adoption of the latest technology is going to continue to be critical to the success of small manufacturing companies,” Mitchell said.

4IR technologies can help boost collaboration. AlAhmedi explained that “with exporting to more than 50 countries we faced a lot of challenges, especially during the pandemic with disruptions to the availability of containers and freight.

“The GCC countries [Gulf Cooperation Countries] have had a very strong system, and it’s been there for a while, but now we can take it and utilize advanced solutions like blockchain and artificial intelligence to help boost collaboration. When having a unified system between parties and a fully integrated ecosystem, where partners talk to each other, the flow of products will follow. Globally we are waiting for a role model of this sort of regional trade agreement, but in the UAE, our government is working on this at a stable pace,” he said.

Speakers from prominent industrial service organizations shared how their companies are adapting to the 4IR. Manufacturers, like consumers, are expecting a digital-first, insights-based approach from their industrial services providers, which is in turn prompting changes to contracts and business models, according to the GMIS.

Mansoor Al Janahi, CEO of Sanad, said that end-users are increasingly demanding that products and components are serviced locally, so they don’t rely on suppliers outside the country of their operations. “Customers are looking for flexibility and agility,” he said, adding, “there is a rising need from end-users for service providers and manufacturers to focus on ESG practices, so it’s aligned with the SDGs.”

Further, Daniel J. Crowley, chairman, president, and CEO of Triumph, shared that “consumers have become more demanding. They’ve seen in their personal lives the speed of service or ease of access to information from services on demand, and they want to see the same delivery from traditionally older industries like aviation.” Other speakers joining the expert panel included Elias Merrawe, vice president, civil business - UAE, Thales; and Richard Petrucci, managing director, WhiteOak.

Later, experts from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Lloyd’s Register Foundations (LRF), and leading industrial organizations joined a panel focusing on industrial safety in the smart era. The discussion reviewed industrial safety from a technology perspective in hopes to identify the immediate actions required to address new and ongoing industrial safety challenges. The session explored how to accelerate the adoption such tech while minimizing risks related to cybersecurity. Panelists also highlighted the Global Initiative for Industrial Safety (GIFIS), a global platform for a safer world enabled by technology, launched by UNIDO, LRF, and GMIS in collaboration with the Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy (CIIP).

Speaking on the panel, David Reid, director of strategic communications and global engagement, LRF, acknowledged that the pace of change is happening faster than anticipated yet reaction is slow in terms of education and training and adoption of safety regulations. Farrukh Alimdjanov, industrial development officer for UNIDO, emphasized that businesses are more prone to cyberattacks as they get more connected; there is a need to build win-win partnerships, capitalizing on global collaborative platforms such as the GIFIS to bring in different sectors to promote cybersecurity for everyone. Also on the panel were Dr. Himanshu, Khurana, VP of engineering, industrial scientific, Fortive; and Dr. Carlos López-Gómez, head of policy links, IfM, Engage, University of Cambridge.

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