The explosion in connected devices is getting the wheels of the circular economy turning
With up to 50 billion connected devices predicted by 2020, the emergence of what the World Economic Forum calls the fourth industrial revolution could finally unblock some of the bottlenecks that are hampering the transition towards a circular economy.
When applied to manufactured products, digital technologies have the capability to provide remote visibility and asset control – enabling the location, use, condition and value of materials to be tracked at every stage of their lifecycle.
There are clear benefits here for manufacturers seeking to offer more circular business propositions such as closed-loop processes, remanufacturing or product-as-service (servitisation) models. Manufacturing has long been a focal point of circular economy research as it offers lucrative potential. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), materials savings in the EU alone in an advanced circular economy scenario could amount to $630bn a year.
These savings would primarily stem from extending the use cycle of assets, increasing their utilisation and “cascading” them – in other words, creating more opportunities for diversified reuse of products, component parts and materials. Through the application of big data analytics, manufacturers can get a better handle on predictive maintenance, real-time route optimisation, product use patterns and customer requirements.
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