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19th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production – Circular Europe for Sustainability: Design, Production and Consumption

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Conceptual framework of an Industry 4.0 process model for managing resource efficiency

Resources are limited, at the same time the demand for it is growing in a world of globalization and population increase. Therefore, the most efficient and economical use of natural resources is essential, and resource efficiency has become an important part of European environmental and economic policy. Nonetheless, there is still a lack of clarity regarding a consensual definition of the term, which hindered the measurement of the resource efficiency of products or processes. As a means to an end, the Association of German Engineers (VDI) developed the guideline VDI 4800, which is the first systematic standard worldwide for measuring and assessing resource efficiency. The aim of the guideline is to enable organizations to identify resource efficiency potential of products and product service systems throughout the entire life cycle. Further, it allows to evaluate variations of products and processes regarding their resource efficiency. According to several studies, Industry 4.0 technologies offer a high potential to increase resource efficiency, and in the ideal case, the digital transformation offers a holistic management approach, from the idea, assignment and development, production and delivery, to the recycling, and including all related services. However, organizations require individual proceedings based on their specific context to make use of the great variety of different technologies. Especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in manufacturing industries are often hampered by a lack of time and personnel capacity to deal with the opportunities offered by Industry 4.0 and to select suitable solutions for their own operations. For this, a systematic approach and the know-how, potential and synergies with Industry 4.0 to increase material and resource efficiency are missing. The underlying research conceptualizes an Industry 4.0 process model for managing resource efficiency. Preconditions for the model are a clear definition of resource efficiency and knowledge of possible resource efficiency solutions on process, company and system level for supply chains, as well on the level of product life cycles. The steps within the model include the identification of “hot spots” of resource efficiency potential and – based on individual Industry 4.0 readiness – the application of different tools and instruments. This allows to deduce adequate strategies, as proposed by the VDI guidelines, to increase resource efficiency and determining their impacts. The methodological structure behind the process model is based on the DMAIC (define – measure – analyze – improve – control) cycle, which is a problem-solving methodology behind Lean Six Sigma. Therefore, changing the mindset and culture to remove waste and inefficiency, and systemically applying tools and techniques play an important role within the process model. The next tasks are a finetuning of the methodology and the “real-world” application in training settings.

Karin Tschiggerl
Montanuniversitaet Leoben


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