Case studies, fact sheets and interviews offering hints, tips, and inspiration to help your business grow. 

From 7 May 2024, the North East Growth Hub is a project of the North East Combined Authority. We may still refer to "the North East Local Enterprise Partnership" (or "the North East LEP") in some of our older articles. 

How smart technology can help manufacturers on their journey to net zero

Julia Austin, Programme Manager for Made Smarter Adoption North East, explains how manufacturers can make use of digital and smart technologies to decarbonise their operations. 

The decarbonisation of manufacturing is the industry’s biggest challenge, but it is also a significant opportunity. 
The pressure and scrutiny on the sector to be more sustainable is ramping up, and it’s coming from all directions too, including employees, customers, the government, investors, regulators, and the communities in which manufacturers operate.

To make things greener, we need to start by making things smarter. And that’s where digital and smart technologies come in.

Demystifying decarbonisation 

Decarbonisation means taking steps to drastically reduce your company’s greenhouse gas emissions to alleviate global warming and climate change. The ultimate goal is to achieve net zero. This can be achieved by reducing energy use, switching to renewable and sustainable power sources, and striving to eliminate emissions from every aspect of the business, including your factory and vehicles, the materials used and your suppliers, and the product disposal of at the end of its life.

Adopting new ways of working using smart technologies can help deliver some of these changes, as well as helping you increase profits, improve efficiency, and grow.

How to get started 

Commit to change. Decarbonisation is about much more than just saying you’ll cut emissions. Sign the SME Climate Commitment on the SME Climate Hub and access a range of resources and tools that will empower you to develop a net zero strategy. 

You can also visit to find out how other manufacturers have used technology to help decarbonise their operations and raise their profile and reputation as a sustainable business.

Make the most of smart technology

There are a number of ways technology can be used to not only make your manufacturing business more productive and profitable, but also make it greener: 

  • The Industrial internet of things (IIoT) can be used to create a network of sensors and smart devices that monitor, collect, analyse, and exchange data. These help understand energy use, alert you to maintenance needs which will extend a machine’s useful life, and even tell you which rooms in your factory are occupied so you can adjust your heating and lighting accordingly. 
  • Data and systems technologies can be used to analyse data, improve planning, and ultimately reduce waste. You can also create a digital twin of your factory to optimise processes holistically or at individual component level. 
  • Automation and robotics use technology to complete a range of tasks. In some cases it can improve quality, resulting in less waste throughout the production process. Additive manufacturing (3D printing) offers the possibility to manufacture what you need, where you need it, and in the quantities you need. It enables you to optimise designs and produce complex parts. You can also test designs before committing to full production, eliminating wasted production runs or incorrect tooling. 
  • Extended Reality (XR) and immersive technologies like AR and VR help visualise data in 3D and in real time, enabling remote collaboration to reduce travel and the ability to simulate and test designs before they are made. It also allows remote service technicians the ability to remove or install parts in a virtual space before doing it for real.

Contact the North East Growth Hub to find out what programmes of support are available to support business to digitise and reduce carbon emissions.

You can also find more resources in our Net Zero for Businesses toolkit.