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Together towards Net Zero

Do you know what are the warming stripes? They display the temperature anomalies of a geographical place. The colorful stripes on the cover of Greta Thunberg’s "The Climate Book" show how critical the global warming is. The activist demonstrates that it is still possible to remain optimistic and calls to impactful action. In this article, we’ll explore why it’s possible to be optimistic about the transformation to Net Zero in the Food & Beverage sector.

Building on numerous scientific studies, at the beginning of 2023 the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that “the past 8 years were the warmest on record globally, fueled by everrising greenhouse gas concentration and accumulated heat.”

"The planet has fever"

The effects of climate change are now visible – and already dramatic for many people around the world. The environmentalist Al Gore explained: “The planet has a fever”. If someone in your family has a fever, what do you do? You go to doctor to check the cause and take action. We know the cause of our “planetary fever” and we know the medicine we need to resolve it: Net Zero greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions by 2050. This goal was stipulated in the Paris Agreement in 2015, signed by 195 countries. The former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered no room for alternatives: “There is no Plan B because there is no planet B”.


In Greta Thunberg’s The Climate Book, a team of renowned specialists offer a science-based, straight-forward and mobilizing call to action. Everyone can have an impact or learn to have a bigger impact. With this personal and collective purpose in mind, let ́s look at an industry which has a very direct connection to our daily lives: the Food & Beverage industry.


An Industry taking ownership

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (WFP), food systems are responsible for over a third of global GHGs. This includes all the emissions along the supply chain, from growing raw materials and ingredients through to the final products reaching our tables. Food & Beverage manufacturing plants are directly responsible for only around five to ten percent of these emissions which fall into Scope 1 and 2. The indirect impact – Scope 3 – is no less a responsibility for industrial producers ( Many required raw materials, such as beef, have a high carbon footprint. Others negatively impact the environment, such as palm oil production – which drives deforestation. And how do we stop plastic packaging materials from spreading uncontrollably in our oceans and other natural environments? What’s more, according to, food losses and waste generate 6% of total GHGs.


For years, humanity has more or less consciously created an environmentally harmful system. However, there is good news. The world can yet head in the right direction. Political and legislative decisions can mobilize entire societies as well as industry players. The European Union is leading here; set- ting a good example with its strategy towards climate neutrality: the ”European Grean Deal”. The Food & Beverage industry itself, including many manufacturing companies, is investing heavily to become more sustainable. I’ve observed an intensive phase of accelerating positive impact, in alignment with the United Nation Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). We see changing organizations, the creation of new roles, and developing new sustainability competences. This works hand in hand with the public commitment to Science Based Targets (SBTi) in respect of Scopes 1, 2 and 3. True industry transformation is evident when people take ownership of their own transformation journey. When I meet our customers, I see the passion in the eyes of their manufacturing teams when they explain why the innovation and digitalization enabled by our zenon software platform are so powerful in helping them achieve their Net Zero ambitions. We feel privileged to partner with these sustainability makers in their transformation journey. And, in this journey to achieving Net Zero, there are three important areas – performance, resource optimization and change enablement – in which zenon simply rocks.


Maximizing performance

Striving for improved performance is not a new goal in food production. It has always been important to ensure that investment has a high return financially. Concepts such as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) have been pursued for years with the goal of streamlined processes producing tasty products at the highest quality.


In the context of sustainability, “performance” gains a greater meaning. In a manufacturing environment dedicated to decarbonization, lost production time or spoiled pro- ducts are equivalent to losses of energy or resources. Low efficiency means a higher carbon footprint for every produced unit. zenon transforms traditional HMI and SCADA systems into state- of-the-art digital architectures. Solutions for process control and the management of production lines are transforming beyond their original functions. Our zenon software enables the latest, user centric interface design. Interacting with complex equipment is refreshed to offer better and easier control. Machine operators and production specialists are empowered with enhanced process flexibility and situational awareness. They gain exact trends detailing measurements and complex key performance indicators. In this way, operators can respond in real time and learn by analyzing the process history. Any team member is easily involved, whether onsite or remote. The equipment is easily integrated within the entire digitalization infrastructure, thanks to robust and secure information flows. Production specialists can increasingly leverage the plant floor data at larger scale.


Just as zenon satisfies the appetite for innovation, the drive for sustainability focuses a new light on an older need: to prolong the lifecycle of existing equipment. The future-oriented design principles on which zenon is built can help greatly to get more from what you already have. Because zenon copes so easily with retrofit actions and technology updates, you can intelligently replace damaged hardware and sustainably upgrade obsolete technology and operating systems.


Managing every energy flow

Almost every Food & Beverage plant is aiming to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions. As well as the gases directly emitted by process reactions, the energy used in the plant is a priority focus. ISO 50001 compliance has already been on the agenda of many manufacturing plants for some time. A regular plan-do-check-act framework shapes the capabilities of businesses to continuously improve their energy efficiency.


Our global Net Zero goal has pushed the acceleration pedal: instead of few incremental improvements every year, we must now decarbonize at pace. Different countries are targeting different goals, but we must do this, at the latest, by 2050. Production teams are suddenly dealing with immense challenges. This demands different approaches, huge creativity, increased collaboration between stakeholders, and innovative technologies.


Understanding how different forms of energy are used by different processes and equipment is a key instrument in achieving the Net Zero agenda. Individual ma- chines can no longer be seen as islands consuming, creating, and losing forms of energy. They are nodes in a network which interplay with each other. All energy gene- ration and consumption require a decarbonized “cure”. For example, a plant might not buy all its energy anymore – with emissions reflected in Scope 2. Instead, it might invest in onsite renewables. It’s a dynamic system that needs tools to make it easy to manage.


Right from the start, our zenon software platform has been designed for interdisciplinary solutions. Integrating an energy data management system based on zenon makes it possible to collect any information about consumption and core- late it with production data. With a utilities supervision system, the delivery of compressed air, heating, cooling, and other services and re- sources stays in focus.


When building automation based on zenon is added to a plant’s zenon empowers the Food & Beverage manufacturing to accelerate the journey towards Net Zero. digital architecture, the picture of contextualized consumers is further extended. By drawing on zenon’s extensive experience in the energy and infrastructure sector, the solutions for renewables super- vision – such as for solar or wind energy – are contributing to a holistic view of the manufacturing sites. Integrating these different solutions as part of your digitalization journey brings spectacular benefits. With process supervision and analytics, zenon flexibly supports connecting energy flows. This helps to optimize usage, especially when energy is reused or converted to ot- her forms. With powerful data pro- cessing capabilities, zenon supports you to better use renewable energy in correlation with consuming processes. In the middle of a sunny day, for example, available solar energy should contribute significantly to reduce resource consumption and costs.


By managing every energy flow, zenon offers transparent information that can be used to boost innovation towards a minimized carbon footprint.


Get ready for disruptions and innovations

The Food & Beverage industry is sensitive to disruptions to the sup- ply chain, such as those caused by climate change, ingredient scarcity or changing consumer demand. Downstream disturbances challenge manufacturing teams. One solution might be to diversify material sourcing. This has ramifications for the production processes; with a need to cope with variations of ingredients.


According to The Carbon Almanac, “The biggest agricultural source of greenhouse gas emissions is beef [...]. A single cheeseburger has the same climate impact as driving a typical car more than 10 miles/20 km.” In such situations, the carbon-responsible option for the manufacturing team is to replace the product with alternatives with a much lower carbon footprint (Scope 3 emissions).


In the battle towards Net Zero, the automation and IT infrastructure is not a goal in itself. However, it is an powerful tool that can enhance the manufacturer ́s product and process innovation. As a software platform, zenon enables creativity by leveraging standardization. Recipe management – from customizable groups of process parameters to entire production procedures – is essential for manufacturing flexibility. The mature implementation of the Modular Type Package (MTP) framework in zenon brings such flexibility to a state-of-the-art level.


Along the sustainability journey, supply chains are rewired. While performance maximization and energy management remain consistently in focus, zenon has always offered opportunities for creative and surprising solutions for transformation owners. The zenon software platform itself, with the toolset of mature automation and digitalization services, evolves continuously. With versatile soft- ware technology, let ́s act with confidence to achieve Net Zero well be- fore 2050. Together we can be truly impactful.

This article was first published in the 40th issue of the Information Unlimited Magazine.