An introspective look at carbon reductions

An introspective look at carbon reductions

By Michiel Panders, General Manager Europeat R&M. https://www.rdm.com

We all strive to minimise the impact and improve the sustainability of our business operations. Being a sustainable company means taking steps to produce products with minimum waste and maximum recyclability. There are many step-by-step approaches and best practices that can help achieve this. However, being truly sustainable also means continuously rethinking processes and supply chains – and that requires a very different approach for each company.

Following established guidelines, while also critically examining existing ways of working in order to reduce carbon emissions, gives the most lasting results. We could compare this to losing weight: you can exercise more or change your diet. But doing both of these things is the fastest, most effective way to reach your goals.

Let’s take a closer look at the elements of our business that affect CO2 emissions.

Distance to customers

More efficient production processes and machinery obviously ensure much better performance with regard to CO2 emissions, for example. However, your distance to the customers and markets you serve is equally, if not more, important. Producing or assembling locally not only improves delivery speed but might even reduce carbon emissions to a greater extent than small changes to your production process.

First time right

A product could be produced in a process optimised for low carbon emissions, but if it needs to be sent back due to failure or incompatibility, the gains from that process are lost. Delivering ‘first time right products’, means there are no recalls, so no waste from products, packaging or additional transports. That not only means rigidly adhering to manufacturing and testing protocols but also carefully examining plans, architecture proposals and installation processes with customers, to ensure every component is fit for purpose and meets every specification. ‘First time right’ refers to both product and supply quality: if you ship exactly what’s needed exactly when it’s needed, using the most appropriate shipping methods, and without wasting space, you’ll improve overall CO2 performance.

Configuring and integrating solutions

We used to provide fibre cabling and management solutions as kits for customers to build on site, with many individually packaged components. Now, we provide customers with an on-site configuration tool. They can configure the solution they need and receive completely assembled and suitably packaged modules. This saves enormously on packaging and transport and waste has been reduced significantly. In fact, packaging volume is reduced by 67 % in comparison to the delivery of single parts. This approach won’t work in every situation, but when it does, it’s highly efficient.

A modular approach

Why install cooling, power, fire protection and so on throughout a vast space when you’re using just one or maybe a few racks? SMEs that don’t need a huge data centre yet, can opt for a ‘DC in a rack’ incorporating optimised power, cooling and everything else required. They can just keep adding racks, without having to first install raised floors, for example.

Growing companies that need to relocate can move their DC instead of creating a whole new installation with fire management, power, cooling and so on. That’s not only quicker and cheaper but also reduces the CO2 footprint as (re)building purpose-made rooms has more impact than moving a self-contained, preconfigured solution.

Working smarter with data

Data and AI are crucial to continuously optimising logistics, production, and supply chain processes. They provide valuable insights that allow you to make energy-saving tweaks. In data centres, for example, we see the uptake in targeted cooling. This is crucial in helping customers scale up and down much more efficiently. The more flexible these solutions are, and the more data they have about system usage, the more efficiently the DC can be cooled. Data-driven management of lighting and heating etc, also help improve companies’ overall sustainability performance. Integrated intelligent building solutions, based on a common platform such as IP, leverage and scale up these benefits.

Making the most of power

If you supply 10kW to each rack, with today’s processing capacity combined with equipment densities, you can only fill 50%-60% of that rack. There are simply not enough kW’s per rack to power more hardware. So even though equipment performance and connection density may be higher, a lot of space is wasted. You end up building and cooling larger rooms that you really don’t need. Targeted cooling and new low-power chip and memory designs reduce energy usage and space usage and increase computing power per square metre.

Copper vs fibre

Not all copper can be replaced by fibre. However, for each segment of the network, it’s definitely worth examining which type of cabling offers the best environmental performance, looking at aspects such as idle consumption of power, which can be an issue with copper.

A recent report from BREKO, Germany’s leading broadband association, indicates that copper networks consume up to 17 times more electricity than fibre networks. A study by the German Umweltbundesamt (Environmental Agency) shows that the CO2 emissions per hour of video streaming for FTTH are just half of that of the fastest copper network. Furthermore, optical fibres are light and thin, which lowers transport emissions, and are made of silicate, which is available in virtually unlimited quantities. In data transmission terms, 1kg glass is as powerful as 1000kg copper. A study from the FTTH Council Europe study demonstrates that fibre networks emit 88% less greenhouse gas per Gigabit compared to legacy technologies.

Critical rethinking

Apart from the obvious benefit of saving our planet for future generations, sustainability performance and CO2 reduction are also essential to company branding and attracting young talent and critical workforce. Being environmentally friendly is not only about adopting new inventions and more efficient technologies and materials. It’s not just about setting targets, ticking boxes and sharing PPTs about your results – it requires constant questioning of industry and company processes that often haven’t fundamentally changed in decades. This approach to sustainability needs to be genuinely rooted in company culture.

The real gains come from following industry-wide guidelines and best practices, while also evaluating and critically rethinking processes that are highly specific to your own operations and customers’ needs.

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