We Need To Talk About Waste
iStock/Olivier Le Moal
“If we want to protect the planet,” Stephen Pratt says, “we have to reduce waste where it shows up most: in how we make and distribute stuff.”
In an Earth Day blog this week for the World Economic Forum (WEF), the CEO of Noodle.ai noted that industrial waste generation is almost 18 times greater than the amount of municipal solid waste we all contribute to. In fact, industrial waste makes up at least 50% of waste generated globally.
Pratt blames manufacturing and supply chain inefficiencies. He notes that while sustainably operated “smart factories” get much of our attention, “the vast majority of today’s factories are not the smart ones of tomorrow. Around the world, manufacturers make too much stuff, make the wrong stuff, make bad stuff and move too much stuff inefficiently. They’re largely running on legacy technologies that were architected decades ago.”
“The high-profile ‘factory mix-up’ that ruined 15 million COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses is just one example of how, even under the most critical of conditions, mistakes — and waste — occur.”
This problem isn’t limited to low-tech manufacturing. “The high-profile ‘factory mix-up‘ that ruined 15 million COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses is just one example of how, even under the most critical of conditions, mistakes — and waste — occur,” he wrote.
To Pratt, an artificial intelligence (AI) guy, “solving poor quality in manufacturing is, in large part, a mathematical problem.” To him, a company like Danone sits at the front of the class. Citing Capgemini, he notes that the French food processor reduced forecast error by 20% and avoided lost sales by 30% by using machine learning to predict demand.
“Properly used, AI dramatically improves our ability to make important, highly complex, high-volume decisions,” Pratt blogged. “It helps us figure out what goods to produce when, how to make sure we don’t have quality issues, where to send the goods so we optimize inventory levels and how to make sure we don’t use excess resources along the way.”
Pratt’s full WEF blog — “How AI Can Solve Manufacturing’s Waste Problem” — can be read here.