Audi/KIT: pilot project for recyclable automotive plastics
With a large proportion of components used in the manufacturing of automotives being made from plastics, which have to meet exact safety, heat resistant and quality requirements, Audi explains that this is why the use of petroleum-based materials have been the only suitable material for manufacturing automotive components. However, this material in most cases is not recyclable, which is why Audi and the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) are launching a pilot project for chemical recycling.
The project has been established as part of the ‘Industrial Resource Strategies’ THINKTANK to feed mixed plastic fractions back into a resource-conserving circular system.
“We want to establish smart circular systems in our supply chains and make efficient use of resources. Chemical recycling has great potential for this: If plastic components can be produced from pyrolysis oil instead of petroleum, it would be possible to significantly increase the proportion of sustainably manufactured components in automobiles. In the long run, this method can also play a role in end-of-life vehicle recycling,” commented Marco Philippi, Senior Director Procurement Strategy.
The pilot project - titled the Chemical Recycling of Plastics in Automotive Engineering project - is focused on creating a smart circular system for plastics, as well as establishing the method as a complement to mechanical recycling and a replacement of energetic recovery.
Via its partnership with KIT, Audi has set ambitions to initially test the technical feasibility of chemical recycling, as well as evaluating the method when it comes to economic and environmental impacts. To do this Audi will provide plastic components that are not needed to be processed into pyrolysis oil by chemical recycling.
So far, Audi reports that chemical recycling has been the only method that can convert mixed plastic waste into products that equal the quality of new ones. Audi is one of the first to test this recycling method in a pilot project with plastics from automobile production.
“Recycling automotive plastics has not been possible for many components so far. That is why we are doing pioneering work here together with Audi. If we want to close these loops, we need to develop suitable methods for this,” added Professor Dieter Stapf, Head of the Institute for Technical Chemistry at KIT.
Gartner: Leaders Lack Skilled Smart Manufacturing Workers
With organisations rapidly adopting industry 4.0 capabilities to increase productivity, efficiency, transparency, and quality as well as reduce cost, manufacturers “are under pressure to bring their workforce into the 21st century,” says Gartner.
While more connected factory workers are leveraging digital tools and data management techniques to improve decision accuracy, increase knowledge and lessen variability, 57% of manufacturing leaders feel that their organisations lack the skilled workers needed to support their smart manufacturing digitalisation plans.
“Our survey revealed that manufacturers are currently going through a difficult phase in their digitisation journey toward smart manufacturing,” said Simon Jacobson, Vice President analyst, Gartner Supply Chain practice.
“They accept that changing from a break-fix mentality and culture to a data-driven workforce is a must. However, intuition, efficiency and engagement cannot be sacrificed. New workers might be tech-savvy but lack access to best practices and know-how — and tenured workers might have the knowledge, but not the digital skills. A truly connected factory worker in a smart manufacturing environment needs both.”
Surveying 439 respondents from North America, Western Europe and APAC, Gartner found that “organisational complexity, integration and process reengineering are the most prevalent challenges for executing smart manufacturing initiatives.” Combined they represent “the largest change management obstacle [for manufacturers],” adds Gartner.
“It’s interesting to see that leadership commitment is frequently cited as not being a challenge. Across all respondents, 83% agree that their leadership understands and accepts the need to invest in smart manufacturing. However, it does not reflect whether or not the majority of leaders understand the magnitude of change in front of them – regarding technology, as well as talent,” added Jacobson.
Technology and People
While the value and opportunities smart manufacturing can provide an organisation is being recognised, introducing technology alone isn’t enough. Gartner emphasises the importance of evolving factory workers alongside the technology, ensuring that they are on board in order for the change to be successful.
“The most immediate action is for organisations to realize that this is more than digitisation. It requires synchronising activities for capability building, capability enablement and empowering people. Taking a ‘how to improve a day in the life’ approach will increase engagement, continuous learning and ultimately foster a pull-based approach that will attract tenured workers. They are the best points of contact to identify the best starting points for automation and the required data and digital tools for better decision-making,” said Jacobson.
Long term, “it is important to establish a data-driven culture in manufacturing operations that is rooted in governance and training - without stifling employee creativity and ingenuity,” concluded Gartner.