Technologies and data pave the way for a circular economy

»Smart Circular Economy« for more sustainability and resource conservation

Natural gas is becoming more expensive, there is a shortage of microchips, we are supposed to do without the fossil fuel oil in future and even timber is scarce. Global supply bottlenecks, rising raw material prices, dwindling resources and the German government’s strict sustainability goals such as net zero by 2045 are making a circular economy, in which raw materials are con-tinually reused, increasingly important.

In companies, there is still a lot of scope for the more efficient use of resources. But for the organization of value creation on a circular basis, businesses need data. And this data should be properly connected for optimal results: Where is a potential raw material located and what condition is it in? When is the next maintenance of a machine due and which parts of it are reusable, repairable or have to be recycled? To gain this information, technologies such as smart sensors can be used for the collection of data, or AI methods for the corresponding data analyses. As the way of using a resource also influences its life cycle – for example, when a device is used in salty air or in dry halls – such aspects must be taken into account additionally when it comes to possible implementation.


Instruments and solutions for a smart circular economy

In the smart circular economy topic area, experts at the Center for Applied Research on Supply Chain Services are helping companies not only to use raw materials more effectively in their own cycles, but also to extend the service lives of assets through predictive maintenance and to reuse product components at the end of their life cycles. To this end, the researchers observe the possibilities available in the company and its environment and derive suitable recommendations for action. This work is done with the help of the Smart Circularity Transformation Navigator, a tool that was developed at Fraunhofer IIS. This resource navigator is used to analyze the respective maturity level of circular value creation in a company as the status quo, so that suitable measures can then be derived in a specially adapted transformation roadmap along with specific recommendations for action.


Circular economies in the metal and electrical industries

Users include KME (Kompetenzzentrum Mittelstand GmbH) and the Employers’ Associations of the Metalworking and Electrical Industries in Bavaria (bayme vbm), for which the Center for Applied Research on Supply Chain Services has produced a study on the use of digital technologies for the realization of circular economy solutions in the metal and electrical industries. This study systematically analyzes the benefits and potential of digital technologies for the sector and identifies fields of action for the implementation of circular value creation.

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© surasak - Adobe Stock
© surasak - Adobe Stock