Symbiotic Economy: Creating Value through the Power to Connect
- Symbiotic Economy
The United Nations estimates the world‘s population will reach 9.7 billion in 2050, up nearly 25% from 2020. The population increase stimulates economic activities and leads to greater consumption of resources. In a mass production and consumption economy, this also means a massive increase of waste, which adds to the burden on the global environment in such forms as marine plastic pollution, climate change, loss of tropical forests, and diminished biodiversity. To help avert this crisis, a shared framework for sustainability, designed from a symbiotic perspective, is needed. Transcending organizational barriers, we must more efficiently use energy, water, and other critical resources. Responding in this way will not only avoid breaching planetary boundaries but also build a society and economy that are sustainable.
Creating a Vital Circle of Conservation and Economic Growth
― Connecting information, organizations, and businesses boosts symbiosis
Everything these days is intricately connected and influences each other—person, organization, object, or bit of information. In fact, being connected is vital to co-creative activities, which are more highly valued now than ever. A prime example is industrial symbiotic economy: a framework for supporting entrepreneurial undertakings and attaining economic growth while reducing environmental burdens. In such economy, multiple companies and businesses from any industry orchestrate their business activities in a sustainable way by coexisting via mutual utilization of each other‘s assets. Unlike companies and institutions working individually, the symbiotic approach can be a formidable means to transform society by reducing industrial impact on the environment.
Technology plays a key role in an industrial symbiotic economy by ensuring that resources are fully utilized. It also can help minimize industrial waste or convert unused or discarded resources from one business into valuable resources for another. Once businesses and organizations realize they can mutually benefit by using each other‘s assets sustainably, they can create a system to optimize use of water, energy, and waste in a way that reduces the environmental burden. And when their industrial processes eventually become autonomous, the door opens for an ideal economy wherein human intervention is minimized and maximum efficiency achieved without breaching any planetary boundary.
To enable such a beneficent circle, it is essential to bring disparate systems together without compromising their autonomy in operations and management, and to coordinate their processes to achieve goals otherwise unattainable. That is where the ability to “connect”—one of Yokogawa‘s core competences—comes into play. The company defines its purpose as follows: “Utilizing our ability to measure and connect, we fulfill our responsibilities for the future of our planet.” In line with this spirit, Yokogawa connects diverse sets of information, people, organizations, and companies to create new value and help build an industrial symbiotic economy.
Value Creation through Solid Connection
― Quantifying hidden quality issues and optimizing manufacturing with a connected supply chain
Let‘s look at a primary example of how Yokogawa successfully creates value by solidifying connection between businesses. Here we have a manufacturer and a supplier working together to stabilize product quality, leading to reduction of material waste and higher productivity through supply chain optimization.
This Japanese manufacturer (Company A) suspected that the reason for the poor yield was the material quality. However, tests of materials on delivery showed no irregularity. Baffled, Company A decided to implement the Quality Stabilization System of Yokogawa. The system allowed Company A to analyze its processes and identify segments most likely to be affected by quality issues in the materials—if any—which led to a hypothesis about a heretofore unseen issue in materials production by its supplier, Company B. The two companies discussed this hypothesis and jointly worked out a countermeasure, which resulted in improved quality of Company B‘s materials and higher yields for Company A. Yokogawa‘s solution successfully identified and quantified the hidden quality issues, thereby reducing the waste of labor and resources at both firms and leading to optimal manufacturing such as lowering the environmental burden throughout the supply chain.
Yet another example involves Japan‘s first demonstration experiment, held in 2013, for a smart community project at an industrial park. Led by F-Grid Ohira, Miyagi Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), the project used Yokogawa‘s community energy management system (CEMS) to interconnect the factories within the industrial park, optimizing the balance between locally generated power/heat and the purchase of power from the utility grid to achieve a 20% reduction in energy cost.
Yokogawa also participates in demonstration experiments involving a virtual power plant (VPP). The VPP system bundles diverse power resources held by factories and households, acting like a physically integrated power plant that centrally controls supply and demand of energy through advanced remote management technology. In one instance, Yokogawa built a resource aggregator system to enable integrated remote control of pumps at several water purification plants in Japan‘s Shiga Prefecture, maintaining stable water supply while improving response to the fluctuating energy demand.
The concept of industrial symbiosis has been around for quite some time, but lately it has been drawing new attention with the rising awareness that businesses urgently need to work together to secure the planet‘s future. What‘s more, technologies have advanced enough to make industrial symbiosis a reality. Over the years, Yokogawa has collaborated with our customers and partners to operate their plants and social infrastructure projects in a safe, effective manner. Drawing on our experience and cutting-edge technologies, we at Yokogawa aim to become the node of an industrial symbiotic economy through which diverse businesses and industries are solidly connected in dynamic harmony.
“Population and Development” (in Japanese). United Nations Information Centre.
www.unic.or.jp/activities/economic_social_development/social_development/population/ (Accessed Dec. 24, 2021)
Annual Report on the Environment, the Sound Material-Cycle Society and Biodiversity in Japan 2017 (Japanese summary). Ministry of the Environment.
www.env.go.jp/policy/hakusyo/h29/pdf/gaiyou.pdf (Accessed Jan. 4, 2022)