Human overconsumption and waste threaten life on Earth, with estimates suggesting we will need two planets’ resources by 2030. As a result, sustainability is no longer considered an extraneous detail or optional luxury. Now, it is a fundamental economic and societal priority.

And as the applications of Industry 4.0 technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT), continue to expand, our digital evolution presents more opportunities to facilitate greener everyday processes — particularly in electronics manufacturing.

From asset tracking to waste management, integrating IoT technologies into industrial practises is not just a trend but a significant shift towards a more efficient, eco-friendly and sustainable future for the industry.

So, how exactly is the internet of things reducing the manufacturing industry’s carbon footprint?

Predictive maintenance technologies

By leveraging data collected from connected IoT devices, manufacturers can monitor equipment performance and detect potential issues before costly breakdowns or accidents.

Not only does this proactive approach to machinery maintenance shrink downtime and prolong the lifespan of equipment, but it also minimises resource consumption through optimised maintenance schedules.

For example, machines that are well-maintained and operate effectively use less energy. When unexpected breakdowns are avoided, manufacturers also reduce the chance of machines consuming energy without producing any output.

Plus, when maintenance is predicted, factories can coordinate their machines to minimise energy usage — like scheduling maintenance activities during off-peak energy demand periods.

Emission monitoring sensors

Since the manufacturing and global production sectors are responsible for one-fifth of carbon emissions, it is safe to say a solution is long overdue…

Luckily, manufacturers can deploy sensors that measure air quality and emissions.

With maximum accuracy, these sensors can detect the levels of gas emissions produced in manufacturing facilities — giving workforces reliable information about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and insight into where to curb their footprint.

This data-driven approach also helps ensure compliance with regulatory standards. It allows manufacturing companies to gain accreditations like ISO 14001, which stands to show their customers that they are managing the immediate and long-term environmental impacts of their processes.

Remote monitoring solutions

Thanks to the advancement of IoT, remote monitoring applications can now be conducted at the touch of a button, allowing for 24/7 monitoring of anything from equipment and tools to employees and vehicles.

These remote monitoring sensors help optimise energy consumption by providing real-time data and feedback on the energy performance of equipment and assets — enabling smart metering, demand response and renewable energy integration to keep a handle on harmful emissions.

Plus, these sensors can be utilised for GPS-based asset tracking, commonly used for fleet management.

A small sensor is integrated into the vehicle’s GPS. Once switched on, the device transmits data through the network and back to the GPS vehicle tracking system. Not only can this help manufacturers optimise their delivery routes, minimise travel time and reduce emissions, but enhancing this technology with fleet management software means drivers can also track the vehicle’s health.

By monitoring elements like fuel consumption, engine temperature, tyre pressure and other metrics, users are alerted if malfunctions are detected and further prevent harmful waste.

Smart waste management

With global unrecycled electronic waste, known as ‘e-waste’, reaching over 347 million metric tonnes in 2023, there is no denying the electronics industry needs a significant shift in attitude towards waste management.

The way the industry currently disposes of electronic products means much of the finite energy and resources used are wasted, releasing hazardous substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium and carcinogens into the soil, waterways and atmosphere. Here, they can quickly contaminate the area, causing significant damage to the environment — as well as endangering human health.

However, these devices present an opportunity to efficiently recycle precious and base metals, such as gold and copper. IoT waste management systems allow a digital record of devices and batteries to be made. Once the battery dies, the location of IoT sensors and other devices can be activated — allowing manufacturers to collect and reuse these electronics before they end up in a landfill.

Additionally, with so much excess material discarded in the electronics manufacturing industry, it can be hard to decipher how each should be recycled.

Embedding IoT sensors into receptacles enables the use of machine learning, artificial intelligence and computer vision, which can process the type of material in each container. Instead of relying on human judgement and consequential error, this smart technology can identify and separate waste into categories and ensure efficient and effective recycling practices.

As technologies like the internet of things continue to advance and expand their capabilities, now is the opportunity for manufacturers in the electronics industry to take initiative and prioritise sustainable practices.

EC Electronics is committed to implementing environmentally friendly practices throughout the manufacturing process, from supply chain to product delivery. To see how we could help your next electronics project be more sustainable, fill out our contact form, call 01256 461894 or email