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IIT Madras research proposes ‘frugal manufacturing’ in smart factories to reduce e-waste, resources

IIT Madras research proposes ‘frugal manufacturing’ in smart factories to reduce e-waste, resources
Photo Credit: Reuters
2 Feb, 2022
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A researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras has published a research paper on the application of frugal manufacturing in smart factories. According to the key postulates of the research, efficient manufacturing in factories can lead to reduction of waste and resource consumption in various mechanical processes.

Frugal manufacturing has been tipped as one of the various aspects of Industry 4.0. The process suggests a production process that retains the quality of items manufactured, while reducing cost of manufacturing and wastage of resources.

Talking about the use of frugal manufacturing, Balkrishna C. Rao, associate professor at IIT Madras and the researcher behind the paper, said, “Manufacturers seek to lower costs to stay profitable, and the conventional way of doing this has usually been by increasing the scale of production. With the irreversible interrelated phenomena of climate change, the decline in biodiversity and population growth facing the world, there has also been awareness of the need for frugal ways of consumption.”

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“There is now a shift in manufacturing philosophy from bigger-is-better to frugal-is-better, and zero waste products and processes have been increasingly gaining attention in recent years,” Rao added.

The key proposal behind frugal manufacturing suggests running of existing factory infrastructure at the highest possible efficiency, before migrating to upgrading of conventional equipment and including sophisticated automation in manufacturing facilities. One of Rao’s suggestions also includes incorporating the entire manufacturing process within one site, instead of breaking down the process in multiple stages. Such a technique may help reduce costs and elemental waste in the manufacturing chain, thereby reducing emissions and making a product more efficient.

To quantify frugal manufacturing, Rao has suggested a ‘factor of frugality’, which could be tracked by manufacturers to improve the underlying technologies at every stage of a factory’s manufacturing process.

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The paper was published the peer-reviewed Royal Society Open Science journal.