Companies are already doing a lot to make production more sustainable: reusable glass or paper-based packaging instead of plastic, thermal recovery or the usage of regional ingredients. Nano factories could be the next level to this development.
The sustainable use of resources is up high on the agenda of many companies in the manufacturing sector and is becoming more and more anchored in their corporate strategy. However, they regularly fail when it comes to the long transport route of the ingredients /parts or the produce. For a number of application scenarios there soon might be an attractive alternative: nano factories.
Transport distance: 6,000 or better 6 kilometers?
The first question to ask is: What exactly is a nano factory anyway? The so-called "travel factory" was developed by the Unilever Group with the aim of reducing the waste of materials, for example for packaging, and the associated energy requirements – and, of course, to save on the transport route. A nano factory fits into a shipping container and can therefore easily be used anywhere in the world. For example, exactly where the vegetables to be added to the broth are growing. All it needs is a power and water connection.
Unilever tries the use of nano factories
Currently, the company is testing these nano factories in Wageningen, the Netherlands, where it produces vegetable broth that is cooked, packaged and labeled in the factory. If the factories deliver on their promise, the product range will be expanded: mayonnaise, ketchup, ice cream. Sale or rental of the factories to other manufacturers is also conceivable then.
The renowned corporation would like to reduce its carbon footprint in this way and could also help other companies to do the same. For example, it would make sense to locate the factory directly next to the rubber tree plantation in Brazil or Thailand instead of first transporting the rubber to China for processing it e. g. into balloons.
In addition, the nano factory opens up a favorable opportunity for the production of small batches or prototype construction. This is also likely to interest market players in other sectors. Whether regional production, less waste and energy, or shorter response times to market needs – there are many arguments in favor of nano factories. We can imagine quite well that this concept will fall on fertile ground.
Chantal-Marie König is becoming increasingly involved with technology issues as part of her work for epr and is convinced: all the foundations for a technological shift towards a sustainable economy are already in place!