Sometimes you have to view things from a different perspective. Pay attention to the little things that are not directly visible.
If you google digitization, you are going to find many advantages and disadvantages for companies. Changes of the working environment, worldwide networking, process optimization and a whole range of other features, all of them more or less of economic interests - money rules the world. Then some throw in data protection, the " transparent person" is often mentioned as a horror scenario. But that is not what I want to deal with in this post. Instead, I want to look at the consequences for the environment.
Initially, the term digitization only describes the conversion of analogue data into digital data. So instead of handwritten notes on paper, these are stored on a PC with electric zeros and ones.
In this article, however, I will use the term more in the context of Industry 4.0 or the digital revolution. Not only storing and creating data digitally but also automation and global networking as a principle of digitization.
One of the most significant benefits of digitization is the simple transfer of data and the possibility of explicitly defining access rights. In this way, a partner can easily access the relevant part of a company's data without any administrative effort.
Why is the environmental issue so rarely addressed?
The current corona crisis demonstrates the problem the environment is facing. It is intangible - not approachable. You can't say "I suffer from pollution". It is not a disease, not a condition that a person becomes aware of, like coughing, fever or a wound. Nor can an individual do much about it. It needs the community, and everyone has to sacrifice something without receiving any personal benefit. In the current crisis, you can protect yourself. You have direct responsibility. Having a look at the environment, this is not possible. Of course, every plastic bag and car kilometre less is positive for the environmental balance. Even it has neither a relevant influence on the protection of the individual nor the stability of the whole system. You have to start with that!
How can digitization and the cloud help the environment?
Digitization enables more precise planning of resources and global working in a local environment. To motivate a large quantity that protects the environment, economically profitable solutions must be offered. This includes in particular solutions for:
- Fewer commuters on the road (especially in the service sector)
- More product transport by rail
Fewer commuters on the road
The Cornakrise is currently forcing enormous challenges for companies. Work processes that had been established over the decades are no longer feasible. Suddenly employees have to work from home - and lo and behold, it works quite well in most cases. Only through digitalization, this is possible. Or how would a Skype conference be in analogue? Would you have dozens of couriers who would drive the individual messages back and forth between all the participants? Not practicable.
With new collaboration tools, video conferencing, data in the cloud and the resulting worldwide access, employees no longer have to meet in a central location to work together. Many, especially in the service sector, can thus significantly reduce their daily car mileage and thus help the environment. In 2016, the average commuting distance in Germany was 17 kilometres and, at with just under 68%, the environmentally harmful car is the number one means of transport for commuters. In 2017, the average CO2 emissions of a new car in Europe were 118.5 g/km. Every worker who can work in the home office through digitalization thus saves 4kg of CO2 every day or a tonne per year. With about 19 million commuters in Germany, a considerable amount of climate-damaging CO2 could be saved.
Besides, longer distances can also be bridged with the help of digitalization. Where a flight might have been necessary, the described tools can now also be used instead.
More product transport by rail
For the environment, freight transport by truck is by far the most environmentally damaging option. Why is it still used that often? Because the railways are currently too unreliable and very often have long delays. At first sight, this is surprising, because there is often a traffic jam on the roads. But the truck has two advantages. Firstly, more alternative routes can be used in the event of a traffic jam, so that the volume can be distributed. Secondly, the railways prioritise passenger transport, so that freight trains, if there is a minor disruption, are quickly delayed by several hours. In times of just-in-time processes and individualization, the entire production stops when required components do not arrive on time.
Digitalization can be the key- and help with better management, planning and the cooperation of several logistics providers. A faster system for loading and unloading must be implemented, and autonomous locomotives must become a reality as soon as possible, especially in the freight sector. With advancing digitalization, we must equip freight wagons more dynamically and allocate them more agile. Instead of relying on contract work, we must establish more planned connections. We must be able to switch between trucks and wagons more quickly and easily. It needs the establishment of digital relationships so truck logisticians can concentrate on "the last mile" as well as the link to and from the train station.
Digital solutions and cloud management are the crucial pieces to ensure that the exchange and collaboration between partners can function smoothly.
It is not about digitisation per se, but about the tools
May things are - according to the original definition - digital. However, networking and possible cooperation without personal meeting are only possible with the right tools and services. They enable many different partners to work hand in hand in a trustworthy and informed manner. Only in this way can local specialists join forces to make a global, economical and environmentally friendly business possible. Because in the globalized world, we need to specialize and localize again to do nature a favour.
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VIPFY is supported by the CISPA Helmholtz Centre for Information Security and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.