Industry 4.0 real-world testing of dynamic organizational life cycle assessment (O-LCA) of a ceramic tile manufacturer

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2022 May 13;1-20. doi: 10.1007/s11356-022-20601-7. Online ahead of print.


In manufacturing, Industry 4.0 operating models enable greener technologies. Thanks to digital technologies, environmental sustainability and organizational competitiveness are mutually reinforcing. The challenge for manufacturing organizations is to understand and quantify the magnitude of this synergistic action, and the holistic perspective of life cycle assessment tools may be a solution to the problem. Organizational Life Cycle Assessment (O-LCA) unlike Product Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is still an under-researched methodology with few applications in manufacturing contexts. This paper aims to fill this gap by implementing and validating O-LCA in the case of an Italian ceramic tile manufacturer. Following the O-LCA guidelines and exploiting Industry 4.0 technologies to perform the inventory analysis, the environmental assessment was conducted in three different plants, comparing the sum of the partial impact results with the overall results scaled to the whole organization. The experimental results demonstrated the validity of the organizational approach as an appropriate methodological option to obtain relevant information on environmental performance that, being based on empirical evidence, better support decision-making processes. Furthermore, the study provides empirical evidence of how Industry 4.0 is an enabler not only for the adoption of greener technologies, but especially for facilitating the organizational environmental impact assessment that is the necessary condition in order to set up and maintain greener manufacturing contexts.

Keywords: Environmental impact; Industry 4.0; Manufacturing; Organizational life cycle assessment; Sustainability.