Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed new challenges to maintaining sustainability in our manufacturing operations. With such high variability in demand for urgently needed products (e.g., personal protective equipment, testing technologies) and shifts in the needed capabilities of already complex production systems, sustainability challenges concerning waste management, life cycle impact characterization, and production operations have come to light. An extensive amount of data can be extracted from manufacturing systems, but it is not yet being used to improve the performance of production systems and maintain sustainability strategies during times of distress. This article proposes the concept of a Digital Depot. Being virtual in nature, the depot can contain plans and data for many different types of crises and contain a wider array of products than would be available in a physical, national stockpile. The information could be made available on demand to a national base of manufacturers to help them swiftly pivot to the production of critically needed goods while building on their existing manufacturing capabilities. The contents of the Digital Depot would be applicable to several stages pertinent to manufacturing operations including product definition, production planning information, asset and factory-level data, as well as data concerning the supply chain, distribution, and end-of-life stages. Future work is recommended in the development of templates for robust and secure data sharing, as well as multi-disciplinary identification of businesses cases for data-driven collaborative and sustainable manufacturing practices enabled by the Digital Depot.

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