Taking environmental issues into consideration when making business decisions is gaining popularity not only as a way for companies to be more socially responsible but also as a strategy capable of producing tangible bottom-line business benefits.
Boston-based AMR Research has published survey results that indicate the motives for many corporate social responsibility initiatives extend far beyond the typical brand reputation considerations. Recently AMR noted that “reducing energy usage has a double payoff: a big operating cost reduction while also reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions—two objectives that are directly correlated.”
With that in mind, Eric Lamphier, director of product management for Atlanta-based supply chain solutions provider Manhattan Associates offers six tips for helping companies achieve environmental and operational benefits by focusing on “green” initiatives in their DCs:
1. Maximize efficiency of conveying and handling processes. Integrating material handling and warehouse management systems enables manufacturers and distributors to move and touch products fewer times and reduce forklift usage. In addition to reducing handling costs, these advances help to lower energy consumption and reduce emissions.
2. Increase flow-through. The use of advanced warehouse management systems also enables companies to streamline warehouse processes to achieve higher levels of cross- docking, which in turn helps to minimize inventory and increase product turns. With more flow through, companies manage their business with smaller distribution centers. In addition to containing expenses, this helps to reduce energy consumption and limit the use of construction materials, which are not needed because existing DCs have increased capacity.
3. Optimize transportation processes. The use of transportation management solutions to create a more efficient transportation network helps cut down on the number of empty hauls and dead ends in the movement of goods. This reduces fuel consumption and extends the usefulness of trucks and trailers for reduced material usage.
4. Enhance planning, forecasting and replenishment. Using best-of-breed planning, forecasting, and replenishment solutions drive more efficiency in manufacturing and distribution for reduced energy and materials consumption, as well as improved operational efficiency.
5. Improved cartonization. Using cartonization functionality in warehouse management systems enables companies to better allocate the right units to pick and then select the correct size and rigidity of the container to use. This can significantly reduce the use of cardboard—a major expense for many companies—and other shipping materials. The result is reduced paper consumption, which in turn produces a corresponding reduction in forest harvesting.
6. Leverage electronic interfaces. Using radio frequency identification and voice-based technologies improves warehouse efficiency and also reduces paper consumption.