Growing public pressure means supply chains have to be greener too. When larger organizations promise to become more eco-friendly, it puts suppliers under pressure to do the same. The benefits are manifold – you reduce waste and carbon footprint while effectively managing costs and increasing profitability.
So, how can you achieve a greener supply chain?
Aspects of sustainability
While companies worldwide strive to meet better sustainability standards, no global key performance indicators have been established yet.
Nevertheless, sustainability challenges affect mostly three aspects which allows supply chain leaders to define KPIs relating to each:
- Environmental: energy efficiency (energy use and costs) and material efficiency (such as paper and packaging)
- Social: health and safety within a warehouse
- Economic: stability and profitability - sustainable operating costs and addressing issues related to the total sales/revenues
Furthermore, transportation and the generation of electricity and heat at different stages of distribution and production make up more than two-thirds of global carbon dioxide emissions. (Fitzpatrick P and Raman K. (2019), Designing an Environmentally Sustainable Supply Chain Network.) While regulations and treaties such as the Paris Agreement provide legal ground to make organizations reduce their carbon footprint, the consumer is more empowered than ever to take their business to a more sustainable provider.
Technology to the rescue
There are countless ways of conquering the challenges to sustainability – from making warehouse processes more efficient to optimized route planning. Below a few examples of how technology can help you in your effort to reach your sustainability goals.
Supply chain network design
Determining the best location for your warehouses reduces your trucks’ travel times and costs. This, of course, must take your unique supply chain requirements and goals into account. As a result, you can optimize transportation routes, saving you time and resources while reducing carbon emissions.
Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)
With the use of a WMS, you can automate warehouse processes, making them more efficient. That means you will be able to streamline resources, processes, and placement of goods inside the warehouse. Optimized use of existing space also allows you to minimize unnecessary tasks, transports and to cut cost while reducing waste and energy usage.
Areas and selected processes can be automated with automation equipment and material handling equipment (MHE) without human interaction. These can be run in “dark mode” (a third shift with no lights or humans) which reduces energy usage. Apart from this, it also allows your workforce to concentrate on more productive, value-added tasks.
Transportation Management Systems (TMS) and Distributed Order Management (DOM)
You can lower your carbon emissions by using a TMS to plan and monitor truck routes on a daily basis. This minimizes vehicle use and cuts down wait times and time on the road. As a result, you are using fewer resources, reduce your carbon emissions and spend less money. This is especially the case if used in conjunction with DOM solutions which calculate and adjust the quickest transportation routes across your organization’s different locations.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)
Paper and ink contribute to a huge financial and ecological impact in the supply chain. Omitting the need for paper pick lists by operating fully digitally, AMRs reduce waste.
Voice-Directed Work (VDW)
VDW also omits the need for paper pick lists. When associates receive instructions via headset, they can concentrate on the task at hand. This increases fulfillment accuracy and in turn reduces the likelihood of customer returns and additional shipping involved. Due to voice headsets’ durability, they can last for 12 years or longer, you will also conserve materials and cut the need for maintenance shipments.
Investing in technologies allows you to reduce energy waste in your warehouse while minimizing carbon emissions and decreasing costs for energy and materials. This allows your business to not only meet regulations but instead increase profitability and build a more sustainable, “green” supply chain that also attracts new customers.