Warehouses are busy places. Goods are constantly on the move; inbound and outbound deliveries have to be dealt with as well as the movements of items from location to location. Many businesses now incorporate packing and assembly operations within the warehouse, creating an even more complex environment.
Businesses are trying to maximize their return on each dollar spent on warehouse operations. As well as incorporating value added processes in the warehouse companies are looking to use environmentally focused procedures to reduce costs whilst increasing their social responsibility efforts.
When businesses look at making their warehouse processes more environmentally focused, they generally look at three main areas; reduce, reuse and recycle.
When we look at a warehouse there are many areas where businesses can reduce consumption, whether this is consumption of energy or resources. In turn both of these concepts can help reduce spending. As energy costs continue to rise, any reduction in consumption will help the environment and a company’s bottom line.
Many businesses have been working to reduce the amount of packaging they use in shipping products. Advances in packaging materials allow a reduction in weight whilst maintaining efficiency. The reduction in packaging weight not only reduces shipping costs, but saves energy in moving packing material and packed items around the warehouse. Bio-degradable packaging materials are also an important part of this scenario, so customers are not liable for disposing of environmentally harmful packaging.
In the warehouse, businesses are reducing energy costs in a number of simple ways such as using motion sensors to only illuminate areas in use and charging forklift trucks in off-peak hours when energy costs are lower. Some companies are looking at introducing solar panels on the warehouse roof and intelligent electrical systems to take advantage of off-peak power.
Warehouses have been one area in a business that traditionally reuses materials. Items such as wood pallets and plastic totes are constantly reused in the warehouse. Some businesses are examining their warehouse processes to identify where reuse is appropriate.
One area that is of interest is in the adoption of returnable packaging for products. Some packaging can be extremely expensive to manufacturer and is lost each time a product is sold. By increasing the life of the packaging and making it easy for customers to return, the packaging can be reused a number of times, reducing waste and saving money.
Other companies are trying to reuse the packaging material that they receive from their suppliers. Some packaging cardboard or packing can be reused and can reduce the amount of packing material that needs to be purchased.
Recycling of materials in the warehouse can significantly reduce waste. Sending used packaging and packing material to recycling facilities rather than waste facilities is the environmentally correct decision to make. However there are many instances in a warehouse where recycling is also appropriate such as the recycling or environmentally correct disposal of batteries, oil and chemicals. Many businesses have performed audits of their locations to identify areas and processes where they can be more environmentally focused. These processes can significantly reduce costs as well as producing a more environmentally sound company.
However, despite the investment a company makes in order to improve its social responsibility, the employees need to change their work habits and follow new procedures that combined will help the environment and in turn help the company’s bottom line.