June 29th, 2023
A Guide to More Sustainable Warehousing Practices
Table of Contents
Green Warehousing is Good for Business (and our Planet)
After decades of disconnection, companies throughout Britain’s logistics sector are now integrating sustainability into their strategic thinking, planning, and operations. Why is it important? Compared to other parts of the supply chain, warehouse facilities can significantly impact the health of the planet and how the public views the industry through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a genuine commitment to sustainability.
According to a recent Deloitte study, 49% of global businesses are developing new climate-friendly products or services, 46% have begun requiring business partners across their supply chain to meet specific sustainability criteria, and 44% are updating/relocating facilities to make them more resistant to climate impacts.
Sustainability not only contributes to the planet’s well-being but also impacts customer satisfaction. A survey conducted by IBM revealed that 57% of customers are willing to change their purchasing habits to support environmentally friendly options.
Therefore, companies must prioritise measuring, documenting, and proving their sustainability efforts to retain and attract business.
That’s why the business sectors should adopt various practices to reduce carbon footprint and create sustainability and productivity in the supply-chain ecosystem.
So, how can warehouse management become more sustainable whilst improving operational efficiency? In this guide, we’ll define a sustainable warehouse and offer solutions for becoming more environmentally friendly, with some tips for achieving better energy efficiency and eco-friendliness.
Green warehouses are no longer aspirational, they’re becoming increasing expected from more eco-conscious consumers and client businesses alike, so let’s explore how best to tow the line and begin leading the charge towards a greener future for the greater good of all stakeholders.
Sustainability in Warehousing
A sustainable warehouse factors in environmentally-friendly practices and techniques that reduce energy consumption, maximise storage space and minimise waste production. Now more than ever, consumers have become environmentally sensitive; hence, sustainable practices must be implemented for businesses to thrive in a given market.
Let’s dig into some of the practices that can be adopted by your management team from the top-down for warehouse sustainability:
Best Practices to Make a Warehouse Sustainable
Reducing our reliance on natural resources is easier said than done, and not something easily implemented by the average warehouse operator without systemic change in the supply chain, but there are some relatively straight-forward approaches which should be carefully considered at a strategic level in order for them to become embedded in the day-to-day.
1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Warehouses can generate considerable waste from packaging materials, meeting orders, assembling items, and inventory management.
The first thing to do is to examine where you currently produce the most waste in your facility and consider whether alternative solutions would allow you to reduce your waste output.
Recycling is one of the easiest ways to help your warehouse go “green.” Not only does sending less to landfills reduce your carbon footprint and make your business more sustainable, but it can also reduce running and waste collection costs.
That’s why all our products are environmentally friendly, use recycled materials and with a minimal carbon footprint.
This process can be summarised as below:
- Reduce — Limit the amount of waste you produce.
- Reuse — Reuse materials whenever possible.
- Recycle — As a last resort, put items into the recycle bin.
2. Energy-Efficient Lighting
Of course, natural light is the ideal green solution in any working environment, but for night shifts and enclosed spaces, that’s not always a viable option.
LED lighting is more efficient and long-lasting than incandescent, fluorescent, or CFL bulbs. These bulbs use around 85% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and 50% less than fluorescent bulbs.
However, warehouses may as well integrate natural lighting systems. Although they might be costly to install new LED light bulbs throughout your premises, they are long-lasting and cost-effective compared to less efficient artificial lighting.
3. Energy-Efficient Equipment
Manufacturers are designing more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly equipment. This means fewer repairs and less energy wasted, which results in cheaper utility bills.
Roll Pallets, for instance, are a reliable, green and cost-effective solution to security problems that can be solved using robust steel designs and security seals to protect valuable goods.
4. Efficient Layout
One needs to strategically plan the location of all the warehouse storage equipment to utilise the available space appropriately.
The first step is to optimise the warehouse layout and install the storage system that best meets the business’s needs. An optimal warehouse design helps reduce the lead time of the pick and pack process, improves efficiency, and decreases operational costs.
Whether it’s storage or workspace, a detailed plan using the appropriate equipment can quickly optimise your warehouse and reduce your overall environmental impact.
5. Sustainable Packaging and Packing Materials
With today’s trends in sustainable materials, sourcing different sustainable packaging solutions is straightforward. For instance, you can opt for environmentally friendly, recyclable packaging instead of plastic packaging.
Here are some of the options you can go for:
- Glass packaging
- Compostable packaging
- Paper and cardboard packaging
- Steel and aluminium packaging
- Wood and other miscellaneous materials
6. Warehouse Location
Transportation of goods from one point to another can lead to pollution that affects ecosystems through multiple direct and indirect interactions. For instance, transport over the sea can have a significant impact on life below water if an oil spill occurs.
That’s why setting up a warehouse near customers cuts down on transportation logistics, resulting in less pollution.
Additionally, many warehouses are moving toward micro-fulfilment centres and smaller warehouse options near big cities. This cuts down on the delivery distances necessary for the high volume of orders in these areas.
7. Preventative Maintenance
Preventive maintenance in a warehouse might include utilising technology to monitor machines, weatherising the roof, and routinely checking shelves.
Implementing these maintenance techniques not only improves workplace safety but also helps prevent the need for expensive repairs.
The following tips should be adhered to keep maintenance in check:
- Start with urgent repairs
- Use technology
- Do routine inspections of the structure
- Improve air quality
8. Switch Off to Reduce Waste
In most companies, most of the machinery is often left running even when not in use. Empty conveyor belts, unused forklifts, electric gates, and energy-intensive machinery can waste energy, reduce profits, and cause an increase in carbon footprint.
To reap these obvious cost savings and reduce your firm’s carbon footprint, here are some common ways to monitor energy use and digitally automate warehouse equipment and lighting downtime.
Ensure Adequate Insulation
External insulation helps reduce CO2 emissions. Insulating homes and commercial buildings is a crucial part of this process because it helps reduce the demand for heating energy.
Subsequently, reducing carbon emissions plays a vital role in keeping average global temperatures manageable.
Consider sustainable construction choices when putting up a warehouse structure. Some building materials are more sustainable and less polluting than others. Choose the right wood products, adhesives, paints, carpeting, and sealants.
Another way to reduce the temperature inside the structure is to choose a cool roof made from reflective material or simply a light-coloured paint.
Future Warehousing Technology
From the discussion above, it’s evident that sustainable technology is needed to power the future of warehouses.
For example, many companies are starting to use high-tech, flexible conveyor systems to optimise warehouse operations at multiple levels. Having an automated system in place increases efficiency and flow rates.
This section delves into some of the automation needed to make warehouses sustainable.
1. AI and Digitisation
Warehouse operations are becoming more complex, with inventory becoming more diverse. That’s why businesses must find a way to keep pace with customers’ complex fulfilment needs, demands, and last-minute expectations.
Modern businesses need to leverage AI and digitalisation to fulfil their warehousing needs. Digitalisation will change warehouse operations and make them more intelligent, innovative, and efficient.
As warehousing professionals adopt AI technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), drones, and wearables to digitise their operations, these tools will optimise picking efficiency, lower operating costs, and improve ongoing operations and inventory visibility.
2. Automation with Robotics
The adoption of robots in warehouses has been around for a while. They’ve been with us for quite a while now, becoming more efficient and intelligent. They continue to perform multiple warehousing functions and automate processes such as moving and arranging boxes, lifting trucks, transporting goods, etc.
Modern businesses are already aligning warehouse automation with robotic systems to reduce the need for manual labour, improve performance, boost efficiency, and more.
With such abilities, robotic automation will likely redefine the meaning of a future warehouse.
3. On-Demand Warehousing
On-demand warehousing allows warehouse professionals and distribution centres to utilise on-demand space via a pay-per-use model. You don’t need to sign long-term contracts or pay costly setup fees.
It reduces the risk of expanding unnecessary supply chain networks by eliminating fixed costs. You also have the freedom to choose your inventory storage options through a third-party logistics provider, lease your warehouse space, or use on-demand warehousing services or platforms.
4. Smart Warehousing
Smart warehousing is the key to a futuristic warehouse. An intelligent warehouse streamlines the order fulfilment process. You can quickly identify the correct item and pick it up using smart picking devices such as wearable scanners, picking robots, smart glasses, and pick-to-light systems.
Warehouses can lower operational costs, increase inventory accuracy, optimise workflows, and improve fulfilment operations.
5. 3D Printing
Many manufacturers store large quantities of raw materials waiting for production. In a traditional scenario, spare parts and components will likely sit on the shelves for years without going through production.
These components might become obsolete if the parts go out of stock. The 3D printing market is projected to reach $94 billion by 2030, if the argument wasn’t already strong enough to consider embracing sustainability initiatives as a primary flywheel in the evolution of your warehouse processes.
How RollPallet UK Can Help You Pave a Greener Path Forward
Businesses at the forefront of the warehousing industry need to live up to those emerging sustainability expectations.
Considering a shift to greener operations and renewable energy are not to be taken lightly but for the most part, will make sound business sense and have a positive impact in the medium-to-long-term, benefitting your business and society as a whole.
There are vast areas of improvement for warehouse designers, builders, and operators to improve efficiency, customer service quality, and sustainability in the coming years.
The benefits are plain to see, with a healthier working environment for your team, a reduced carbon footprint on our planet and reduced energy costs for your business chief among them.
At RollPallet UK, we’re constantly improving our operations to reduce our carbon footprint and employ strategies to enhance energy efficiency and we’re always willing and able to support our clients with strategic support and advice on doing similar.
To keep up with emerging warehouse sustainability solutions, we are ready to help your business stay on track using smart transportation and warehousing technologies.
Contact our sales team today. and we’ll be happy to talk warehouse sustainability and offer some practical solutions for you and your team.