One of the most popular trends emerging in the world of logistics is the implementation of green strategies across the whole spectrum of the supply chain. As the world continues to change and globalization becomes ubiquitous to the business environment in general, negative consequences arise from the way our operations impact the environment around us. Scientific research has to lead us to accept these phenomena as something caused by our own hand and to also take responsibility for the role the world of logistics plays upon the continuous damage we are doing to our planet.
The pressure to engage in more conscious management of the supply chain, is something that is coming from different sources that can include a top-down approach imposed by governments in the form of regulations, as well as a bottom-up approach from consumers and even the industry itself that is looking for better practices and a change in attitude towards the way we care for our natural resources.
We all know that in the past, we used to leave the concern for the environment in the back seat and not worry so much about our impact upon the planet. We used to think that our operations were small enough not to upset the balance and even today in some cases, there are those who believe that their business is too small to have a true effect on something as major as global climate, air pollution and the economic fabric of society, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Green logistics is no longer a term far removed from daily supply chain operations and therefore, companies no matter their size must be aware that there are many things they can do to help.
Designing and planning the production of new products is the first step that must be analyzed in order to bring about positive change upon the management of a green supply chain. When new products are developed, it is necessary to look beyond commercially competitive attributes such as quality, performance, price and features; but we must also find ways to make the price we pay to obtain those advantages, something that is environmentally sensible. Physical characteristics of the product can be considered by opting for lighter products and different material intensity. Production processes should also consider an alternative that is more environmentally friendly like for example the employment of suppliers that utilize greener practices or what are simply located closer to your main operation so as to reduce transportation costs in order to offset the possible higher prices of the aforementioned suppliers.
The management of materials used for the creation of products is another important aspect to considered. Today people are favoring materials that have a long life or that can be safely discarded, or preferably recycled in order to help reduce waste. Better packing and utilizing fewer materials to properly pack products is another strategy that companies are employing and that has been embraced very positively by customers. Better packing increases load density and thus positively impact the supply chain in terms of utilization of less raw material and also optimizing transportation needs. Material management doesn’t just affect what is used to create a product, but also the resources used to transport those products to their final destination.
Effective transportation management calls for planning better routes and ensuring full truck loads in order to better use resources. This is something that doesn’t just apply to the external processes, but also internal loading and receiving policies within the warehouse. Are all goods inside your storage areas organized so as to ensure that the routes are optimal and the picking procedures are the most efficient? If the answer is no, then you have just identified a major area of possible improvement on your way to become greener.
Technology is one of the most important tools to consider in the quest for greener supply chain practices and procedures. Management systems in both warehouses and freight operations are important because they allow the automation of many processes that may or may not currently be as optimal as they could be. These advanced technologies can help you reduce waste in physical ways like minimize your paperwork and therefore your waste of paper, and also in less tangible ways like the reduction of time wasted in inefficient processes or redundant practices.
Even if it isn’t as obvious as some other points we have mentioned, things like preventive maintenance and periodical inspection of your fleet are extremely important and shouldn’t be overlooked during this process. Investing in new equipment and replacing outdated models may seem like a high investment sometimes, but the proper analysis should be conducted into the long-term impact of such changes because more often than not, they end up being worth it down the road.
For more information about supply chain management and the best strategies to help the success of your own operations, visit our articles at David Kiger’s Blog today.
* Featured Image courtesy of Raychel Mendez at Flickr.com