Sustainability is among the latest industrial buzzwords, and every industry, including manufacturing, is expected to adapt its practices to become more sustainable.
If you want to stay ahead of competitors, creating a sustainable warehouse is an excellent place to start. Plus, sustainable warehousing can reduce energy costs, improve efficiency, and boost your bottom line. In fact, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology contends that 37% of businesses profit from sustainability.
So when it comes to making your warehouse more sustainable, where can you start?
Reduce Energy Consumption
Warehouses consume substantial amounts of energy, from lighting and heating to HVAC systems and IT equipment. Light and space heating, for example, takes up 76% of the energy use in these facilities. High energy usage translates to increased energy bills. Research shows that energy costs account for 15% of operating budgets for non-refrigerated warehouses and 60% for refrigerated warehouses. In line with these statistics, warehouses are good targets for energy saving, which can start here:
Turn Off Appliances and Equipment
When equipment and lights are not turned off in between uses, they continue to consume energy, resulting in skyrocketing energy costs. Sustainable best practices dictate switching off IT equipment (such as computers, printers, and scanners, and lights) when not in use. Your team will be a crucial part of this process. While occupancy sensors and timers can help, educating employees on these energy-saving practices is less expensive to implement and much more effective.
Install an Enterprise Energy Management System
The system helps to measure and optimize your warehouse’s energy consumption. It also tracks costs and identifies anomalies that can help reduce energy use and costs.
Use Efficient Lighting
Warehouse lighting is a huge energy consumer, so this is a perfect area to find more eco-friendly (and budget-friendly!) options. Explore if your warehouse could support LED lighting, skylights or networked lighting controls. These additions can drastically cut down the amount of energy you’re using. For example, networked lighting controls can save between 70 and 80% of your current energy consumption.
Minimize Air Infiltration
Air infiltration is the accidental introduction of outside air into your warehouse. It’s also a leading source of energy loss in large facilities – especially in open loading doors and docks. Air infiltration issues can quickly inflate your energy costs if you’re losing air needed to keep your employees comfortable and, potentially, your products safe. While opening and closing loading doors can be tedious for employees, specially designed and safe doors that open and close effortlessly can save the day.
Reduce Excessive Employee Motion
Imagine all the workers running around a warehouse to keep it operational. How long are they walking? How frequently do they double pack picking orders? Your employees could be traveling more than necessary to complete orders due to a lack of efficient picking processes or an unorganized layout. In fact, the US Bureau of Statistics reports that US warehouses waste 265 million hours of labor every year, costing the sector $4.3 billion. The primary causes of motion waste include poor layout, limited space and poor organization of goods. Employee motion can be reduced by:
- Rearranging your inventory and placing fast-moving items closer to the shipping area.
- Investing in efficient layouts that reduce excess employee movement.
- Discussing your current warehouse practices with your team. Your employees can provide useful insights on what methods are successful and which are not.
- Give your employees the tools and the training to do their job as efficiently as possible.
Warehouses are hotspots for waste, and 67% of this waste can be reduced. They produce waste materials like adhesives, packaging and wrapping materials, chemicals, and batteries. Warehouses also report wastes such as excessive employee motion, excess inventory, material waste and unnecessary transportation. Warehouses can reduce wastage by:
It’s most helpful if warehouses can convert their waste into usable materials. Recycling is more than disposing of plastic cups and used paper in their respective bins; it involves developing recycling initiatives and making them part of the manufacturing process. For example, single-use packaging such as plastic pallets should be recycled rather than dumped in the landfill. Recycling can save money by maximizing resource use.
Reduce Excessive Inventory
A large proportion of waste emanates from excessive inventory. Therefore, warehouses should aim to right-size their inventory levels to reduce the risk of damage or obsolescence, cut transportation costs, and free up your facility. A comprehensive demand management policy can help match demand and supply and prevent overstocking.
Reduce Paper Waste
Technology like warehouse management systems can help you attain a paperless warehouse that is both efficient and paper waste-free. Platforms like these will eradicate the need for paper pick tickets, packing slips, invoices and other paper forms, allowing for a more fluid picking and shipping process.
Invest in Automation
Your warehouse can be more sustainable by leveraging automation. Automation involves computerizing the movement of inventory within your warehouse to reduce the need for human assistance. It eliminates labor-intensive and repetitive tasks that take up much time and effort. Warehouse automation is a key tool for increasing efficiency, cutting costs, minimizing human error.
Warehouse automation comes in different forms depending on the task at hand. It can be new software to assist people with inventory processes, automated conveyor lines or material handlers, like industrial manipulators.
Industrial manipulators are useful, time-saving tools to help you reach your sustainability goals. They can facilitate handling operations and promote fast, convenient and safe handling. Industrial manipulators have a wide range of benefits for warehouses, including:
- Streamlining your storage.
- Cutting down on cluttered ladders.
- Increasing employee safety by reducing musculoskeletal disorders and the likelihood of an accident.
- Providing a long-term investment in your overall ROI.
With an industrial manipulator, you can cut down on necessary manpower, which allows your team to save time and engage in sustainable-focused processes.
Decrease Your Warehouse’s Impact
With the state of our current climate and the continuing boom of manufacturing, warehouses must begin to transition to sustainable, eco-friendly practices and technology. But sustainable practices make it worth your while, providing much-needed cost savings, increasing efficiency, and, most of all, helping the environment.
Although achieving a sustainable warehouse does not happen overnight, the little steps count. The tips outlined above can jump-start your journey to a greener and eco-friendly warehouse. Contact us today for high-quality industrial manipulators and lifting equipment that can help you start your sustainability transition.