News about the rising carbon footprint and environmental degradation is commonplace now. But that doesn’t mean we sit back and do nothing about it. While most organizations consider the planet their own private dumpyard, you can stand apart from them by practicing sustainable inventory management practices, because giving back to Mother Earth is now more necessary than ever. And what better place to start than your warehouse right?
The warehouse is very important for any business since its a safe haven for their inventory. While the inventory is the most valuable asset, handling it produces a ton of waste materials, that gets dumped into open land and water bodies, making it a potential liability for Nature.
Going green and adopting sustainable inventory management practices will not only benefit the environment but also your business. No matter how small or big the change maybe, it will make a difference. So, I came up with a few simple ways to help you transform your business into an eco-friendly one.
The three Rs
Do you remember in school, during the environment Ed class, we learnt the importance of the Three R’s- Reduce Reuse and Recycle. And not to mention, those YouTube tutorials showing us how to make bags out of old jeans are a constant reminder.
Applying such green inventory management principles inside the warehouse can go a long way.
Increase the life of packing material. You can start by setting up sortable bins near all trash receptacles, and at every station in the warehouse. Recycle anything from cardboard, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, plastic or paper.
You may have noticed that when you need to return an order from Amazon or Flipkart, they ask you to keep the packaging material intact and return it? This is collapsible material which can be reused several times, resulting in reduced wastage and saving money in terms of continuously investing in packaging material and the first step in sustainable inventory management.
Save Paper Save Trees
Why waste paper on invoices when you can send them digitally?
Paper invoices use up tons of paper only to be thrown out after sometime. Now that’s a total waste. Most e-commerce platforms are opting for e-voice or electronic invoice to minimize the use of paper. Due to the GDPR guidelines, you need to ask customers to add their email addresses to the database. If they don’t agree, you can simply ask them if they are in for an e-receipt and send them one if they agree. Many businesses use this to expand their customer base and customer engagement.
Now that’s a smart move in terms of both green inventory management and marketing, of course.
It’s always Sunny!
According to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance report of 2017, solar power is taking over coal faster than imagined. A renewable form of energy that was once so expensive, solar power will become cheaper than coal and natural gas by 2040. Solar powered panels and lighting options are able to provide safer, sustainable lighting. Solar panels also have a longer life span as compared to other lighting fixtures, so you don’t have to spend on lights after every few years.
You can take inspiration from e-commerce giant Amazon, who has plans to install solar panels on the roofs of 15 fulfilment centres.
Well, now you know the sun isn’t going anywhere and you can always rely on solar energy to power your warehouse, machines and lights.
Lights on! Light off
Since a warehouse occupies a large amount of space, it requires adequate lighting. If you don’t utilize energy-efficient fixtures your lighting and energy bills are sure to skyrocket. There are a number of ways you can cut down on your lighting costs while being kind to the environment. LED light bulbs are a super saver! They not only light better and longer but save upto 50% power consumption.
Skylights not only offer a beautiful view of the night sky in your room but they can be a great means to slash the need for lighting in the warehouse during the day.
You can also install motion sensors and connect it to lights so that they come on only when someone walks in. This can prove helpful as employees won’t have to worry about remembering to turn off the lights when they leave. These are some simple and cost-effective ways in which you can practice green inventory management.
The trend to ‘Go Green’ is increasing rapidly across industry sectors, including the building and construction industry. Of course, the shift towards sustainable inventory management will affect inventory management, because the adoption of sustainable materials will impact stocking, storage and pricing decisions. Consumers have a wide range of green construction materials to choose from, according to their budget, availability, and customization.
From a logistical point of view, sustainable materials require a long time to produce and fewer days to modify. For example, a sustainable alternative, modified pine, can take up to 30 years to mature, but only 3-4 days to mature, resulting in only a few months of logistics, lesser hassle and greater inventory control.
Don’t Let the Air escape!
If your warehouse is not properly insulated, warm or cool air will escape easily, spiking up insulation costs and wasting valuable energy. Geothermal heating and cooling system maintain comfortable temperatures for warehouse operators to work and products to be stored. Replace old doors with automated ones or those with motion sensors at entry points to conserve energy. A programmable thermostat can be used in rooms of the warehouse that remain unoccupied or inactive for set periods of time. Proper sealing of air ducts that disperse air throughout the warehouse can reduce energy wastage to a significant extent. Supermarket behemoth Walmart took the first step towards sustainable inventory management practices with its demonstration store in Burlington Ontario, Canada, to try out a unique geothermal heating and cooling system for its stores and distribution centres.
Go Local Go Green
Working with local suppliers has multiple benefits. When your supplier is close by, you can save on energy consumptions and gas emission for transportation. Working with local suppliers will reduce downtime increasing efficiency in fulfilling orders. Your profitability will improve as local vendors are more cost-effective. Stock and transportation related issues will be resolved faster as well. Due to the close proximity of local vendors, you can maintain stock levels, avoid overstocking, understocking or inventory shrinkage.
If not going local, you can learn from Nestle who has made a head start by developing Nestle Supplier Code that deepens relationships with suppliers and encourages eco-friendly practices to allow safe sourcing, procurement and supply of materials for its business. It’s RISE initiative assists in identifying strengths and weaknesses in sustainability across the supply chain, helping you revamp your sustainable inventory management practices.
IoT weds Green Equipment
IoT isn’t just meant for home appliances. You can even manage your warehouse facilities with IoT connected devices. To maintain the quality and storage of your inventory, you need to keep your warehouse space clean. But how do you do that conveniently for a large space?
You can control your cleaning, recycling, loading machines from your phone through IoT. Wondering why this is way to sustainable inventory management?
With IoT connected devices, you are rewarded with detailed reports about their performance. Armed with this data, you can monitor your machines’ work cycles, in order to reduce waste, conserve energy, and mitigate maintenance issues quickly.
Due to the alarming rise in air pollution levels in most cities of the world, organization are gradually leaning towards electrical equipment. Electrical forklifts have become a good alternative to gas forklifts in this case, as they reduce gas emissions in the vicinity of the warehouse, maintaining safe working conditions for staff and are environment friendly.
Why Sustainability Inventory Management is the way to go?
Being “eco-friendly’ isn’t just a fad anymore. Consumers are slowly becoming aware and responsible citizens of the planet. While most consumers deeply relate to their favourite brands, they expect those organizations to be the same. It can be an excellent customer retention strategy. Going green with sustainable inventory management practices is not only good from the sustainability point of view but also from a business perspective. It reduces costs, projects a favourable image about your brand to consumers, and it makes you efficient and profitable. And in terms of supply chain and inventory management, it streamlines warehouse functionality, which lies at the heart of it all.
Avid reader. Daydreamer. Perfect Saturday evening is a cup of coffee with a classic book. Mountains over beaches. Loves animals. Always craving for stories. Writer at Orderhive.