December 2011 | How-To | Ten Tips

Boosting Supply Chain Sustainability

Tags: Green Logistics

Sustainable business practices and supply chains reduce waste, cut costs, and improve profit margins. Alan Amling, director of global logistics and distribution marketing at UPS, offers the following tips to help businesses improve supply chain sustainability.

1. Avoid reinventing the wheel. Minimizing waste is the first step in sustainability. Before investing in your own supply chain technology, distribution center (DC), or delivery fleet, consider using existing resources through a third-party logistics (3PL) provider. Many 3PLs have the resources—from offering an expedited service to storing parts in a field stocking location—to help you expand or improve your business.

2. Map your supply chain. Ensure that all stops along your supply chain—from production facilities to warehouses and DCs to customer locations—are optimally aligned. A well-mapped supply chain can reduce transportation legs, cutting fuel costs and carbon emissions.

3. Evaluate your packaging. Use the least amount of materials possible while still ensuring the security of the package's contents. A damaged item means a return shipment and more carbon emissions.

4. Optimize your transport modes. Ocean, truck, intermodal, and air transportation each produce a different level of carbon output per unit. Consider the time and distance constraints for each shipment, and select the shipping mode that will address both with minimum carbon footprint.

5. Consolidate and maximize space. When possible, consolidate shipments to maximize container and trailer use. If you're unable to fill a container with one shipment, don't let it ship half full. Use a less-than-containerload service and book only the amount of container space you require.

6. Tune in to technology. When it comes to logistics, the smallest detail can mean all the difference. Using telematics and analytics, some logistics providers can identify even the smallest strength or weakness in operations, and realign them for better route and driver optimization. By staying in tune with every detail—from a left turn to an aircraft landing— you ensure that each leg of your supply chain is as sustainable and efficient as possible.

7. Assess your assembly strategy. Store-ready displays take up more space than unassembled ones, and can cost up to twice as much to ship overseas. Ship in bulk and work with your 3PL to assemble the final product upon arrival.

8. Go paperless where possible. Companies switching from paper to electronic billing can eliminate an estimated 124 million sheets of paper annually. Paperless invoices convert lengthy customs documents into electronic data, automating the customs process and saving time.

9. Know your role in reverse. Defective parts or products are often sent to a central DC for sorting before going to their final destination for repair, replacement, or proper disposal. Shipping items directly to the manufacturer or repair facility cuts fuel costs, driver miles, and unnecessary emissions, while saving time and improving the customer experience.

10. Analyze your carrier. Assess your carrier's fleet, whether on land, ocean, or air, as well as any additional solutions that can save your company money while lowering its environmental impact.