March 2010 | How-To | Ten Tips

Growing a Greener Warehouse

Tags: Warehousing, Green Logistics

If plans for your warehouse/distribution center include becoming more green, consider these tips from Rajiv Saxena, vice president of supply chain solutions, APL Logistics.

1. Focus on site. If you can do only one thing to make your DC operations greener, select the most accessible, well-connected facility possible – one that's optimally located in terms of your company's demand and supply. Because transportation contributes far more to carbon footprint than warehousing, your choice of venue will have a huge impact—for better or worse—on your efforts to be environmentally friendly.

2. Optimize with a forklift. They may not cross the country or the globe, but forklifts still travel a hefty number of miles each year, including many that are superfluous. Use product slotting optimization programs to reduce the distances equipment has to travel within your facility, then watch your energy bills decline accordingly.

3. Slam the door on heating and cooling loss. Do your facility's dock doors open and close slowly or contain barely adequate insulation? Check the sealings. You could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to temperature loss. Consider installing faster moving dock doors or at least revamping the sealing around your old ones.

4. Switch your lights. Swap old light bulbs and other dated fluorescent lighting for more current, energy-efficient lighting. Your facility might end up requiring 70 percent less light-related electricity than it once did.

5. Sensor energy consumption. Invest in motion sensors and light timers to make sure certain areas of your facilities are lighted—or more thoroughly heated and cooled—only when personnel are actually working in those areas.

6. Reach for the skylight. If your distribution center doesn't have skylights and windows, you're missing the green advantages of using natural light instead of electricity. Even small window installations can make a big sustainability difference.

7. Reduce idle time. Every minute a truck spends idling outside a DC is a minute it burns unnecessary diesel fuel—making your facility's carbon footprint anything but green. You can reduce the time trucks wait by using an advanced scheduling software program. Also, encourage drivers to stop running their engines during loading or unloading by providing a comfortable waiting area within your facility.

8. Engineer your inventory levels. If your DC's low-inventory strategy forces your company to make greater use of less energy-efficient transportation modes, such as air, you will unintentionally leave a bigger carbon footprint instead of a smaller one. To prevent this, have logistics engineers design your inventory deployment strategy through a detailed simulation or an optimization model first.

9. Get your feet wet. Energy efficiency may be the most important part of running a green facility, but water is also a precious resource. Can you incorporate storm water retention and gray water irrigation into your facility's landscaping?

10. Participate in LEED or SmartWay, or work with partners who do. The U.S. Green Building Council has done a great job of making Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) the standard for sustainable construction. Also consider participating in the EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership, which has made strides in reducing our industry's energy use.