Creating a Greener Warehouse

Reducing warehouse energy and water consumption ultimately helps companies improve their bottom line and bring value to customers. Tim Barrett, COO, and Arthur Barrett, president of Massachusetts-based Barrett Distribution offer their tips for creating a greener warehouse.

1. Reduce energy waste. Implement strict rules for truck idling time in parking lots and at loading docks. Create clear procedures for opening and closing loading dock doors. Ensure office and warehouse spaces are properly insulated.

2. Employ efficient lighting. Replace older, inefficient fixtures that require frequent bulb changes with bright, efficient LED lighting, focused appropriately in work areas. Install motion detectors in warehouse and office areas, and consider skylights in warehouse areas, along with sensors that adjust lighting based on the amount of sunlight shining in.

3. Utilize solar energy. Hundreds of square feet of roof space without solar arrays represent a wasted opportunity. Implement state-of-the-art solar power systems to generate energy. Tax and energy incentives improve the return on this investment.

4. Monitor usage with smart meters. In many areas of the country, smart meters are becoming available for commercial use. Not only can businesses better monitor energy usage, but as utilities develop "time of day" energy rates, companies can adjust usage accordingly. For example, electric forklifts can be charged on a schedule that benefits the power company, avoiding peak surcharges.

5. Investigate energy monitoring software. These tools make it easy to identify and remedy inefficiencies in electricity, gas, and water use. Look for software that monitors energy and resource usage across multiple facilities, and compares it to both industry benchmarks and similar facilities in your network. Having all this data in one screen helps track and identify improvement opportunities.

6. Create energy zones. Distribution centers have distinct usage patterns, all of which can be optimized in different ways. Installing separate meters in facilities, offices, warehouses, and refrigerated sections allows businesses to isolate and optimize each area accordingly.

7. Install water-saving fixtures. Waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets, and motion-detecting faucets can all reduce water usage. Motion detectors on restroom lights, and high-efficiency hand dryers, also contribute toward savings.

8. Optimize facility layouts. To reduce costs and improve efficiency for customers, management should continuously analyze product movement, as well as demand seasonality. Well-designed facilities increase picking efficiency, which, in turn, minimizes energy use, time, and effort.

9. Involve employees and suppliers. Employees are key contributors to sustainability improvements. Educate them in sustainable behaviors, and suggest additional ways to improve. Seek ways to eliminate packaging, and choose warehouse locations that are most accessible to the manufacturers and end users you serve.

10. Focus on reverse logistics. Efficient asset recovery reduces carbon footprint and landfill impact by returning these goods to a saleable condition for re-use. This translates into energy savings and waste reduction, providing economic value and savings for all parties in the supply chain. Even where you cannot return product to saleable condition, you can recover value and reduce landfill impact through donations, secondary market sales, and recycling.

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