Sustainable Warehouse Management: Green Warehouse Practices
What is Sustainable Warehouse Management?
Excessive energy consumption and waste don’t just cause missed deadlines and negatively affect your bottom line. They’re also bad for the environment. Corporations are under pressure to eliminate inefficiencies and embrace more sustainable warehouse management. If you’re responsible for operating a warehouse, don’t let this scare you. There are several ways for your business to go green. Every small change to improve your warehouse’s sustainability practices is a big step in the right direction for your company. The process doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Keep reading to learn how to reduce the environmental impact of your warehouse through various green warehouse practices.
Single-use packaging is standard for many industries—edible snacks, body lotions and washes, cosmetics, and more come in plastic wraps and containers. Not all plastic is recyclable, which means many packaging ends up overflowing landfills or ocean pollution and can take 10 to 100 years to break down. Your organization can help prevent this by adopting effective packaging alternatives. You’d be surprised at the number of packaging alternatives available, including seaweed, cornstarch, and even mushrooms! While cornstarch is controversial due to competing with human and animal food suppliers, the other two have shown to be acceptable. Other options include recycled goods such as paper, cardboard, and other plant-based materials. When searching for a substitute for plastic, almost anything is acceptable as long as it’s recyclable.
Proper Waste Disposal
Proper waste disposal goes along with the packaging. If you use non-recyclable packaging, that waste ends up in landfills. As the packaging breaks down (or doesn’t), it rots or is swept into bodies of water. This pollution negatively affects wildlife as well as the people who drink water from affected sources. Diverting your warehouse’s waste away from landfills will help preserve local air and water quality. You can do this through upcycling, composting, and gasification. You can address waste from defective products by reassessing your current production methods, including communication with suppliers and employee training. It’s vital to manage waste at all points of distribution.
Storage and Inventory Control
As you receive inventory, take care to do the following:
- Keep forklifts and other equipment in good working order to prevent accidents
- Keep goods from spoiling with a “first-in, first-out” practice
- Use a computerized inventory system
- If you’re storing liquids, put proper spill procedures in place
- Keep shelving in good condition to prevent breakage.
Shipping and Receiving
In the shipping and receiving stage, perform the following tasks to reduce waste:
- Keep the shipping area clean and uncluttered to prevent any contamination of packaging and goods
- Place courier labels directly on packaging
- Prevent over packaging by using the right size container for shipping
- Purchase used shipping materials, such as fillers
In the procurement stage, work to reduce waste by doing the following:
- Setting up agreements with your suppliers to use a pallet rental company instead of purchasing one-way pallets
- Asking suppliers to ship in bulk and to bypass individual packaging of items
- Working with your suppliers to facilitate packaging to be sent back for reuse
Reuse and Recycle
It’s essential to reuse materials such as plastic containers and wood pallets, but it’s also worth considering which other items in your warehouse can be reused. As you consider your current production techniques, ask yourself, “Is there a greener alternative?” Some businesses choose to implement a customer packaging return policy, where customers can return their packaging or have it collected when they receive a new delivery. It’s also worth taking a look at how packaging arrives at your warehouse from suppliers. Can it be reused within your own operations or returned for a lesser environmental impact?
If you want to recycle more during your organization’s distribution phase, try the following:
- Set up convenient collection bins for used packaging and other materials that can be reused and/or recycled
- Reuse paper by shredding it and using it as filler for packaging
- Recycle materials broken or spilled during material handling
- Insist that suppliers use materials with minimum recycled content.
Smart Inventory Storage
Revolutionize your inventory storage by implementing computer-controlled, automated guided vehicles (AGV), and document automation. Your workers might spend hours checking lists when advanced software is available to do just that. You can remove the inefficiency from manual labor by using barcodes and signs to scan goods and add them to inventory lists. Freeing workers from manual inventory duties means they can spend more time accomplishing other tasks, which speeds up your operational flow.
You can also reduce the space needed to store materials with streamlined shelving systems. Closing the distance between goods and their final locations diminishes toxic fossil fuel emissions.
You can use the data you gain from smarter inventory storage and tracking to design a more optimized warehouse layout to cut labor and energy costs. Take care to design your warehouse to make your fast-moving products more accessible. This effort will reduce picking and travel times. Finally, make use of the vertical space available within your warehouse and make sure your bin locations are correctly labeled. These enhancements will deliver improvement in stock accuracies, navigation, and picking. These advances will lead to faster and more effective services, resulting in better supplier and customer relationships.
Go Green With Sustainable Warehouse Management
You’ll reap several benefits from implementing sustainable warehouse management strategies, including huge insurance for your bottom line. Going green will also improve your business reputation, client relationships, and branding.