With the economic recovery moving at a snail’s pace and the cost of raw materials and fuel continuing to rise, manufacturers are continually challenged to find ways to incorporate green sustainability solutions into their material handling processes.
If I were to ask you to write down three ways in which your company has risen to the challenge of environmental sustainability, what would your responses be? Not sure? OK, well let’s first define environmental sustainability. The core concept is “engaging and maintaining practices that contribute to the quality of the environment on a long-term basis”.
In the material handling industry, not only have companies welcomed internal changes to contribute to a better environment; they have also discovered ways to incorporate the concept into the design of the products they create, allowing end users to accomplish their own sustainability goals along the way.
I recently read an article on this subject and having toured many manufacturing operations over the past few years, I must say I agree that although economic times continue to be tough, many material handling companies have risen to the challenge and continue to incorporate green solutions into their manufacturing processes. So if this is a new concept for you, here are a few examples of what you can do to contribute to environmental sustainability practices in your business model.
1. Energy Efficiency
The value of implementing behavioral and operational changes to reduce energy usage is valuable in multiple ways. First, it allows companies to reduce operational expenditures, contributing to increased profit margins.
Second, by re-designing the equipment and/or layout of their plants, companies will likely be able to improve operational efficiency on multiple levels, not just energy consumption. At the higher end of the cost spectrum, companies can choose to make capital equipment investments to automate more of their operations. By increasing their amount of industrial automation, companies can often reduce their environmental footprint as well as the amount of space needed for their facility to operate.
2. Reduced Fuel Consumption
A large number of organizations, particularly those end users with substantial material handling operations, are looking for ways to reduce the fuel consumption of their equipment, such as forklifts.
In recent years, tremendous efforts in technology have made it possible to increase not only the efficiency and durability of lift trucks, but also the fuel efficiency of such vehicles. With the increased availability of electric and hybrid forklifts in the market, end users now have options as they develop and implement their own sustainability initiatives.
3. Waste Management
Many organizations’ sustainability initiatives include internal programs designed to help reduce material waste by the manufacturers at their own plants, as well as product design initiatives developed to ensure their products can be used by their customers in a sustainable fashion.
The new sustainable packaging method from The Coca-Cola Company is a good example of this. They recently introduced the first ever recyclable PET plastic beverage bottle made partially from plants. “PlantBottle” packaging looks, functions, and recycles just like traditional PET plastic, but does so with a lighter footprint on the planet and its scarce resources.
As the world economy struggles to right itself, I think we can only expect to see more stringent emissions regulations, increasing costs for raw materials and fuel, and consumer demand for more “green” manufacturing processes. All these factors will continue to play a major role in how companies carry out their business operations, both on an internal and external basis.
So as we embark into this “Brave New World,” give some consideration to the examples noted above, and I would challenge you to think outside the box and pursue ways to reduce the footprint within your organization.
What are some ways in which your company is incorporating green best practices?