Due to rising costs on nearly every front, supply chain, distribution and warehouse players are all experimenting with ways to boost efficiency and reduce those same costs. Converting to an eco-friendly and minimal footprint facility, for example, contributes to a lowered dependency on conventional resources and help boost productivity.

Labour costs are yet another concern. Worker wages and salaries are rising, alongside a growing need for longer workdays to keep up with production and consumer demand — which also introduces overtime.

Failure to optimise operations can lead to much higher costs or even outright failure, culminating in the business going belly-up. It stands to reason, then, that modern warehouse operations must strive to enhance their overall efficiency lest they suffer the consequences.

The question is, how can they do this? What steps can you take to improve warehouse efficiency and convert your operation into a more eco-friendly one?

1. Install Smart Lighting

In 2018, the U.S. residential and commercial sectors collectively used about 232 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity for lighting. That equates to 8% of the total power consumed by both sectors, and 6% of the total U.S. consumption.

That’s a lot of electricity consumed by lighting alone. But by swapping to smarter, more efficient solutions — even LED bulbs — it’s possible to save massive amounts of money. Managers of warehouses and supply chain facilities should take note. More importantly, they should be experimenting with smart lighting solutions that use a bevy of sensors and intelligent technologies to automate the entire system. When sensors detect an empty room, for example, the lights will automatically turn off.

While there is an upfront installation and replacement cost for using such technologies, warehouse operations could realize a savings of up to 80% when compared to conventional solutions.

2. Upgrade or Downgrade the Equipment

It’s a well-known fact that older, less efficient hardware and machines tend to consume a lot more energy. There are several reasons for this. First, they lose efficiency over time as a natural result of wear and tear. Second, today’s equipment is designed from the ground up to be more efficient. Moreover, many newer technologies employ a low-power or hibernation function that minimises energy consumption while they’re powered on and not in use.

Your warehouse can exponentially boost cost savings by switching from fuel-operated to electric machinery. Doing so cuts down on the cost of fuel consumption and lowers contaminants dispersed in the air through emissions.

Alternatively, consider downgrading some equipment to reduce dependency on common fuels and resources. Using a mix of manual labor and hydraulic jacks can offset a high demand for forklifts and heavy machinery. In some cases, the analog option tends to be safer for workers too. For instance, pallet jacks employ a hydraulic system to help individual workers lift heavy loads without injuring themselves or incurring added stress on their bodies. 

3. Reuse and Recycle

Waste is another significant concern for eco-friendly and green initiatives. It’s not only about how much waste the operation is producing, but also where it’s going and how it’s getting disposed of.

Consider reusing certain items to cut down on the total waste produced within the warehouse. For example, can you repurpose storage containers?

Alternatively, warehouse operations can lower their use of packaging and raw materials. Be sure to appropriately recycle any waste you cannot reuse or repurpose.

4. Smart Sensors for Saving Water

Water-conservation initiatives are another concern in green facilities. Low-flow toilets and faucets are necessary to cut down on water waste. Install auto-feed and auto-flush sensors to cut down on water usage in bathrooms. Additional smart sensors, such as leak sensors, can make a difference throughout a facility.

Going Green Will Pay Off

The initial investment or buy-in for creating a greener, more eco-friendly facility can seem high, maybe even daunting. But it’s essential to understand a green initiative is well worth it because of the cost savings, if nothing else.

The tips discussed here can cut down on energy and water consumption fees, for a start. They can also create a healthy environment inside warehouses. Reducing fuel and gas usage, for instance, helps eliminate emissions and potentially hazardous contaminants that get introduced to the air.

Before diving in, it’s always a good idea to conduct an audit to see just how inefficient your operation truly is. From there, it’s a matter of optimising and upgrading age-old practices, mainly through new technologies and smarter, more efficient operations.

Megan Ray Nichols, Contributor