Logistics and Transportation: Key Steps to a Greener Supply Chain

Logistics and Transportation: Key Steps to a Greener Supply Chain

Going green is becoming a much talked about topic, even deep in the world of business operations. While consumers and retailers alike are clamoring for greener products and services, can you really change your core business practices to keep up with the growing demand? And how do you change those practices to become more sustainable?

With logistics, it's all about strategic choices. While they are not as plentiful as those in the consumer world, taking extra time to research your options allows for a greener supply chain without sacrificing your bottom line. Choices include strategic consolidation programs, efficient warehouse planning, best routing practices or aligning with vendors/services providers certified by reputable organizations. By learning more about newly available logistics practices, you can choose a greener provider or request that your current provider adopt more sustainable policies and practices.

Strategic Consolidation Programs

Retailer-driven consolidation programs, offered by companies like CaseStack, provide businesses with the opportunity to ship full truckloads by combining purchase orders headed to a single distribution center. By working closely with the retailer, suppliers keep enough stock on hand to deliver just-in-time service while still anticipating future orders. The retailer can then create one single order that includes multiple suppliers.

Back in the warehouse, the logistics provider calculates the best formation for each truck -- something CaseStack coined, “matrixing a shipment.” Our employees calculate the capacity, weight and stackability of each order to maximize the truck space. They minimize the wasteful practice called, “shipping air.” As a result, road and dock congestion is reduced, eliminating the need to have multiple trucks deliver the same amount of product less-than-truckload.

Carrier consolidation also addresses the shipment of air using advanced algorithmic technology. In simple terms, orders are used to fill empty pallet spots when trucks are nearby one of the company's warehouses.

Warehouse Planning

Careful planning can give full-service logistics companies an added green advantage. By building strategically placed warehouses in centralized locations throughout the nation, the provider maximizes routes that would average out throughout all of its locations. Any reputable provider will be clustered in an area that provides maximum shipping potential.

Establishing a Strategic Route

While truck routing software is essential to maintain efficiency, the same program can also decrease your company's carbon footprint. Software called ProMiles, for example, provides the added benefit of integrating a biodiesel mapping system to locate fueling stations that provide alternative fuel, creating the greenest transport service available.

After familiarizing yourself with ways to employ practical green logistics solutions, you are in a better position to ask your vendors and service providers about ways to implement eco-friendly policies and programs.

Two of the most successful ways to implement green business practices are the usage of alternative fuels and working with green-certified vendors and service providers.

Alternative Fuel

Numerous alternative fuel possibilities exist, but biodiesel is the most readily available and does not require any engine modification; a truck can easily switch off between biodiesel and diesel. Its increasing consumer market popularity has prompted many stations to carry it nationwide. CaseStack offers its own biodiesel initiative using low-sulfur diesel to reduce emission. UPS has 167 compressed natural gas delivery vehicles throughout California, Georgia and Texas.

Biodiesel blends ratios are noted using the letter “B” and a number that indicates the percentage of biodiesel being used. For example, B20 utilizes 20% biodiesel while B99 uses 99%. Due to route restrictions, it is difficult for any carrier to absolutely guarantee your shipment will be made with biodiesel. You can, however, opt to work with providers that maximize its usage. If your provider is open to utilizing biodiesel, they can visit the National Biodiesel Board. The Board provides resources, maps of fueling stations and an introduction to software, including ProMiles, that can help.

Certification Programs

Government and private agency programs easily identify companies that are proactive in their pursuit of greener business practices. The most popular of these is the SmartWay Transport Program, sponsored by the EPA. They host several programs for primary, secondary and third-party providers - each requiring unique goals and pledges to fulfill the certification. SmartWay holds carriers ultimately responsible for reducing emissions but 3PLs must also vow to reduce a set percentage of emissions each year by choosing greener carriers.

It's time to update your supply chain to something more sustainable. The impacts of your green choices are visible and beneficial across the spectrum. There are always environmentally feasible options out there that will work for business. Be it the shipping method, logistics strategy, or choice of partner, it is ultimately up to your organization to decide the best path.

Sum-Sum Chan is the Director of Marketing & Communications at CaseStack, where she oversees the to-market strategy and brand building of the seven-year-old fast-growing 3PL CaseStack.

Jenny Joy is currently the Marketing Coordinator for CaseStack, an integrated logistics solution provider located in Santa Monica, California. A degree in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University led her to CaseStack, where she has been working in the Marketing department since 2007.