Operations & Management
Green fulfillment in a green distribution centre
March 22, 2016 by Chris Castaldi DMW&H
Mar. 22, 2016 – Incorporating green initiatives into warehouse design helps mitigate harmful effects to the environment, lowers costs by lowering energy usage and operating costs, and improves brand image in the eyes of your customers. Warehouse executives believe that green supply chain initiatives are tied to future business success, yet many don’t want to invest in green technologies and processes because of cost. However, if you focus on reducing, reusing and recycling within your warehouse operations, you will enjoy a quick return on investment.
As lighting is one of the highest energy users in a warehouse, using low-energy lighting can lower energy usage by about 30 per cent. Lights with sensors that turn on and off when people enter a room or lights combined with photocell sensors so that the lights stay off when the natural is sufficient greatly lowers energy usage.
Energy efficient conveyors use sensors that tell the conveyor to start moving when a product is close by and to stop as soon as it passes. The sensors tell the conveyor to turn on when there is a product coming towards a particular section. The conveyor will not be running unless there is a product on it, thus saving energy.
High-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fans with large diameters can cool indoor temperatures significantly so that some facilities don’t need to use air conditioning. Designed to move massive columns of air at low speeds, HVLS fans can help regulate a facility’s temperature year-round from floor to ceiling. Savings ranges from 12 to 50 per cent in cooling and heating costs typically.
Reusing materials, such as packaging, can be collected and reused a number of times to reduce what is put in the landfill. Using an empty carton monorail system that sends cartons via overhead conveyors to different areas in the warehouse where they can be reused, will help to recycle boxes.
Take a look at your equipment before deciding to replace it, as it may be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to retrofit or update equipment. This can involve upgrading components, increasing speed/capacity or incorporating new technologies. Retrofitting can boost efficiency by 15 to 20 per cent or more and enable your material handling systems to function beyond its initial capacity limits to satisfy increased production demands. The cost of retrofitting is often less than new equipment costs because of the reuse of existing equipment.
The self-production of energy is a potential option for warehouse operations when companies are looking to offset their CO2 usage. Photovoltaic (solar) panels and wind generators can be used to generate electricity to run equipment in the warehouse. These devices convert sunlight or wind power into electrical energy. Most solar panels are installed on the roof of the warehouse.
Investing in technologies and processes that make your warehouse green by cutting energy usage, lowering carbon emissions and reusing and/or recycling materials makes business sense in today’s environment. It’s the best way to “walk the walk” and “talk the talk” on corporate sustainability and energy efficiency.
Chris Castaldi is the vice-president of sales & marketing at DMW&H, a full-service integrator of material handling systems.