Somasudarshan is a Supply Chain specialist with over 15 years of experience in Logistics @ e-commerce, Supply Chain Consulting, Industrial Engineering and Strategic Sourcing. In his current role Soma is responsible for improving performance of Logistics operations at XpressBees overseeing 2000+ SVCs, 100+ Middle Mile hubs and Cross docks/ across India. Soma has conceptualized and led various innovative projects aimed at reducing cost and improving efficiencies of logistics processes.
Is our world drowning in a sea of packaging waste and carbon emissions? In the name of convenience, does the cost of logistics weigh heavy on business profitability, and carbon emissions on sustainability?
The British International Freight Association (BIFA) defines sustainability as:
“A planned and systematic approach aiming to reduce the environmental impact of a company’s activities by improving the efficiency of processes, reducing the use of energy, water, and fossil fuel when providing transport and logistics services.”
The future of the industry lies in green logistics. Change is in the air, E-commerce companies are committed to using electric vehicles for delivery and sustainable packaging, Modern warehouses flaunt solar rooftops and sell carbon-free electricity.
Business, Society, Environment: Find the right balance
Three key dimensions must be considered for any logistics business—economic, societal, and environmental. Shutting your eyes towards any one of these in favor of another can have catastrophic results.
- The economy needs growth, businesses need to thrive. For this one must improve efficiency and competitiveness.
- People (the society) need convenience, access, and equity; but they also need an environment that is healthy and safe.
- The environment needs biodiversity, waste reduction, and carbon-neutral balancing.
Go Green with Collaboration, Digital Transformation
Considering the importance of logistics in today’s global economy, one need’s to balance it with the increasing concerns about environmental sustainability. Transform green attributes into practical initiatives for the logistics industry.
When the world is keenly pursuing sustainability initiatives, here are a few ideas to harness the global ecosystem of technologies and businesses to build sustainable and profitable business models.
Collaborate for sustainable logistics
Even before the pandemic hit, ‘empty miles’ was recognized as one of the biggest resource wastage for supply chains. The solution lies in freight collaboration with shipment tracking. To reduce the amount of empty miles on the road, supply chain operators must build open logistics ecosystems that share their capacities and optimize the carbon footprint.
Set up micro warehouses and pick-up points
Globally, we see a rising practice of setting up micro warehouses that double up as brick-and-mortar shops and pick-up points. Its benefits are many. From a locally situated micro warehouse, one can ensure a quick delivery. This also saves heavily on packaging time and materials. The cost of maintaining a micro warehouse is much less than the costs of delivering across long distances from a central warehouse. On top of it, this is a great step towards building a sustainable environment.
Offer options for slower delivery, recyclable packaging
Buyers don’t always expect their orders to be delivered immediately for all products, as the sellers might think. While selling, if brands convey the environmental impact of delivery speeds, many buyers might choose slower options.
The world of circular economics and new packaging technologies is too complex to manage alone. Collaborate with consortiums, non-profits, or industry alliances can help organizations to navigate the after-delivery handling of packaging materials.
Optimize your fleet, rely more on clean energy
Avoid fossil fuels if you can. Use vehicles that run on biofuels or electric power. They are more eco-friendly and pocket-friendly. For long-distance shipments, depend more on waterways and railways wherever possible. These are less costly and more eco-friendly. The Zero-Emission Technology Inventory (ZETI) tool can come in handy and can help an organization make informed decisions about buying Zero Emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
Optimize your warehouses, yards, and distribution facilities
Use solar-powered electricity and water recycling systems in warehouses and distribution facilities. Plan resources and yard logistics discreetly. Ensure the best throughput for greater efficiency of your warehouse management and transportation management teams. This reduces wastage of time, human labor, and carbon emissions.
Promote green initiatives
Compensate for the emissions by farming oxygen-emitting plants and edible greens. Vertical gardens and Miyawaki forests are some good examples. Educate partners and customers to be part of such initiatives. Conserving planet earth for posterity is the best thing one can do for the world and for oneself.
One frequently overlooked way to improve overall performance is by going paperless. Automating business processes and eliminating paper is a quick and efficient way to give the supply chain a boost. The same can also help reduce costs, improve communication and collaboration, increase customer intimacy and reduce overall lead times.
Leverage digital technology, data, and analytics
Tire pressure, road conditions, traffic conditions, driver behavior—there are many factors that decide the efficiency of the fleet. Industry 4.0 relies heavily on sensors, data, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). Data-driven insights can help one remain sustainable and optimize efficiency. Deploy IoT-based predictive analytics solutions for greater fleet-efficiency.
IoT-enabled IT ecosystems, powerful analytics engines, artificial intelligence, and constantly increasing internet bandwidth have democratized digital technologies. Cloud-based SaaS models have made them extremely affordable and scalable and can be used to build sustainable and efficient logistics ecosystems.
Resilience must balance with digital agility. The aim should be to create seamlessly synchronized enterprises, operating at scale, caring heartily for customers and the world at large.