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Making the Supply Chain More Sustainable

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Sustainability is at the forefront of many minds nowadays. The effects of global warming are becoming more visible, with intense storms, droughts, heat waves and rising ocean temperatures. Global warming has affected the supply chain and caused many organizations to ask where they go from here. These five methods can help make the supply chain more sustainable.
Making the Supply Chain More Sustainable
Tracy Liang from Pixabay

1. Identify the Waste Points

The first step is to map out the processes. A visual representation of your supply chain will help you identify your waste points. Are they with your suppliers? Are you over-consuming resources? A map of your supply chain will help you see which part of the process uses the most natural and human resources and give you an idea of where to make the changes.

2. Improve Transportation Efficiency

A critical way to make the supply chain more sustainable is to improve transportation efficiency. This strategy applies especially if your company uses long-haul vehicles for delivering or receiving. Trucks are the backbone of the global supply chain and enhancing fuel efficiency would go a long way. In 2020, long-haul trucks consumed about 36 billion gallons of diesel fuel and nine billion gallons of gasoline.

An excellent long-term solution would be to switch to electric vehicles. Their carbon emissions are much lower and would significantly decrease the demand for fossil fuels. Companies like Daimler are setting the stage for the future of trucking with their electric vehicles, so that may be an option for your business soon.

In the short term, long-haul trucks should take advantage of route optimization. You can achieve better courses using telematics technology, which combines informatics and telecommunications. Route optimization studies the paths of your vehicles and saves gas by finding shorter journeys and roads with less traffic.

3. Plan for Supply and Demand

One problem companies find themselves in is overproduction. They manufacture too many goods and end up with products they throw away or produce too few materials and cannot keep up with demand. This issue can lead to backlogs and an inefficient supply chain.

You can fix the problem with better planning for supply and demand. You may know this strategy as demand forecasting. This approach is helpful in the supply chain because it uses historical data to predict customer demand. The information allows you to make better predictions about your supply chain to maximize efficiency.

4. Increase Energy Efficiency

Better practices and infrastructure will help reduce your expenses and carbon footprint. Oil and gas prices can be unpredictable because of global events like wars and your typical supply and demand. One way to increase energy efficiency in the supply chain is to switch to renewable sources like solar, so your costs and consumption go down.

Another way to improve energy efficiency is by restructuring your building. Small changes like double or triple-paned windows can protect your business from extreme temperatures outside. You could review the insulation of your warehouses to ensure storage facilities are at the proper temperature. Temporary building options, such as fabric buildings, are thermally efficient, easily maintaining the inside environment and preventing bacteria growth.

5. Rethink Your Packaging

Packaging is one of the most significant contributors to waste for supply chains. Containers and packages combine for over 80 million tons of waste annually, so try rethinking how you approach shipping materials to decrease waste in your supply chain.

First, you can start by switching to more environmentally friendly packaging. There are many packaging alternatives out there. The best package boxes are the ones that contribute to a circular economy, where people reuse and recycle materials as long as possible. For example, an eco-friendly shipping container could be corrugated cardboard because you can recycle it easily. Mushroom packaging has also become a popular sustainable option.

Another way to be more sustainable in your packaging is to take advantage of your shipping containers fully. Filling up the packages and consolidating orders into one container can reduce the consumption of materials. You can utilize predictive analytics to forecast when and where your products will arrive, so you can consolidate shipments into one truck to save gas, time and carbon emissions.

Creating a Greener Supply Chain

Sustainability has become more than a nice feature for companies — it’s now a requirement. Consumers are getting smarter and have started to demand sustainability from businesses, even if they pay more for the products. Going green begins with the supply chain. You can use these five tips to lower your carbon footprint and build a more sustainable 

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