How Green Do You Want to Be?

There’s more than one way to go slow and still minimize your impact on the environment


For instance, logistics managers often see five full loads going south while a half-load remains at the DC or warehouse. In a slow, green supply chain, the half-load can be held back and matched with tomorrow’s shipments to make more full loads. Another option may be to release more orders for that part of the country and fill the sixth truck today.

Another great negative impact on green trucking is the amount of assets that travel empty on our roads and highways. By embracing Continuous Move concepts, companies can tender a set of deliveries with pickups. They will add capacity to otherwise empty assets, and can also negotiate attractive carrier backhaul rates at the same time.

For a company that has always done shipments over the road, reconsidering ways to leverage rail shipments is another slow, green option. By evaluating rail and piggyback trailers, and then calculating the cost and time compared to over-the-road trailers, companies who have their product ride the rails can be more effective and green.

Ships travel at different speeds, but it’s not always true that the slower ships are more fuel efficient or greener. Super ships can produce fewer emissions per hundredweight on-board. The age of the equipment also is critical to the environmental impact, since older equipment is much less fuel efficient (which applies to all modes of shipping). Some industry organizations are working to offer ways to evaluate these kinds of “green” criteria, so it is easier to evaluate greener equipment and logistics operators – an emerging science that is going to be interesting as it evolves.

Don’t Press the Panic Button

Better planning that incorporates the green factor into the equation can also alleviate partner “panic” levels in the supply chain, which leads to reduced supply chain expenses. A good TMS solution helps long-term planning and evaluation of freight options with the best carbon footprint – slow shipping options that are also less costly. Operators who use best-of-breed TMS systems also feel more in control, and are comfortable keeping inventory buffers and safety stock at desirable low levels while using slow transit.

TMS software assigns the optimal carrier based on when product can be shipped and the available vehicle capacity – all automated in a load-planning function. Business rules also ensure the plan can be met based on constraints of all the parts. For example, the system won’t set up a multi-modal truck-to-rail shipment if the train is scheduled to depart before the truck can arrive. The TMS planning engine takes into account constraints of schedule, pickup and delivery windows, available equipment and capacity, and time latency between dock and delivery – and then uses business rules to select the most cost-effective and efficient modes for every order.

Companies can also consider other green aspects of their operations relative to speed. For example, a second shift helps provide more same-day shipments, but the financial trade-off is the investment in resources such as lights, heat, equipment and power needed to run the second shift. Eliminating the need for a second shift can result in money and energy savings in the long run.

Slow, green supply chain tracking will continue to evolve and ultimately influence consumer behavior over time. Metrics will be used to track things such as fuel consumption, age of the machinery and vehicles, toxic emissions, and packaging waste. In the future, these metrics will be used to provide a more sophisticated method to rate how planet-friendly the shipment of goods will be.

Not Just for Tree Huggers

Even the most profit-driven executives are finding that green agendas aren’t only for tree huggers. Cost savings from green initiatives improve their bottom line, and green practices are increasingly being scrutinized by customers as an indicator of their value as a business partner.

The two areas where companies can make a big difference are to put systems in place to help analyze their transportation options daily, and to use demand-based systems to better manage their forecasts and replenishment needs.

It’s all a matter of commitment. How green do you want to be?

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