Tips for Going Green in the Distribution Center

Manhattan Associates offers advice for deriving tangible business value from a green DC focus; maximizing efficiencies while reducing energy use

Atlanta — April 25, 2007 — Taking environmental issues into consideration when making business decisions is gaining popularity for many reasons. "Going green" is, of course, a focus in the corporate social responsibility strategies of many companies. But it also is emerging as a strategy capable of producing tangible bottom-line business benefits, according to the results of a recent survey published by AMR Research.

AMR's survey results indicate that the motives for many corporate social responsibility initiatives extend far beyond the typical brand reputation considerations. In a March 7 article, "Turning to Technology for Green Needs," AMR noted that "reducing energy usage has a double payoff: a big operating cost reduction while also reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — two objectives that are directly correlated."

In that light, Manhattan Associates, a supply chain solutions provider, is offering the following tips for helping companies achieve both environmental and operational benefits by focusing on "Green" initiatives in their distribution centers (DCs):

1. Maximize efficiency of conveying and handling processes. Integrating material handling and warehouse management systems enables manufacturers and distributors to move and touch products fewer times and reduce forklift usage. In addition to reducing handling costs, these advances help to reduce energy consumption and reduce emissions.

2. Increase flow-through. The use of advanced warehouse management systems also enables companies to streamline warehouse processes to achieve higher levels of cross docking, which in turn helps to minimize inventory and increase product turns. With more flow-through, companies manage their business with smaller distribution centers. In addition to containing expenses, this helps to reduce energy consumption and limit the use of construction materials, which are not needed because existing DCs have increased capacity.

3. Optimize transportation processes. The use of transportation management solutions to create a more efficient transportation network helps reduce the number of empty hauls and dead ends in the movement of goods. This reduces fuel consumption and extends the usefulness of trucks and trailers for reduced material usage.

4. Enhance planning, forecasting and replenishment. Using best-of-breed planning, forecasting and replenishment solutions drive more efficiency in manufacturing and distribution for reduced energy and materials consumption, as well as improved operational efficiency.

5. Improved cartonization. Using cartonization functionality in warehouse management systems enables companies to better allocate the right units to pick and then select the correct size and rigidity of the container to use. This can significantly reduce the use of cardboard, a major expense for many companies, and other shipping materials. The result is reduced paper consumption, which in turn produces a corresponding reduction in forest harvesting.

6. Leverage electronic interfaces. Using radio frequency identification and voice-based technologies improves warehouse efficiency and also reduces paper consumption.

The latest developments in applying supply chain management technology to achieve environmental goals will be discussed in a special session at the Manhattan Associates annual conference, Momentum, being held in Las Vegas, May 6-9. More information is available at