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Andel and Handling: Cross Over to a New Environment

April 14, 2014
Sustainability of both business and environmental priorities requires managing the transition to higher levels of efficiency.

Spoiler alert: I'm beginning this month's editorial by telling you how our cover story concludes:

"Sustainability tends to stick when incentives are driven from inside a company. Mandating that some money goes to less exciting projects will unleash innovation and uncover ideas."

I'm bringing this up front this month because sustainability tends to be one of those "that's nice" topics among executives. Our cover story will explain how nice, but consider this page a bonus. I'm giving you two extra examples of companies that managed to transfer nice to their bottom lines.

MillerCoors decided there was an opportunity to curb environmental waste and reduce operating expenses by replacing the disposable wooden dunnage in its trailer loads. By doing things like going to reusable recycled plastic cargo dunnage (from Paylode Cargo Protection Systems, the company saved more than $8 million annually while meeting corporate waste-reduction goals five years early and eliminating the source of 25 percent of the company's recordable injuries.

Those injuries came from manually handling the sheer weight of the wooden products used (as much as 55 pounds), which caused not only muscle strain and injury, but the added insult of splinters. Customers benefit too because product damage has been reduced by more than half.

Separator pads now replace sheets of plywood and cardboard dividers are buffers between pallets. The separators have hand holes for gripping and a cushioning hollow cavity to protect loads. After each trip MillerCoors takes the bulkhead spacers and pads back to their warehouses, ready for the next shipment.

The dock area is another prime target for sustainable savings. This is where those big holes in an exterior wall—called dock doors—open and close to enable shipping and receiving. Hot and cold air flows in and out of the building along with those shipments, making for uncomfortable warehouse working conditions and wasted energy—two things a non-profit organization can't afford financially or from a volunteer recruiting perspective.

Cradles to Crayons (C2C) is one of those organizations. It helps homeless and low-income children in Boston and Philadelphia get the essentials they need to feel safe, warm and ready to learn. At C2C's new Boston "Giving Factory" warehouse, the loading dock was open to the rest of the Giving Factory warehouse. That meant volunteers and staff who inspect, sort and package all the donated materials were exposed to Boston's winters while they worked.

C2C found a way to enclose the loading dock area in the winter then open it up when the weather was nice.

Working with facilities consultants The Beacon Group, C2C installed a loading dock enclosure (Rite-Hite's Zoneworks) consisting of flexible, insulated wall panels made of layers of industrial vinyl fabric wrapped around anti-microbial polyester batting. They span the width of the work space and their height extends as necessary, attached to ceiling joists. The panels are designed to fit around pipes, conduit, etc.

Sections of the insulated curtains at C2C's Boston operation are slid open during nice weather and closed during bad weather. Air conditioning is thus unnecessary in the summer and winter heating costs are saved.

These are easy-to-understand examples of why CEOs are taking sustainability seriously. A PwC executive study we cite in our cover story reports that 87% of those surveyed believe measuring their total (non-financial) environmental impacts contributes to their long-term success. These CEOs found a way to straddle two worlds: the business of today and the business of tomorrow. In doing so, they're proving to be hybrids themselves.

And as the companies mentioned here indicate, logistics professionals have taken responsibility for bridging those two worlds. In fact they're even more passionate about it, if you believe the PwC research. Nearly nine out of ten of the transportation and logistics executives surveyed believe it's important to measure and reduce their environmental footprint.

Are you with those 90 percenters? Your CEO needs to hear the why and how.

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