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"Green" awareness is coming to the mining industry, but it won't necessarily be easy to implement. According to Darley, customers are concerned about the large amounts of pallets, cardboard, bags and waste materials used in packaging and delivering mined products. One possible solution is a greater reliance on bulk containers and trucks, but not all customers are equipped to receive product in that fashion.
One project involves the installation at customer sites of small silos with a capacity of 24 metric tons, allowing for the delivery of product in bulk. Included in the setup is a three-meter platform which feeds material directly into the production line. In addition to cutting down on the use of packaging materials, the technique saves warehouse space, Darley says.
Smaller customers are the likeliest candidates, given that their larger counterparts already have big silos in place. The plan would require a large capital investment, Darley acknowledges, "but the savings will pay off within four to five years."
Darley has already been involved in a test of the idea, in partnership with a maker of specialty silos. Issues to be addressed included the threat of condensation and plugged-up machinery. The solution lay in the use of polyester instead of steel, which "breathes" better and reduces moisture in the silo. To date, however, there has only been one customer implementation of the system. Broader acceptance, says Darley, involves some major hurdles, including the willingness of companies to budget for the innovation.
"In the last four years, we've seen other industries beginning to install silos," says Darley. "It makes sense from a tactical standpoint. The problem is that the people making strategic decisions may not see benefit of it."
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Keywords: supply chain, green supply chains, mining industry supply chains, inventory management, global logistics, transportation management, logistics & supply chain, supply chain systems, supply chain risk management
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