Most corporate customers were accustomed to receiving Office Depot product in boxes made of corrugated cardboard, Beabout says. But the practice was resulting in large amounts of packaging waste, and needed to be revised. So Office Depot came up with the idea of placing smaller items in paper bags, which would then be delivered in plastic, reusable totes. The bags themselves are made of recycled waste materials.
In addition to pioneering a green solution for door-to-door delivery, Office Depot found itself saving money on corrugated materials and the air pillows that previously protected goods from damage in transit.
The company rolled out a pilot between late 2010 and early 2011. By the summer of 2011, the experiment had proved a success. It went nationwide between August and December of that year.
While most people think of Office Depot as a retail operation, the company does two-thirds of its business in the direct-to-consumer area, Beabout notes. It guarantees next-day delivery of approximately a million packages a week.
There were concerns in the early stages about security and safety. In a pilot program conducted in Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., however, Office Depot was able to demonstrate that product arrived in good condition, without any more threat of theft than under the old system. Customers, says Beabout, were "delighted to have something different." In particular, the company received positive feedback from universities and hospitals, many of which already had "green" mandates in place with which they had to comply.
Today, says Beabout, just over half of the boxes leaving Office Depot's distribution centers are placed in bags with totes, and "the number is going up every day."
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, global logistics, green supply chains, logistics services, retail supply chain
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