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Over the past 12 months, the Sustainable Supply Chain Foundation has continued its partnership with the International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA), working to add facilities and create a library of best practices.
The foundation has also been demonstrating to retail companies how their operations can become more sustainable in the area of transportation and distribution. And it's been contacted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), part of the U.S. Commerce Department, which is developing standards and metrics for industry.
The message, says Bank, is that sustainability makes companies more economically viable. "They can hire more people," he says. "They're more competitive."
What's going on in warehouses these days is a continuation of efforts that previously took place in the industrial planning and manufacturing sector. Activities such as product assembly, small manufacturing and pick and pack are all ripe for better and more sustainable practices, Bank says.
Many elements within the warehouse are ripe for standardization. A manufacturer might ship a variety of parts to the warehouse that's assembling product. The key is standardizing those materials, and carrying out the process in the most time-efficient way possible.
Over the past year, says Bank, the foundation has come to view sustainability in the warehouse in two ways. One concerns the building itself - how heat, light and water can be used more efficiently. The second, which the group is addressing jointly with NIST, concerns activities that take place within the facility. In the process, all material-handling systems come under scrutiny.
"There's the realization that this is an economic win, in addition to doing good for the environment," says Bank. "There's no driver that's as good as an economic one."
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