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Long-term green strategy

By Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
April 01, 2010

This month Modern shares the third in a series of features we’re calling “Big Picture: Where materials handing meets business.” The concept was cooked up by executive editor Bob Trebilcock over the past year as he began to notice that more of his System Report subjects (Kroger, Canadian Tire, Fisher Nuts, Patagonia, etc.) were creating facilities, systems and automation plans that were weaved into a greater, long-term supply chain and business strategy.

“I thought it would be useful for readers to understand how these new strategies are changing the face of materials handing operations as well as how equipment manufacturers were gearing up to meet the challenge,” says Trebilcock.

Well, there may be no greater challenge facing readers than engineering a move toward a more sustainable warehouse/DC operation; and no greater feat for suppliers of materials handling systems, software and equipment than to give warehouse/DC managers the tools to meet today’s more altruistic goals.

And just where do we stand as an industry on meeting these often hard to define objectives? That’s just what Trebilcock set out to find when he created this month’s package of sustainability features that start on page 20. First, we get to peer inside Crate and Barrel’s 1.2 million square feet of LEED Gold certified distribution space in Tracy, Calif, the largest industrial facility in the country to achieve this lofty designation.

John Ling, vice president of supply chain and logistics for the trendsetting retailer, and his team are setting the standard for a concept we’re going to call “sustainable distribution”—and they started from the moment they broke ground.

By applying green initiatives, Crate and Barrel diverted 95% of the construction waste away from landfills and into a recycling program; reduced water consumption by 35% compared to a traditional warehouse design; and has pledged that at least 35% of the total energy usage will be from renewable sources. But that’s just the short list of green goals being met.

And while sustainability may be the headline it’s really only a part of the story. According to Ling, the operations inside the four walls will play a critical role in keeping the company out in front of a crowded market.

“It’s harder and harder to differentiate yourself as a retailer solely on merchandise uniqueness,” Ling tells Trebilcock. “Success often comes down to who can find the best product and get it to market the quickest and at the best value…our supply chain helps us accomplish that and the Tracy facility is an important link.”

Once you’ve been inspired by Crate and Barrel’s story you’re going to need to research the tools to do it yourself. On page 26, Trebilcock offers what I would call the most comprehensive collection of systems, equipment, technology, and insight currently available to help your organization usher in its own sustainable distribution plan.

Going green is already a priority in the board room, so it’s only a matter of time before sustainability initiatives like those we’re seeing from Crate and Barrel will filter down to your own operations—that is if you haven’t started already.

About the Author

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Michael Levans
Group Editorial Director

Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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