Anthony Beavis, Managing Director at Körber Supply Chain explains how a commitment to sustainability in the supply chain improves employee welfare and safety.
Sustainability factors and safe practices have become more important to investors, businesses, and society at large. Public perception is shifting the way business operates, with more incentive for companies to not only meet regulations but integrate a work culture of sustainability and safety into everyday practices.
Körber’s recent Supply Chain Benchmarking Report revealed sustainability is top of mind for supply chain professionals, with 89 per cent of respondents seeing decreasing their impact on the planet as a strategic or high priority.
Right next to sustainability in the findings, safety and labour engagement was a top priority for businesses. In Australia, stricter safety regulations as well as the introduction of advanced technology has placed a renewed focus on workplace health and safety.
By focusing on improving sustainability and safety, an opportunity exists to improve both top priorities simultaneously because of their interlapping nature. With new technology and automation paving the way for more efficient processes, which can in turn create greener, healthier, and safer facilities.
Automation and intelligent design don’t only help to build a “greener” supply chain, however – the right technology improves the wellbeing and safety of staff and operators, too.
Ensuring workers have a safe and healthy work environment must be the first priority for any organisation. Companies need to proactively identify and mitigate health and safety risks in their operations, supply chains, and products, including providing adequate training, protective equipment, and promoting a safety culture that encourages employees to report potential hazards without fear.
Current regulations are not only a legal and ethical responsibility for businesses, but serve to improve employee well-being, providing frameworks for responsible operations which prioritise the planet and people.
Automating labour-intensive tasks such as load movements through the warehouse, removal of goods from racks and the management of product locations provides a more inviting environment for workers. While staff are safer and more engaged, such changes improve the efficiency of the facility, therefore reducing emissions and waste for the same amount – or more – of volume going out the door.
Solutions for improving sustainability and safety
Identifying specific bottlenecks in warehouse operations through warehouse design, efficient energy solutions, and the deployment of automation can lead to not only cost and time savings, but also a safer and more sustainable working environment.
Actions such as replacing lighting with LEDs, utilising solar panels, automating labour-intensive tasks, and consistently condition monitoring equipment all contribute to an improved warehouse environment for people and the planet. If warehouse staff feel safe and valued, it has a flow-on effect to improve efficiencies and the overall sustainability of the facility.
Supply chain solutions helping companies reach sustainability targets include:
- Warehouse Management Systems – An intelligent, flexible WMS helps in a myriad of ways, reducing unnecessary tasks, workflows, and movement in the warehouse.
- Autonomous Mobile Robots – Paper pick lists can be a huge source of supply chain waste. The data collected by these robots can be used to identify areas of inefficiency and implement improvements.
- Warehouse Automation and Material Handling Equipment – Automation removes labour-intensive works and utilises the verticality of a warehouse, enabling more throughput across a smaller footprint.
- Supply Chain Network Design – Optimising transport options and routes by determining the best location for a particular warehouse.
- Transportation Management Systems – More efficient truck routes lead to lower emissions.
- Voice enabled solutions – Reduces paper waste and unnecessary shipping. Receiving instructions and confirming information through a headset means fewer errors in picking and fewer customer returns.
At Körber, we practise what we preach, and are working to have climate-neutral production at more than 100 locations worldwide by as early as 2025. An initial package of sustainability measures was already decided and initiated in 2021, including the switch to climate-neutral energy, the expansion of photovoltaic systems, and the improvement of energy efficiency at production sites.
Körber’s suite of technology is continually supporting our customers on their own sustainability journeys, too. A broad technological expertise in voice, mobility, software, and automation solutions is helping major retailers set sustainability and safety benchmarks for industry.
For instance, working with Körber at its Customer Fulfilment Centre (CFC) in Derrimut, Victoria and recently built CFC in Western Australia, Officeworks installed LED lighting, a building energy management system and a solar photovoltaics system which will power its automation solution.
Solar panels on the roof of the facility reduce emissions and help power the new technology, including voice, Warehouse Management System and Autonomous Mobile Robots – the first ever solar-powered AMR solution in Australia.
AMRs are helping to reduce repetitive and strenuous work in the warehouse, significantly reducing the requirement for staff to walk long distances around the DC.
When examining paths forward to meet new sustainability expectations, it’s important to create solutions which weave in safety improvements at the same time. Supply chain professionals constantly face economic challenges, but embracing technology to make people safer and processes more efficient pays off in the long run.
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