Green Materials Handling; Industry Outlook Survey

From conveyors to pallets, industry leaders make the case for how their products can make a difference to companies focused on the green supply chain
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By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
April 01, 2010 - MMH Editorial

Making the most of every kilowatt
With power companies calculating rates based on peak usage, how you manage your energy usage is important, says Ken Ruehrdanz, Dematic's (877-725-7500, http://www.dematic.com)) warehousing and distribution market manager. Using an energy-monitoring audit, Dematic collects and analyzes power consumption data of conveyors, sorters and automatic storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to better understand power usage. The system can then formulate a demand management plan that spreads out power usage and reduce peak usage of conveyors, sorters and other technology. This tactic reduces spikes in power usage and keeps the user in a lower price range.

Reducing your footprint with automated storage
For a company focused on minimizing its impact on the land and on saving energy, AS/RS has a green story to tell, says Dan Labell, president of Westfalia Technologies (717-764-115, http://www.westfaliausa.com)). “One of our customers produces organic dairy and meat products,” says Labell. “They chose AS/RS to conserve land use. But, they were also able to reduce their energy consumption because they could reduce interior lighting; they could use the rail supports to reduce the amount of stretch wrap on a pallet that might end up in the landfill; and restrict the size of the openings required to go into refrigerated and freezer areas to minimize heat loss.” In freezer applications, an AS/RS allows for a smaller area around the ceiling. “In cooled areas, the ceiling is the second place you lose heat,” Labell says.

Maximizing space, minimizing impact
“When it comes to green, AS/RS has a lot of benefits,” says John Clark, director of marketing for TGW-Ermanco (231-798-4547, http://www.tgw-ermanco.com)). “Any time you can take an existing facility and double or triple your storage footprint in an existing building without having to heat, cool or light that storage area, you're going to see savings.” In a new facility, Clark adds, AS/RS technology allows for a footprint that's a third or more smaller than a traditional environment. Meanwhile, TGW-Ermanco's conveyor technology uses electronic sensors to operate on-demand features. “You can interface with existing line shaft conveyor to change a portion of your system with the new technology without ripping out your existing system and starting over,” says Clark.

The economic triple bottom line
Corporate sustainability advocates like to talk about the economic triple bottom line. The idea is that done right, environmental stewardship and social responsibility lead to economic prosperity. Those concepts can be adapted to vertical and horizontal carousel solutions, says Ed Romaine, vice president of marketing for KardexRemstar (800-639-5805, http://www.kardexremstar.com)). Automated storage provides an environmental benefit because dense storage allows for a smaller building, reduced construction costs, and less maintenance and heating costs in the future. The product is socially responsible because it delivers assets to a workstation at an ergonomic height, providing access to work to the disabled and a graying workforce. Economic prosperity results from a more productive workforce. “By putting the right equipment in the right applications and for the right reasons, you'll see a return on your investment,” Romaine says.

Doing more with less
Even in these difficult times, companies are asking about sustainability, says Tom Coyne, CEO of System Logistics (207-784-1381, http://www.systemlogistics.com)). “We have been asked recently to quantify the energy consumption of our systems, to quantify the savings from high efficiency motors and to suggest ways to drive energy savings with our systems,” says Coyne. High density, automated storage systems deliver sustainable savings because they use space efficiently. “But, we are also using software and controls to make our equipment more efficient,” says Coyne. “ThWat allows us to use a smaller conveyor system and fewer motors and still meet throughput objectives.” System Logistics recently cut out a mile of conveyor over a traditional design for one customer that incorporated electricity generated from solar panels in the system. “We believe we can drive more sustainable benefits through software and design than by simply making the equipment more green,” Coyne says.



About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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