Eight ways to create a more sustainable warehouse environment

Element Logic

Consistent with top-level concerns, supply chain leaders are shifting towards more sustainable warehouse operations. Warehouses have become a central point of attention for companies aiming to reduce their carbon footprint, given their significant environmental impact. 

Facilities within the supply chain, such as warehouses, hold vast opportunities for emission reduction. Globally, buildings are responsible for more than 40 percent of “aggregate direct and indirect CO2 emissions.” This isn’t surprising, considering warehouses are configured for human labour complete with aisles, lighting, climate control, and lots of unoccupied areas. 

However, warehouse owners and operators can take several steps to make their facilities greener, from choosing a facility’s location to automation. Here are eight ideas for improving sustainability in warehousing 

1. Reduce electrical costs  

Cutting electrical costs is pivotal to creating a sustainable warehouse environment. Motion-activated lighting and energy-efficient LEDs can significantly slash electricity usage without compromising safety or operational efficiency.  

According to Energy Star, the international voluntary programme for energy efficiency, LED light products are 90 percent more efficient at creating light than incandescent light bulbs. You should also consider using natural lighting through the roof or walls to further reduce the need for electrical lights as part of a sustainable warehouse design. 

2. Increase energy efficiency 

Energy efficiency is at the heart of a sustainable warehouse. Investing in high-efficiency heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, and improving insulation, minimises unnecessary energy expenditure. Additionally, using energy-efficient warehouse automation systems and conducting regular energy audits to address inefficiencies can further bolster the warehouse’s eco-friendly credentials while reducing operational costs. 

Warehouse robots such as those used in an AutoStore solution do not require lighting or heating to operate efficiently. They’re also highly energy efficient – a single robot typically uses about 100 watts per operating hour. Like electric vehicles, the robots use regenerative energy, returning power to the battery each time they lower a bin or reduce speed.  

Conscious energy use reduces environmental impact and also fosters more cost-effective operations, critical to maintaining a sustainable and profitable business. 

3. Harvest solar power 

Utilising solar energy positions a warehouse at the forefront of sustainability. Solar panels can power operations, charge electric handling equipment, and feed surplus energy back to the grid. Most warehouse facilities contain ample roof and land space for hosting solar panels to collect energy.  

Not only can you use the collected energy to power robots like AutoStore, but it can also turn your warehouse into a net-zero building. This transition to a renewable energy source aligns with eco-friendly practices and can generate significant cost savings over time, promoting both financial and environmental sustainability in warehousing. 

4. Increase space efficiency 

Optimising warehouse space is vital for environmental and operational efficiency. By utilising vertical space and implementing an automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), warehouses can dramatically increase their storage capacity without expanding their physical footprint.  

An AutoStore solution from Element Logic will give you four times the storage capacity in the same footprint as manual storage. In many cases, it can double the storage capacity compared to other goods-to-person systems, making it the ASRS with the highest storage density on the market.  

By compactly stacking bins vertically without aisles or unused shelves, companies report gaining up to 80% more storage capacity than a manual warehouse.This efficient use of space diminishes the need for additional construction, conserving natural resources and reinforcing the warehouse’s commitment to sustainability. 

5. Reduce waste 

Sustainable warehouses strive to minimise waste. A responsible supply chain also takes care of waste in a sustainable manner. Establishing effective recycling programmes, reusing packaging, and enhancing storage practices to avoid product damage are all crucial steps.  

At Element Logic, we work closely with our customers to design warehouse processes and systems for waste management and recycling. For instance, we can customise a waste management system that directly transfers waste from workstations to collection bins outside the building.  

By embracing a circular economy and zero-waste policies, warehouses can significantly reduce their environmental impact, solidifying their role in promoting sustainability. 

6. Control warehouse costs with smart tech 

Smart technology investments like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, data-driven warehouse analytics, and automated order picking systems can yield sustainability benefits. For example, sensors that can switch lights and heating on and off when the building is unoccupied can save considerable energy costs. Meanwhile, data-driven analytics can provide valuable insights into energy consumption patterns, equipment performance, and overall operational efficiency. By analysing data collected from various sensors and systems, businesses can identify areas for improvement, optimise energy usage, and reduce environmental impact. 

Such technologies enhance operational productivity and resource management, reducing running costs while supporting environmental stewardship. 

7. Improve working conditions through automation 

Implementing automation in a warehouse improves efficiency and worker satisfaction. Automated systems can alleviate physically demanding tasks, creating a healthier workplace and reducing staff turnover.  

Warehouse operators can replace strenuous, outdated manual processes and materials handling by automating picking activities with technology like automated storage and retrieval systems, autonomous mobile robots (MRs), or robotic piece picking solutions 

Some benefits of automated order picking systems include increased efficiency and productivity, improved accuracy, and far fewer, if any, picking errors. Businesses also save on labour costs, equipment, and maintenance. The biggest plus is that happy, engaged employees are central to a sustainable warehouse business model, making automation a clear win for productivity and personnel retention. 

8. Improve inventory management with cloud-based software 

Effective inventory management, underpinned by sophisticated warehouse software, is indispensable for material efficiency, and ensures that resources are not misused. Real-time stock monitoring reduces overstocking and waste, optimises order fulfilment, and aligns supply precisely with consumer demand. This precision minimises waste and ensures materials are utilised before they expire or become outdated. 

Utilising cloud-based software solutions allows for remote storage and retrieval of your inventory data, providing the flexibility to manage them on the go using any device. Furthermore, you can reduce expenses related to physical infrastructure, maintenance, and system updates. This enables you to advance your sustainability goals while maintaining high levels of service and reducing costs. 

A sustainable warehouse in action 

Sustainability is a top priority for German outdoor retailer Bergfreunde and one of the top reasons they invested in an AutoStore system from Element Logic in 2016. Initially designed for 1,800m2, they gradually expanded the system to 4,386m2 with 145,000 bins, 125 robots, and 31 energy-efficient carousel ports.  

Through this innovative storage solution, which requires considerably less energy than traditional systems – the equivalent of just one vacuum cleaner for ten AutoStore robots – Bergfreunde has cut CO2 emissions per package by 30%. The AutoStore system’s design eliminates the need for aisles, allowing only 30% of their facility to be lit, thus reducing power consumption and emissions. 

Bergfreunde also adopted the Logopak Eco-Labeler to decrease waste and implemented B+ sealing machines that reduce carton volume by up to 70%. This saves around 500 truck journeys annually due to a 30% reduction in transport volume. In their quest for sustainability, they also removed pneumatics, saving energy and lowering noise at workstations. 

In collaboration with Element Logic, Bergfreunde has made significant sustainability strides, while enhancing their order picking efficiency by over 500% and shortening the lead time from order to dispatch to under 3 hours. 

Want to learn more about creating a sustainable, automated warehouse with AutoStore? Contact one of our experts today. 

Written by Gavin Harrison, UK Sales Director, Element Logic

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