Delivering Green: Three Case Studies in Low-Carbon Logistics
Supply chain sustainability projects are often sold on the argument that going green makes good business sense. Here are three case studies that offer clear, irrefutable evidence that sustainability and profitability can be compatible in the supply chain domain.
Logistics is a leading source of carbon. Nearly 6 percent of the greenhouse gases generated by humans come from the flow of products to consumers. Reducing these emissions takes more than setting goals; it requires clear, measurable initiatives that hit sustainability targets while delivering lower costs and higher service levels.
Sponsored by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), MIT CTL worked alongside three US companies to help them quantify the carbon footprint of some of their logistics initiatives. The goal was to document the projects, and illustrate to other companies that it is possible to reduce cost and become more environmentally friendly. Here is a summary of each project.
Ocean Spray: Leveraging Distribution Network Redesign
In this case study we present two Ocean Spray initiatives – distribution network redesign and intermodal shift from road to rail – that in combination led to a 20% reduction in transportation CO2 emissions, while achieving comparable cost savings across the transportation network.
Ocean Spray, CSX (the rail operator), and fruit shipping companies partnered in order to enable Ocean Spray to ship more products intermodally from its New Jersey distribution center to the company’s Florida facility. Prior to the collaboration, these boxcars were returning empty to the Florida region. Shipments that shifted to intermodal generated 65% less emissions while saving over 40% of transportation costs.
Ocean Spray added new manufacturing and distribution capabilities in Florida to support the company’s growing customer base. To fully and effectively utilize these additions, Ocean Spray conducted a national network re-design project to determine which customers will receive product from the new location. Ocean Spray projected that over 17% of the total shipments will be served from the new facility.
Caterpillar: Light-Weighting and Inbound Consolidation
In this case study, we analyzed the inbound shipping operations of Caterpillar’s North American large mining truck facility to determine – based on weight, packaging, routing, and scheduling – opportunities to streamline shipping protocols, and thus reduce carbon emissions associated with the supply chain. When combined, the streamlined shipping and packaging efforts could reduce Caterpillar’s overall carbon emissions by 340-730 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Caterpillar uses steel containers to transport parts, and the company has been working for the past four years to phase out these steel containers and replace them with plastic containers, which weigh considerably less.
To construct the very large vehicles used in the mining industry, parts are shipped from all over the globe for assembly at Caterpillar’s manufacturing facility in Decatur, Illinois. We analyzed historical shipment data to identify areas where shipments could be consolidated to save fuel and reduce vehicle CO2 emissions.
Boise: Leveraging Rail Direct Service
Boise Inc. has launched two initiatives to improve its logistics operations and environmental performance. The Carload Direct Initiative is shifting product transport to rail, and the Three-Tier Pallet Initiative is increasing railcar utilization. Both initiatives have resulted in a combined 62-72% reduction in the company’s CO2 emissions, as well as cost savings on those shipments.
Traditionally, manufacturers use trucks, or a mix of trucks and rail, to transport their products to customers. As trucks produce greater emissions than trains, a logical way to reduce emissions is to minimize the use of trucks and maximize the use of rail. Boise coordinated with its customers to promote rail transport so that product could be sent directly from the manufacturing plant to the customer’s warehouse. The transition from using a mix of truck and rail to exclusively rail eliminated more than 2,600 tons of C02; the equivalent of saving over 264,000 gallons of fuel consumed by road vehicles.
Prior to this project, railcars were loaded two pallets high, leaving a space from the top of the second pallet to the roof of the railcar, thus under-utilizing the full capacity of the railcar. Boise redesigned its pallets and loading structure by creating a half-pallet, which allowed the company to rethink pallet stacking and maximize shipping capacities for its loads. These redesigns maximized carloads by reducing the number of shipments required to deliver product. Using just 930 railcars in 2011 reduced the company’s C02 emissions by 190 tons, which is equal to the C02 emissions from 21,637 gallons of fuel consumed by road vehicles.
Results like these can persuade even the most skeptical executives that a greener supply chain delivers green.
This article was written by Dr. Edgar, Research Director, Carbon Efficient Supply Chains Research Project, MIT CTL, and co-founder of the LEAP consortium, [email protected] The case studies described in this post are available here.
The article was also published on the MIT Supply Chain blog.
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