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Energy Efficiency Part VI – Energy in the Supply Chain

With growing concerns about fuel prices, long-term energy availability, and climate change, companies are turning towards the supply chain as on of the one of the places where energy can be conserved. This includes the sourcing, manufacturing, transportation, distribution, consumption, and disposal of goods.  An increasing number of goods are being shipped internationally, the energy used and the environmental impact can be reduced through better, more efficient coordination and tracking


Global transportation solutions can increase efficiency by improving the co-ordination, strategy and logistics surrounding the movement of goods through multiple countries. Each jurisdictions regulation has to be taken into consideration. Modes of transit, trade restrictions, container size, and route restrictions are all part of the planning process.  By including the cost of energy for option an effective and efficient transport plan can be created.

Even the best plan can run into problems. When crises occur, hurricanes, vessel breakdowns, bridge collapses, the plan has to be revaluated.  Now not can respond to the crises, but you can do so in an environmentally friendly way.

One aspect of these cross jurisdictional shipments that is often overlooked, yet can have a significant impact is documentation. Every jurisdiction has its own documentation requirements and in some cases in multiple languages.

Companies worry about the sales and delivery impact of shipment being held up, stuck in ports or in customs and usually concentrate of the physical aspects of the shipment. But being held up due to incomplete documentation is also a problem and also results in an environmental impact. The additional storage time, inefficient movement of those goods, extra storage costs in time, resources for storage (heating, lighting, cooling, etc.) all contribute to additional energy usage & a negative environmental impact. The planning solutions which provided an optimized schedule and routing can be undone by something as simple as the incorrect form. This means that these solutions must be integrated into the execution systems so that the complete and correct documentation for the planned route can be provided.

Even domestic shipments can benefit from better planning. Software solutions that take into consideration  detailed route planning, road conditions, which side of the street the customer is on, the location of the equipment (via GPS communication)  are available and  can provide the ‘best possible path’ through a series of stops and ensures operators spend as little time as possible at each stop. Communication with the transport operator can alert them about traffic hold ups and plan an alternate routes, cutting down on the time spent consuming energy for no benefit stuck in traffic.

United Parcel Service Inc. for example, wanted to cut down on the fuel its fleet of 94,000 ground vehicles uses.  UPS began experimenting with a software program it developed itself. This program helps optimize driving time on routes by programming, for example, right turns only on certain New York City runs. “We know how hard it is to make a left turn versus a right turn,” says David Barnes, UPS’s chief information officer.Using this software, Mr. Barnes says UPS trucks drove 30 million fewer miles last year, or a reduction of almost 2% in the company’s annual global mileage. UPS is saving an average three million gallons of fuel a year, while reducing carbon emissions by 31,000 metric tons, the company says·       

  • Source: Wall Street Journal By Jim Carlton March 11, 2008; Page B3

This optimization should not be just limited to delivery planning, but used in the picking of the shipment it self. Significant inefficiencies can be seen in the warehouse, where the same route has to be covered over and over again to pick & store goods.

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