How to run a sustainable materials handling business

Let’s assume you’ve already sought specialist advice from someone like Fork Truck Direct on what forklift truck is the most environmentally friendly choice for your application. Then you’ve asked for our guidance on how to use that forklift truck sustainably in your materials handling operation.

The next question is how to adjust other activities at your premises to save on energy and raw materials. Remember that sustainably is not only good for the planet: it makes great economic sense too – and it’s good for your public image.

Switch off, turn down and insulate

The practical principles of energy economy are much the same as those you follow at home, but on a bigger scale. Cutting heating bills is largely about insulating to stop heat from escaping. Think about how much you lose through your loading dock doors – an area in which many specialists are available to advise. And when it comes to saving energy on air conditioning, look into what today’s HVLS (high volume low speed) fans can do.

At home you wouldn’t leave a light on in a room you weren’t using, so why do it at work? At least install a simple detector that turns the light on when you enter an area and off when there is no further movement. For long bulb life and low energy costs it’s worth considering LED lighting, and even an intelligent, automatically adjusting LED system. If you find you’re running lights indoors when the sun is shining brightly outdoors, why not use daylight tubes to bring the sunshine in – or add extra windows to your walls and roof?

Automate and rearrange

A warehouse populated entirely by automatically guided vehicles, automatic storage equipment and robots may not be everyone’s ambition but it certainly reduces the need for heat and light. On a smaller scale, could you reduce forklift truck travel and energy consumption by installing a conveyor system? Using one of those to move items into and out of a refrigerated area also allows for a smaller door and easier temperature maintenance. 

More generally, ask yourself whether changing routes or layouts in your premises could cut materials handling distances. Think vertically as well. A forklift truck will use less energy in lifting if your heavier loads are kept to the lower levels of your racking.

Monitor energy consumption and go for renewables

Today there are ways of monitoring electricity usage to help focus your energy-saving efforts where they will have most effect and to avoid heavy consumption at times of peak pricing. You should also think seriously about supplementing your supply with renewably generated energy. The technologies are getting better all the time, so have a fresh look at solar photovoltaic and solar thermal panels, wind turbines and air or ground source heat pumps.

Reduce, re-use and recycle

Businesses, like households, throw out loads of materials that could have been recycled. There may not always be a financial advantage to collecting and recycling them but we must all take some responsibility for reversing a throwaway culture. In materials handling we can sometimes actually save money by re-using packaging, containers and pallets. Lastly, we should help to encourage further recycling by choosing recycled products whenever we can.

Fork Truck Direct will be delighted to discuss these and any other issues relating to the efficiency of your materials handling operation.