Top-4 Factors Around Going Green
When it comes to warehouse automation, it is important to know the impact that such an option has on an enterprise's mission to reduce the carbon footprint
The rapidly growing Asia Pacific region has accounted for a large percentage of carbon dioxide emissions. According to Statista, Asia Pacific produced 17.74 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2021, exceeding the combined total emissions of all the other regions in the same year. This calls for countries in Asia Pacific to explore sustainability initiatives to minimize environmental harm.
Sustainability has become a top priority for businesses, especially since consumers are beginning to pursue brands that go “green”. Many companies across all industries are rising to pledge their commitment to demonstrate environmental stewardship. While companies have many levers to pull to reduce the negative impact on the environment, supply chains have come into focus.
Within the supply chain, facilities have an enormous potential for reducing emissions. As warehouses are designed for human workers with aisles, lighting, environmental settings and empty spaces, these are reasons contributing to emissions. Now, companies are working on either converting or building eco-friendly and energy-efficient facilities. From LED lighting to renewable power such as solar, every aspect is considered. Automation and robots have also become a solution to reducing carbon footprint in warehouses.
Savings in electricity
Before automation and advanced innovations were introduced to industrial settings, the supply chain was one of the sectors that relied heavily on human labor. Hence, traditional warehouses were designed with humans in mind. Such warehouses would typically feature aisles between shelves, and the need for heating, cooling and lighting. Proper facility lighting is important to ensure employees are working in a safe and conducive environment. However, heating and lighting often account for high electrical consumption within the facilities, adding to the costs associated with warehouse operations, exacerbated especially in the current global energy crisis.
The introduction of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) now leads to significant electricity and emission savings. Since ASRS leverages software and robots, these systems can operate in the dark. Lights can be switched off and temperatures can be naturally lowered, since robots do not require conducive environmental settings to maintain productivity and efficiency.
While warehouse automation continues to soar, the consumption of energy in facilities is an increasingly prominent concern. It has become imperative for robotics to consume less energy. Now, robots are capable of regenerating energy, similar to the functions of an electric car. For instance, robots can return the power to the battery each time it lowers a bin or reduces speed. In fact, one robot uses 100 watts; a team of ten robots uses the same amount of energy as household appliances such as a refrigerator or a hair dryer.
Harness the power of the sun
Around the world, many logistics facilities are using solar energy to power their warehouses. IKEA, one of the foremost names in the global furniture market, strives towards 100 percent renewable energy throughout the entire value chain.
Recently, IKEA Japan announced the implementation of AutoStore, enabling robots to pick up goods from the high-density automated storage warehouse in tandem with customers’ orders. As IKEA Japan has been using 100 percent renewable electricity in its operation since 2008, AutoStore will also be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity. Besides, the installation of AutoStore to automatically pick up delivery items has replaced the manual work formerly done by human workers, yielding eight times greater efficiency.
Reduce warehouse footprint
Every year, approximately 6.13 billion square meters of new buildings were constructed, accounting for 3729 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. The reduction of carbon footprint does not only include energy savings, it also involves the need to reduce the physical footprint. By utilizing a complete ASRS, it harnesses the power of warehouse robots for order fulfillment around the clock within a cubic layout, further optimizing the space in warehouses.
While companies begin adopting warehouse automation, it is important to ensure such automation also reduces carbon footprint. Energy-efficient strategies and automated solutions have been widely shown to be cost-effective. While supply chains continue to evolve amidst unpredictable economies, automated storage and retrieval systems will be a route to warehouse sustainability. In the long haul, warehouse automation will assist companies in achieving financial and environmental sustainability, especially since many nations are beginning to look into taxation for emissions.
(About the author: Phillip Schitter is the vice-president of business development for the APAC region at AutoStore with a keen interest in areas such as intralogistics automation and smart warehouses. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author)