The demand for warehouse space has accelerated in recent years. Numerous industries, from ecommerce to manufacturing, have witnessed significant growth resulting from increasing consumer demand and the need for warehousing space has surged alongside this.
The amount of warehouse space has risen by 32% in the UK since 2015 to 566 million sq ft (2021) and there will only be more requirements in the future. Vast ‘warehouse cities’ are currently being built across the UK and with warehousing becoming a large part of the economy and national infrastructure, the question must be asked: is this sustainable? Alexander Baal, Director of Sales Operations, Jungheinrich UK, outlines that in order to safeguard the future and ensure that the logistics industry is sustainable, businesses need to implement environment-friendly solutions into their warehouse operations from the ground up.
The UK government has outlined measures to encourage sustainability among industries and promote environmentally friendly practices. From climate change agreements (CCAs) to legislation which aims to guarantee an end to the UK’s contribution to global warming by 2050 and reduce all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by this data or sooner, the government is taking a serious step towards sustainability. With 2020 being the joint hottest year on record, now is the time for logistics companies to take sustainability seriously amid rising warehouse demand.
The removal of the Red Diesel business entitlement in 2022 means that many companies will need to overhaul their diesel materials handling equipment, demonstrating how the government is putting pressure on industries to reduce their carbon footprint. In light of this, companies need to consider introducing more energy efficient alternatives to reduce emissions,protect the environment and future proof their organisation.
Optimising warehouse operations
As more warehouses are being built to satisfy demand, companies should be implementing technology that optimises both space and operations, improving efficiency and productivity from the start, and incorporating sustainable initiatives from the ground up.
Additionally, warehouse automation and robotics can aid the warehouse for monotonous tasks, such as picking, packing and transporting in order to save time and reduce emissions. For instances where full automation isn’t possible or necessary, key aspects of processes can be automated for a hybrid approach, ensuring the most optimum levels of efficiency across every role and requirement.
Latest innovations in warehouse optimisation also makes it possible to store over 13 meters, meaning that space is totally utilised and the need for new warehouses to be built can be reduced. Forklift trucks designed to reach this height both safely and securely can support these operations to be as efficient as possible. With intuitive technology that recognises the weight of the load, the height of the mass and when to move fast and to slow down for optimised operation, can add speed, value and safety.
Enhancing the fleet
By using materials handling equipment powered by lithium-ion batteries, businesses can experience both productivity and efficiency gains. Enabling operations to capitalise on opportunity charging, during short scheduled breaks, rather than waiting for extended periods of time for the battery to charge, means that these trucks can support 24x7 operations. With rapid charging capabilities, this enables companies to increase profits and ensure business continuity without costing the environment. Less energy is wasted during the recharge process and during the truck’s operational shift because energy is harvested through direction changes and braking, resulting in lower energy consumption and costs.
Lithium-ion batteries have an extended life expectancy of many thousands of full cycles and a higher number of partial cycles by comparison to the average life of a lead-acid battery. Offering numerous operational and commercial benefits compared to diesel and gas-powered trucks, lithium-ion batteries provide cost savings as there is a very small drop in remaining capacity experienced over the lifecycle of the battery, reducing maintenance requirements.
Businesses can reuse batteries, improve battery collection and recycle materials. This promotes a circular economy, reduces waste associated with batteries and the environmental and social impact of the battery life cycle. Additionally, refurbishing these lithium-ion trucks can further contribute to a company's sustainability goals by capitalising on the benefits from a fleet or truck’s second life. Logistics companies can therefore unlock significant productivity, efficiency and cost benefits by reusing, recycling and using high quality refurbished equipment that promotes energy efficiency.
The pressures on increasing sustainability are increasing and as the logistics industry continues to grow, the focus must shift onto ensuring the most efficient and productive environmentally friendly operations. The growth of warehousing will continue in line with increasing consumer demand and now is the time for organisations to put sustainability at the forefront of their warehouse plans as they build from the ground up. Introducing efficiency into the materials handling fleet will further allow organisations to introduce all encompassing sustainability into their warehouse operations which is essential to survive now and thrive in the future.