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Sustainability In The Food Supply Chain

Sustainability in the Food Supply Chain

As business owners, we want to give our customers the fastest service possible. Whether in Stockton, Sacramento, or anywhere in California, moving supplies and goods as quickly as we can has become the norm. Same-day shipping is becoming more common and in-demand from consumers, putting pressure on the supply chain to keep pushing and moving faster.

But that can cause multiple shipments from multiple facilities and extra trips for only a few items and not optimizing for route and packaging compilation. So how do we meet customers’ needs without compromising on sustainable practices? Insert sustainable logistics:

What is sustainable logistics?

Sustainable logistics, also known as “green logistics,” is the practice of minimizing the ecological impact of logistics activities. This means ensuring that all measures are made to cut emissions, waste, and other consumption to decrease the ecosystem footprint of logistics tasks.

Although some logistics providers are choosing to stick with the status quo, we see an emerging trend toward sustainability. Warehousing and logistics needs to start listening, because the data is out there that back a more green approach to our operations.

Sustainability Trends in Food Logistics

One IBM survey reported that over 50% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for brands that provide a more sustainable experience. Clearly, sustainability is on the minds of many consumers. And improving our practices is what is necessary for the future of the supply chain. Some manufacturers are concerned sustainability might then mean slower delivery time and rates, but truly food logistics can be both sustainable and efficient.

The recent pressures of COVID-19 have served to highlight among leaders the need to do things more efficiently, better, more sustainably. More than 70% of companies in every region of the world said that their commitment to sustainability improvements has either stayed the same or increased as a result of COVID-19.

The best way to have successful sustainability-centered logistics practices is by properly leveraging technology. We previously wrote on this in 2020, and although there are several trends that are still relevant, we are seeing some new trends in these few short years that we’d like to highlight or reframe for you.

1. Paperless Warehousing Operations

We’ve seen this trend for a while, but one of the earliest and still best steps to create sustainable logistics processes is implementing paperless warehousing operations. Everything from tasks, to data recording, to billing can easily be done paperless. Utilizing technology not only creates more ‘green’ operations, it allows logistics providers and their partners to work more seamlessly with online dashboards and digital communications that can’t get misplaced or lost in the mail. 

Prism Logistics was an early-mover into RFID scanning of goods and materials on entry and transitioning to fully paperless operations. From initial receipt through delivery and billing, we strive to minimize paper and speed communication, ensuring efficient 24/7 access to the right information for everyone involved.

2. Alternative Transport Methods

Bikes, drones, and even electric vehicles are becoming optimal modes of delivering goods. Especially in urban centers, bikes and drones can be faster than trucks, depending on the quantity delivered and the type of goods. Although this isn’t feasible for every operation, considering these as additional transport methods within a sustainable warehousing operation should be on everyone’s mind.

3. Micro-Warehouses 

It’s no surprise that having a warehouse closer to the final destination decreases the overall emissions of the product in distribution. Having micro-warehouses, or multiple warehouses in the locations you serve not only decreases emissions associated with your product but also decreases the time between manufacturer to retailer to end-consumer. 

Prism Logistics operates a growing network of distribution centers in Northern California, ready to service all of the western US, utilizing our closest facilities to your final destination to ensure fewer harmful emissions. 

4. Batching 

Batching means simply grouping goods together that are going to the same or close final destination within a similar timeframe. For example, if you have a palette of hot sauce and a palette of beer slated to be delivered a day apart to the same grocer, ideally you’d deliver both on the same day to save not only time on trucking but also emissions that go along with making two trips to the same destination.

5. Route Optimization

Similar to batching, route optimization means mapping out every delivery stop and trying to pair them together to make fewer trips to similar destinations. For example, say you still have that palette of hot sauce, but 1 is going to a Kroger and another is going to an Albertsons only 20 minutes apart, slated to be delivered a few days apart. Ideally, you’d deliver both on the same day to save time, trips, and emissions. 

6. Reduced or Recycled Packaging Materials

We all know the cheapest option isn’t likely the most sustainable. Packaging that either creates less waste or is able to be recycled more easily helps improve sustainable logistics. Reviewing the food goods being handled and determining if the extra layers of cardboard or plastic wrap are necessary, helps to reduce waste and overall impact of unnecessary packaging use. 

Final Thoughts on Sustainable Logistics

Sustainability isn’t only good for the environment, it’s also good for business. Consumers are becoming ever-more aware of some of the environmental impacts involved in the packaging, processing, and shipping of goods. We can have both green practices that don’t impact the bottom line.

In fact, many of the sustainable practices we suggested help improve the efficiency of operations along with reducing the environmental footprint. It just takes leveraging the appropriate technologies and taking the time and consideration to do so. 

But we also understand that implementing new technologies can be tedious and time-consuming. Reviewing routes, weighing transport options, and even analyzing packaging materials can mean hours spent experimenting and perfecting the outcomes. 

Working with a sustainable third-party logistics (3PL) provider can lighten the load when it comes to sustainable logistics. At Prism Logistics, we pride ourselves on staying on trend with technology and sustainable practices to ensure we’re creating an optimized and green experience. We invest in processes, people, and facilities to ensure our operations match our family values. We are family owned and operated for over 30 years and view our partner’s successes as our own. 

Learn more about our stance on food logistics, food safety, compliance measures, and sustainable practices here.

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