Over the past several years, manufacturing policies, the surge of eCommerce, and new research have brought increased scrutiny on environmental concerns. It’s one thing to get massive amounts of products into the hands of consumers in record time. But what about the cost to the environment in doing so? Here is why consumer consciousness has become a priority for businesses and how RFID technology can make your warehouse more sustainable.
More Concerned and Conscious Consumers
According to a recent U.S. Consumer Sustainability Survey, 68% of respondents viewed sustainability as a deciding factor when choosing a product. Products labeled as “sustainable” accounted for roughly $114 billion in revenue in 2019, a 29% increase from 2013.
While there may be a temptation to slap a “sustainability” label on products and be done with it, the Federal Trade Commission takes a dim view on inaccurate and misleading labeling. And any attempts at such would likely be a PR disaster for a brand.
The consumer pressure for sustainable packaging and products has led brands to make commitments to reduce their environmental impact. These commitments resonate throughout the supply chain, from sourcing to processing to transportation to storage to recycling and disposal. Many successful sustainability initiatives at the warehouse level involve the use of RFID technology solutions.
What is RFID Technology?
RFID is the acronym for “radio-frequency identification.” This refers to the technology in which digital data is encoded in smart labels, or RFID tags, which are captured through radio waves by a reader. Similar in some respects to bar codes, RFID has the advantage of not requiring a line-of-site for reading. A warehouse that uses RFID tags can get real-time data about the location of a tagged object as well as other useful information such as descriptions, temperature, and expiration dates.
The Role of RFID Technology in Creating a Sustainable Warehouse
A more efficient and reliable warehouse operation can also be a more sustainable one. After all, inefficiency breeds waste. Some of the ways RFID technology helps create a more sustainable warehouse include:
A common issue in the eCommerce industry, the overproduction of goods can lead to overstocking, product depreciation, and increased waste. You don’t want to have so much of a product on the shelves that it expires or goes out of style before it can be purchased and consumed. RFID tags can allow you to manage inventory in real-time to better match market demand and reduce waste.
Maximizes Storage Space
When you aren’t making the best use of your warehouse storage space, your business is wasting time and other valuable resources. Without having to open crates or boxes, RFID tags will tell you what items are present. This allows your business to plan and make the best use of its space, which can save time, labor, and energy.
Minimizes Unnecessary Labor
One of the biggest expenses a warehouse has is manhours. It takes significant labor to load and unload shipments, sort and store inventory, pick and pack products, and deal with reverse logistics. Inaccuracies or inefficiencies in this process can lead to errors and an increase in waste.
RFID tags can increase the efficiency of your internal processes by introducing various mobile solutions. For example, workers can use mobile carts with wearable or handheld terminals to improve accuracy and productivity in the warehouse.
Reduces Inefficient Transportation
One of the cornerstones of sustainability is reducing CO2 emissions. A more efficient warehouse can achieve this goal by improving visibility throughout the supply chain with RFID tags. This reduces or eliminates unnecessary truck deliveries, which will lower CO2 emissions.
Optimizes Internal Processes & Systems
RFID tags can be placed on key assets throughout the warehouse, in addition to the products being stored and transported. Through real-time tracking of warehouse assets, the business can maintain better maintenance routines and monitor systems to address trouble spots immediately. Assets and machinery running at the highest levels and reduced downtime in the warehouse will contribute to a more sustainable operation.
Identifies Opportunities for Reuse, Recycle, & Reduction
Some products will expire in the warehouse before being sold, and others will back through the reverse logistics process. RFID tags can give the business the real-time data it needs to identify opportunities to reuse or recycle those products or reduce waste when appropriate.
Use Cases for Sustainability Through RFID Technology
Here are a few companies that are making use of RFID technology and recognizing various benefits, including sustainability:
One of the pioneers of RFID tag implementation, retail giant Wal-Mart has significantly improved the efficiency of its supply chain using this technology. But there is also an environmental dimension to these efforts. By reducing unnecessary truck deliveries, the company says that it is drastically reducing exhaust emissions, benefitting the environment.
Waste and counterfeiting are significant problems in the fashion industry. Zara is a major international fashion retail brand that has implemented RFID asset management. The RFID solution tracks the company’s inventory, prevents counterfeiting, and reduces waste.
Historic Royal Palaces, London
While not a warehouse, the Historic Royal Palaces in London is showing organizations what can be accomplished with RFID tags by creating a “smart” building. The RFID technology links lights, air conditioners, projectors, and other machinery to employee tags so that systems are only in use when personnel are in specific zones, making the building more energy-efficient.
Supply chains and logistics operations are complex ecosystems. So, it’s not surprising that these systems require real-time, accurate data to be the most cost-effective and efficient. When businesses leverage RFID technology to get the right amount of products to the right place at the right time, they can reduce waste, save time, and minimize the overall environmental impact of the operation.