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Sustainable logistics - reduce warehouse consumables

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By Samir Saci

· 3 min read

The logistics industry has been for too long defensive or reactive when it comes to sustainability.

It was seen as a major barrier to cost reduction initiatives by operations managers that are facing profitability issues.

After six years of conducting reengineering and optimization projects, I can see many analogies and converging points between cost reduction and sustainability initiatives.

In this article, we will explore examples following several processes of warehouse management from product receiving to order shipments.

I. Distribution network of a fashion retailer


You are a logistic continuous improvement engineer in an international clothing group that has stores all around the world.

The company is producing garments, bags and accessories (including cosmetics) in factories located in Asia.

Stores are delivered from local warehouses that are directly replenished by factories.

Problem statement

You are starting a project to reduce the footprint of the warehouse operations for store deliveries.

Your focus will be mainly on cutting the usage of consumables and waste during the different warehousing processes.

III. Warehousing processes & consumables

In this section, we will understand how we can avoid using consumables to reduce the environmental impact of our operations.

Our focus will be on reducing the usage of

  • Plastic film for pallet wrapping
  • Paper for document printing
  • Carton and filling material for order packing


If the warehouse inventory is too low, supply planners send a replenishment order to the factories.

Transportation teams arrange shipments from the factories and inform the warehouse with an advanced shipment notice.

When the truck arrives, inbound teams organize the receiving of the pallets:

  • Remove the wrapping film of heterogeneous pallets (different references in the same pallet) to separate the cartons by reference
  • Print the receiving document from the WMS
  • Check and enter cartons quantities in the system using the receiving document
  • Wrap the pallets and put them away to stock

Order preparation

When a store needs replenishment, an order is received in the warehouse management process for preparation.

Picking process

Warehouse preparation operators pick individual items from the storage area to satisfy stores' orders.

Optimize handling units

The best scenario is when stores order full pallets, operators only need to take pallets from the stock and load them in the truck. If your store is ordering units, you need to pack them in cartons with filling material.

Optimize Ordering Process
If your stores are ordering by cartons or full pallets you avoid the packing process and reduce the consumption of filling material and cartons.

Order packing

Pre-cubing for packing
After piece picking, picked units are transferred to the packing area.

Individual items are packed in cartons and operators may add filling material to prevent shifting during the transportation and partially protect items inside.

III. Conclusion

All these initiatives are in line with the efforts of cost reduction and operational excellence.

You can adapt your continuous improvement methodologies to also track consumables usage and find alternatives that will not impact your productivity.

First, start with measuring the current consumption and environmental impact of your operations.

This article is also published on the author's blog. illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Samir Saci is a French Engineer with international experience designing and optimizing sustainable supply chain operations.

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