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The symbiosis of sustainability and load carrier management

Dr. Philipp Hüning & Carmen Riehemann
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If you take a look at literature, sustainability is often defined as a triad of ecology, economy and social issues. This means that sustainability seeks the balance between the needs of our environment, our economy and our society. In other words, sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without jeopardizing the opportunities of future generations.

Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without jeopardizing the opportunities of future generations.

In ecology, this primarily serves to protect our natural resources; wood in particular has come into focus more and more in recent years. Prices are also rising in logistics due to scarce raw materials. In comparison, a euro pallet, for example, costs up to three times as much as in 2020, plus significantly larger fluctuations, depending on availability and demand. From an economic point of view, sustainability is particularly true when these raw materials can be used repeatedly, because scarce resources are often expensive resources and can bring significant financial benefits through a reusable system if you know how to use them. And only if companies use sustainable materials (ecologically sustainable) and recyclable products (economically sustainable) can they also meet their responsibility of social sustainability, i.e. intergenerational equity.

Sustainability related to load carriers

It is therefore worth taking a closer look at the issue of sustainability from the perspective of load carriers: It is true that industry has always used a pleasing number of reusable solutions — from pallets to containers to various special load carriers. At the same time, however, disposable solutions still exist, particularly in the area of wooden pallets. There, they are used to compensate for (seasonal) fluctuations and deliver goods to countries where the exchange of European pallets does not work.

A euro pallet on the wrong track

The use of reusable pallets therefore fails here due to the management of the load carriers or the pool. Inefficient load carrier management also causes high stocks of empties, which in turn lead to a need for newly produced load carriers (ecologically unsustainable) and also cause capital commitment costs (economically unsustainable). In order to balance these empties, empties are transported between locations, customers and suppliers. However, there is often only a 1-to-1 relationship and long distances are traveled instead of serving the needs of another company nearby. Last but not least, load carrier processes are usually documented on paper. In addition to the time delay due to subsequent manual entry into the system and the resulting lack of real-time transparency, this of course also has ecological effects.

Logistikbude's contribution to sustainability

The logistics shop's software makes an important contribution to the sustainable use of load carriers: First, the management of reusable load carriers is significantly facilitated, which means that reusable solutions can be used more economically than single-use solutions in most cases. In addition, the completely digital approach can save paper for documenting exchange processes and also digitize other paper-based processes such as delivery notes.

However, the most important contribution to sustainability is the increase in circulation speed: Similar to how empties are collected in drinks in the private environment, while the focus is on always having enough full bottles, supply chains also focus on full cargo processes (see also What load carrier management has to do with crates of beer at home). As a result, empties accumulate after production or picking and are only picked up again when a corresponding manual request is received. By making these inventories transparent in real time using the logistics shed software and enabling automatic recovery via email notification, the turnaround speed can be significantly increased. This in turn means that existing load carriers can be used more economically and fewer new ones have to be produced.

A glimpse into the future

Finally, this article is intended to provide a brief glimpse of the future: In addition to reusable properties in the business world, new reusable concepts are currently increasingly being developed in collaboration with consumers. In addition to e-commerce packaging, (who likes to collect boxes at home?) , it is particularly worth taking a look at food packaging here.

A lonely pizza box

Anyone who has food delivered to their home knows the mountains of trash that goes with it. And this is also a thorn in the side of the EU: From 2023, every restaurant must offer reusable containers for food and drinks. Industry leader (including Lieferando) alone placed almost 300 million orders for Northern Europe in 2021. With several dishes per order and also other delivery services, the need for reusable food packaging is therefore several billion. A huge market is opening up here and numerous start-ups and established packaging manufacturers have recognized this. Intelligent pool management will also play a decisive role in success here. And unlike in B2B, the simplest possible use for the customer will be the decisive criterion for success.