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Over the last few years, businesses in nearly every industry that you can think of have looked for new opportunities to create more sustainable, eco-friendly environments wherever possible. Not only does this help provide additional brand value by showing that your company values mirror those of your customers, but it also helps decrease waste, cut down on costs, AND do your part to help protect the environment - all at once.

But when you're talking about an office with fifteen employees in a major city, that's one thing. When you're talking about an environment as large and as complex as a supply chain, that's something else entirely.

In truth, it is absolutely possible to create a more sustainable supply chain sooner rather than later. It's a process that is also far more straightforward than you likely thought it was. All it requires is that you keep a few critical things in mind throughout your transformation.

The Power of Clean Energy

One of the major ways to help improve the eco-friendliness of supply chains has to do with prioritizing the use of clean energy wherever possible. While this concept is certainly nothing new in and of itself, what a lot of people might not realize is that this single act can actually help lower emissions around EVERY part of the supply chain - from warehouse to transportation to delivery and absolutely everything in between.

Switching to clean energy during transportation, for example, helps to mitigate risk from fossil fuel price fluctuations and can even help you stay ahead of (often costly) regulatory changes. Not only will this put you in a better position to keep pace with competitors, but it can also help you attract new supply chain partners and even customers who are very interested in your newfound sense of corporate responsibility.

But it certainly doesn't stop there. Creating a sustainable supply chain through clean energy not only helps decrease long-term costs but it can also help enhance your overall brand value, create new revenue opportunities, and better drive existing ones. It can even help improve employee engagement by making sure that your larger corporate values better align with those of your employees.

The Supply Chain and Robotics: The Way of the Future

By and large, one of the major moves that a lot of organizations are making when it comes to creating a more sustainable supply chain is the careful application of robotics - or, to put it another way, automation.

Process robotics, for example, is an idea that helps to automate the entire supply chain from end-to-end. Not just in terms of the individual tasks that employees are currently performing by hand, although that is a very important part of the conversation. Instead, the true goal is to allow the different sections of the supply chain to be essentially managed in conjunction with one another.

Think about it like this: when everything is automated in the exact same way using the exact same processes, it's easier to control the often unpredictable "ripple effect" that changes or even problems at one part of the chain create elsewhere in that environment. Planning, monitoring, and even coordination become far easier when you know precisely how a move is going to be executed from one end of the chain to the other.

This in turn brings with it a number of benefits almost immediately. For starters, it helps significantly reduce costs by helping you control your asset utilization. You can be sure that the assets you're investing in are being used to their full potential, improving your return on investment and cutting down on waste as well. Plus, the quality of the work being performed is always high and consistent as you're reducing the possibility for situations like human error as well. 

But not only that, you can free up the time of highly skilled professionals who were previously forced to deal with those menial, administrative tasks like planning and coordination. They suddenly have much more time in their day to focus on finding new ways to progress forward and grow, which itself is your key to maintaining a competitive advantage into the next decade and beyond. 

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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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