Sustainable intralogistics – how does the environmentally friendly handling of raw materials work? – eCommerce magazine


It is obvious that companies can increase efficiency in the production process and reduce costs through digitization. However, it is rather unknown that the environment also benefits from it. Thanks to digital solutions, the consumption of materials and energy, and thus also the house gas emissions, are reduced. In addition, digitization has a positive effect on product use and the end-of-life, as the VDI Resource Efficiency Center found out in the study “Impulses for more resource-efficient logistics” from 2020. That is why it is important to continuously optimize and systematically develop intralogistic processes. Today, for example, innovative technologies ensure that intelligent sensors and machines detect errors in the production process. If companies also link software systems and databases with systems, they improve work processes such as incoming and outgoing goods, storage and retrieval, order picking or returns management. These solutions also help with modernization. If they have flexible interfaces, they also enable the connection of existing systems from different manufacturers – there is no need to purchase a new one.

Digitization improves workflows, for example in incoming and outgoing goods or in order picking. Image: Sysmat

Sustainability only in the middle

In the eyes of many logistics companies, the trend towards more sustainability is not yet one of the top priorities. According to the study “Trends and Strategies in Logistics and Supply Chain Management” by the Institute for Logistics and Corporate Management at the TU Hamburg, they place the emerging cost pressure, cross-company exchange and complexity higher up. In the meantime, sustainability has a very high priority in society – not only in the corporate area. For this reason, the requirements on the customer side have changed significantly. Here, too, a change has taken place.

Developments around sustainability are advancing rapidly – here you can see a transfer car for pallets. Image: Sysmat

For the future, however, companies definitely see the emerging importance of the topic: Many companies are planning to increase the sustainable initiatives they have already implemented by 97 percent in the coming years, i.e. to almost double them. According to a study by Miebach Consulting, they primarily prefer measures that conserve resources. However, decision-makers fear high costs and possible production stops from retrofitting. However, companies can often achieve significantly better results with a manual or partially automated solution that grows with them.

The greatest fear in modernization: the impending production stop. Image: Sysmat

Fear of failure

If companies decide to introduce new solutions, there is a risk that software errors will occur. If the modernization reaches a certain point, the previous systems can hardly be used. Many companies are put off by this. In such cases, their production could come to a standstill – because they often supply from their own stocks. Therefore, the warehouses must remain full during the restructuring. Test phases that are carried out repeatedly can help. The advantage: During this time, the old systems remain in use until the final approval. With tests like this, companies don’t have to worry about failures. A study by the Center for Sustainable Logistics and Supply Chain also shows how important it is to implement new solutions or modernize them: three out of four companies have recognized that digitization will have a transformative impact in the next five years. They cite better supply chain transparency as one of the most important points in this context.

Sustainable intralogistics – elementary pillars

In addition to the planning and design of the intralogistic processes, the essential components of intralogistics include ensuring the smooth flow of information and the targeted control of the system components. These modules have a solid foundation when systems such as ERP or WMS or databases harmonize with the associated systems. Solutions that flexibly control processes have emerged as decisive. Material flow control and analysis are increasingly coming into focus. This is how companies increase resource efficiency. As part of an overarching strategy, digitization supports the analysis and optimization of processes and identifies sources of error. Transport and packaging processes can also be tailored precisely. The environment also benefits from digitized processes through emission savings. Sustainable intralogistics is no longer a dream of the future. Tools are already available today that companies can use to break new ground. The resulting costs are also amortized quickly due to the more efficient processes.

A large number of tools are now available so that companies can make their intralogistics more sustainable. Image: Sysmat

Also read: Returns management – 5 success factors for more sustainability.

Sustainable intralogistics, Rainer Schulz
Image: Sysmat

The author Rainer Schulz is the managing director of Sysmat GmbH. The company from Mainhausen offers a graphical material flow computer for automated systems, automatic warehouses and production lines in order to modernize systems regardless of the manufacturer.