Feedback from our customers led to a sustainability initiative that lowered Solar’s annual use of packaging, created better work environment and improved profitability.
Every day, our central warehouse in Örebro, Sweden, ships more than 2,000 packages. This, of course, results in a significant use of cardboard boxes and bubble wrap. But last year, we received feedback from customers, saying that there was a lot of empty space in the cardboard boxes. With the customers’ feedback in hand, Per Häll, Warehouse Manager in Örebro and Bent Frisk, Warehouse Manager in Vejen in Denmark, started their search for a solution that could reduce the amount of packaging.
“The problem sounds pretty basic, but in a highly automated central warehouse system, changes can be hard to come by,” Per Häll says.
According to Per Häll, one of the first objectives was getting the resources to make the change. So early in the process, he developed a business case to show the potential gains from the needed investment. In reality, this mind set of creating a sustainable solution for both business and environment was central to the project, explains Sustainability Manager Joanna Uckelstram, who works together with the Swedish management on a range of sustainability initiatives.
“Based on the inputs from our customers, the central warehouse and Per Häll, we decided to look into the different options of enhancing our use of packaging,” she says and points to the fact that Solar has a holistic and practical view on working with sustainability.
“It is great to see that feedback from our customers can lead to a change that supports our sustainability efforts in an environmental, an economical as well as a social dimension.”
220 fewer boxes per day
The extra space in the boxes was caused by a limitation in the warehouse IT system, meaning that each tray only contained up to seven product types. Following a lot of research involving a range of stakeholders in Sweden and Denmark, it was found that the limitation could be changed by making an alteration in the IT system controlling the warehouse. The change in the IT system allowed more items in each box, which raised the filling level and hereby lowered our use of cardboard boxes a total of 55,000 per year in Sweden and close to 100,000 in Denmark. Joanna Uckelstram says:
“The teamwork and the many stakeholders are the real reason why we found a good solution that supports better use of our resources. The central warehouse team has done a fantastic job and management have supported the process with monthly follow-ups and in decisions regarding large investments in the solution.”
Besides contributing to a better use of natural resources, the solution has also lowered the employees’ stress levels, because it has reduced the amount of overtime work.
“I have felt a big difference since I started at Solar two years ago. It has become easier for us to control the flow in the department. In addition, it has become less stressful to do the picking and packing at the warehouse, where we handle more than 27,000 different products. So the initiative has made the employees happier,” says Mathilda Åkerblom, Area Manager at the central warehouse in Örebro.
Next stop for the team is implementing the solution at Solar Sverige’s central warehouse in Halmstad.