Recent studies have shown that transportation is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated that CO2 emissions from transportation surpassed two billion metric tons; it’s hard to imagine what that number looks like today. 

The realities of today’s complex global marketplace make fulfilling sustainability objectives anything but simple as companies navigate fulfillment, transportation and logistics challenges. However, the companies that change their foundational supply chain execution practices to enable efficient and effective transportation routes and asset management, not only operate optimally and profitably but also dramatically lower their waste, reduce hazardous emissions, and promote their overall environmental sustainability. 

There are agile technologies available today that can help lower business’ carbon footprints and enable them to operate responsibly through visibility, collaboration, and workflow optimization. Using a modern transportation management tool that fuses flexibility into distribution networks is effective in creating cleaner, smarter transportation strategies.  

Here are three key initiatives that are helping our customers meet their top-level, sustainable business objectives: 

1. Paperless Workflows: Many of today’s organizations, especially our own customers, have instituted paperless transportation planning and execution workflows. Not only does this help reduce paper waste, but it also frees up workers by eliminating manual processes and time-consuming activities that require a lot of paperwork. It also reduces the risk of failure, which is common for paper-driven processes. For example, the smallest error made by an employee, such as accidentally listing the wrong number in an intended address, can hold up deliveries or keep product stuck in customs.  

Through our transportation management offering, we have helped customers transition to paperless, mobile workflows that eliminate most manual paper-driven processes, including: 

  • Confirming pickup and drop quantities through scans 
  • Trailer check-in and check-out 
  • Dock scheduling and yard management 
  • Freight claims 
  • Digital signatures and shipping documents, including eBOL 

2. Carbon Cost Considerations: In transportation, reducing overall carbon footprint relies on planners making smarter decisions around carriers, modes and service levels. One way we are helping our customers achieve this is by incorporating carbon penalty costs within our optimization engine as well as the flexibility to influence the outcome. These defined penalty costs drive specific behaviors during the planning process, including favoring specific equipment, modes, or routing that may reduce handling. As an example, incorporating penalty costs may lead planners to select carriers that are committed to fuel efficiency and practices that limit emissions, such as those that are SmartWay certified

3. “What If” Analysis: Many of the older transportation solutions planned freight by minimizing miles. We have shifted away from this concept and moved toward multi-dimensional planning considerations that help our customers become more sustainable. By gathering data across the peripheral domains that impact the supply chain and carbon footprint, we can incorporate real-time information, such as traffic, weather, and congestion, along with other IoT sensory information, to understand the impact these inputs have on assets, idle time, driver hours, and more. From there, customers can evaluate sustainable alternatives and construct the most intelligent decisions that reduce emissions. 

We have introduced the concept of execution mode scheduling, which allows transportation management to automatically re-plan while a truck is moving if there are scheduling exceptions to help eliminate further waste and improve carbon footprinting scores. Other dimensions include 3D load building, dynamic order splitting, and integrated dock scheduling with the warehouse. Rather than only looking at cutting down driver miles, these extra considerations help to build a more realistic plan and allow our customers to become more sustainable through low environmental impacts.  

Many of the world’s supply chains have acquired a less-than-ideal reputation for their environmental impact, especially in the world of transportation. The increased focus on sustainability has added complexity to the determination of the best supply chain response, but digitalization and sophisticated software can help manage this business challenge. Leveraging a solution that can use real-time information to identify potential efficiencies, create a more executable plan that decreases emissions, all while quantifying your sustainable penalty costs, is key in building a sustainable supply chain.