The answer is really, really simple.
Don’t waste miles and
Don’t waste space.
Every mile you have to travel burns fuel, which burns cash and produces carbon. Thus, the best way to minimize your logistics cost is to reduce the amount of fuel, which is best done by reducing the number of miles you have to travel and maximizing the return from every mile. This is clarified by a recent article over on the Supply Chain @ MIT site on Delivering Green which presents three case studies in low-carbon logistics.
The article, which studied logistics operations at Ocean Spray, Caterpillar, and Boise found that each could reduce cost, and carbon, by optimizing their logistics network to reduce the number of miles travelled and optimizing the shipments to maximize the use of the space available in the truck, railcar, or shipping container.
For example, in the Ocean spray case study, when Ocean Spray partnered with the rail operator and fruit shipping companies to ship more product intermodally, they were able to reduce the n umber of empty boxcars that were returning empty to the Florida region, reduce transportation costs by 40%, and reduce emissions by 65%.
In the Caterpillar case study, when shipping and packaging efforts were combined and streamlined, which resulted in denser and more efficient shipments, Caterpillar, which imports parts from all over the globe for assembly at its Illinois manufacturing facility, was able to reduce its overall carbon emissions by over 340 tonnes of CO2 per year.
In the Boise Inc case study, Boise was only loading its railcars two pallets high and leaving a significant space between the second pallet and the roof. When it redesigned its pallet, it was able to fully utilize the capacity of the railcar. Doing so allowed the company to reduce its overall CO2 emissions by 190 tons.
Efficiency makes a big difference.