Category: Supply Chain

Seeing Green

“Going Green” has become more than just a buzzword in the beverage business, it has evolved into an operational philosophy that often factors into improving a company’s bottom line. Transitioning to more environmentally friendly fuels and energy-efficient processes helps the environment and improves a company’s image in the community, but, at the same time, in the long run, “green” practices improve efficiency and result in cost savings. Whether it’s in the warehouse or out in the field, beverage distributors are increasingly finding innovative ways to incorporate progressive environmentally sustainable business practices into their operations and this month we recognize notable “Green Teams” across the beverage supply chain.

Energy Efficiency

For the management team at The Beer Store, an Ontario, Canada-based beer wholesaler, distributor and retailer, heating the cavernous warehouses in the Canadian winter was always a challenge. The company invested in large diameter, low-speed fans from the Big Ass Fan Co. as a solution to regulating warehouse temperatures while also reducing natural gas usage. According to Mark Lynch, facility manager at The Beer Store, temperatures within the facility, which has 34-foot high ceilings, could vary between 10 to 15 degrees from floor to ceiling. The company installed two 24-foot diameter Powerfoil X fans to help destratify the air. The fans help to mix the air, reducing the buildup of hot air at the ceiling, which usually resulted in heat loss through the roof and walls, and therefore decreases gas usage. According to the Big Ass Fan Co., one year after the fans’ installation, The Beer Store tracked a 19-percent reduction in gas usage while equalizing the temperature in the facility.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Union Beer Distributors decided to harness the power of the sun to help offset high energy usage during the summer season to refrigerate its beer. Last December, the distributor activated the largest private solar installation by an American company in the NYC metro area. The array generates 100kW of power on the roof of the 120,000-square-foot beer wholesaler, which is a division of L. Knife & Son Cos.

Sustainable Innovations

With beverage companies and distributors increasingly eco-conscious, several suppliers recently have introduced greener solutions to common supply chain challenges.

Pallets International introduced a “green” pallet, a lightweight, wood-corrugated composite pi pallet. At 15 pounds, the pi pallet weights 65- to 70-percent less than an average wood pallet yet can haul and rack similar loads. It’s reusable, recyclable and saves fuel, which makes it eco-friendly.

When it comes to better waste management, Satellite Logistics Group introduced EcoBev, a national turnkey solution for collecting and destroying unsaleable beverage products. According to the company, it’s an efficient, economically friendly and EPA-compliant method for getting rid of unsold product as opposed to do-it-yourself disposal or sending product to landfills. And, distributors can capture typically unclaimed state and federal tax dollars, the company says.

Getting A Lift

Charlotte, N.C.-based Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated (CCBCC) transitioned its forklift fleet at its production facility to run on hydrogen fuel cells, pioneering a new “green” power. Beginning in June, the largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the US began using 35 Crown and five Yale counterbalanced class 1 lift trucks. The company bought 40 new forklifts that were the shells of battery-powered forklifts, then had the hydrogen fuel cells built into the lift trucks, Lauren Steele, CCBCC vice president, says. “The hydrogen fuel cell technology follows major strides in environmental stewardship, including aggressive recycling programs, high-efficiency lighting and one of the best water usage ratios in the world at our Charlotte plant,” Steele says. The hydrogen technology requires only a three-minute fuel time and allows for six to eight hours of use and the fuel cell-powered equipment will operate at 100 percent power through the entire fill of hydrogen. “We expect to improve both our operating costs and our productivity,” says Bo Calloway, director of fleet operations at CCBCC. The company is now looking into converting some of its lightweight trucks as well as forklifts at other facilities.

Greener Deliveries

A greater awareness about carbon footprints and the rising cost of gasoline has prompted many beverage companies to explore alternative fuels for their delivery fleets.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Powers Distributing Co. started its commitment to making its fleet “greener” back in 2008 when it switched its fleet of more than 50 trucks from regular diesel to biodiesel. In 2009, the distributor purchased 15 International DuraStar Hybrid Medium Duty Trucks. According to International, the hybrid trucks realized a 33 percent improvement in greenhouse gas emissions. The company’s most recent addition was a Peterbilt hybrid truck, which reportedly has 30 percent better fuel efficiency than a comparable standard diesel-powered truck.

Silver Eagle Distributors, based in Houston, has been a pioneer in alternative fuels among beverage distribution fleets, as it experimented with compressed natural gas for its fleet back in 2006. While the conversion to natural gas certainly cuts down on the fleets’ carbon emissions and pollution, volatile gas prices have also been a major incentive to explore alternative fuels, says Ed Pritchard, Silver Eagle’s vice president of operations and purchasing. Pritchard also points out that 98 percent of all natural gas supply comes from the US and Canada, with bio-methane from landfill gas and wastewater treatment plants further increasing the supply. Conversely, 70 percent of the crude oil used in the U.S. is imported. Currently, 20 percent of Silver Eagle’s 343 delivery trucks run on some form of alternative fuel.

“Going forward, Silver Eagle has plans to add more CNG delivery trucks to the Houston market. In addition, we have plans to build a public access natural gas fueling station on our property and then purchase as many as 40 additional CNG delivery trucks for our San Antonio market over the next few years,” Pritchard says. “We see natural gas as a viable option to help control operating costs in the coming years.”

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