Sustainability, Like Automation, Is Good Business, Says Automate Panel

In the News
April 04, 2017

CHICAGO — Sustainability is entering all areas of the automation business, and the advancements are not just for environmental purposes.

They can also benefit the corporate bottom line, said Andrew Winston during a panel kicking off the Automate/ProMat 2017 shows here yesterday.

Businesses are recognizing that environmental concerns are already affecting their supply chains, said Winston, author of Green to Gold. This is prompting companies in all parts of the supply chain to seek sustainable materials, processes, and designs that will enable them to save on energy and commodity input costs now and in the future.

“The cost of the commodity inputs keep rising, but the cost of the technology keeps dropping,” he said. “Innovating helps build brand value.”

Business Takeaways:

  • One of the first panels at this year’s Automate focused on how environmental sustainability can help businesses become more efficient, just as industrial automation can.
  • Case studies included UPS, Boeing, and REI. Major U.S. companies are leading the way in using robotics and artificial intelligence to optimize their operations and save energy and money.
  • A culture of sustainability can also help attract technology workers amid the ongoing skills shortage.

UPS looks for efficiency

Logistics innovation is key for United Parcel Service Inc. to tightly manage its fuel costs and maximize efficiency for its massive fleet of ground vehicles and aircraft, said Tamara Barker, the company’s chief sustainability officer and vice president of environmental affairs.

UPS could save $50 million if drivers could reduce their driving by just a mile a day, she said. So it continues to tweak its On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION) system, looking for further improvements in routes and delivery schedules.

The delivery company spent a decade developing the system, which it initially deployed in 2013 and is now deployed across all of its 55,000 U.S. routes.

ORION saves UPS about 100 million miles per year. That’s a reduction of 10 million gallons of fuel consumed. It also reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about 100,000 metric tons.

“The company is consistently collecting data to improve the system,” Barker added. UPS looks at driver habits, route changes, road improvements, and other changes that can be rolled out across its fleet.

Though there will be incremental improvements along the way, the next major change for ORION is expected to be in 2019, when UPS plans to provide route data to drivers in real time. This will enabling them to recognize unexpected route changes because of factors that have changed since the truck left the regional or local facility.

Beyond reducing miles driven, UPS also continues to work on alternative fuel usage to reduce carbon emissions and save money, Barker said. UPS has been using alternative fuels since the turn of the century, and it has logged more than 1 billion miles for its alternative-fuel fleet. She estimated that the company drives more than 1 million miles every day with...

Continue Reading