Design for a Green Supply Chain

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Design for the Supply Chain Pt. 10: Environmentally Friendly

It's been a long time; I shouldn't have left you, without a new blog to read through! Now reread that with the rhythm and voice of "I Know You Got Soul" by Eric B. & Rakim. I was waylaid, but let’s get right into the next principle in the “10 Principles of Good Design” as applied to green supply chain and green supply chain management (Design for the Supply Chain).

Principle #9: Good design “Is environmentally friendly”

“Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.” – ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’

I was talking with my good friend and colleague Dan Fischer about the blog series and mentioned this principle. He told me about cases he had seen with some clever work on re-usable packaging, where the supplier’s packaging can be taken into its customers’ facilities and is either used to move the resulting product through the process and on to its next destination, or the empty containers go back to the supplier for use in a future delivery. This really requires end-to-end thinking about the supply chain and close collaboration between the partners in that chain. He also pointed me to How Novelis is Lightening Ford’s Load on the New F-150 Pickup, an interesting article that talks about…

“Novelis, the world’s largest aluminum recycler, showed Ford how it could afford the switch to higher-priced aluminum (adding about $750 per truck) by using recycled scrap instead of buying virgin aluminum mined from bauxite.

Together they created an innovative supply chain that allows Ford to recover a big chunk of its aluminum costs by selling the scrap back to its suppliers and reusing it. This is done by capturing the approximately 40% scrap metal from the vehicle body panel stamping process, separating the aluminum alloy scraps and sending them back to Novelis, which reprocesses the aluminum and ships giant coils of aluminum back to Ford’s stamping plants where the vehicle body panel stamping process begins again.”

These are great examples of ‘preservation of the environment’ and ‘conserving resources’ throughout the lifecycle of the supply chain. Given the focus in recent years on ‘green’ supply chains there are hundreds of other examples, including ‘minimizing physical pollution’ (see the Green Supply Chain - A Supply Chain Digest site). But what about ‘minimizing visual pollution’?

Wikipedia says, “Visual pollution is an aesthetic issue and refers to the impacts of pollution that impair one's ability to enjoy a vista or view.”  This is generally talked about in terms of obstructing the natural environment and I know we can all give natural environment examples (railroad tracks, exhaust from manufacturing facilities, chemical runoff, etc.) so there’s no need to cover that ground.

In terms of management of the supply chain, we talked previously about the supply chain design being unobtrusive, aesthetic, and useful, which included the psychological and aesthetic appeal factor that makes it fun and interesting both for the owner and the consumer of the supply chain. So I’m going to postulate that visual pollution can be thought of as any ‘irregular formation’ that obstructs or distracts us from being able to focus on (and enjoy) management of the supply chain.

For me, this would include poorly designed scorecards / dashboards / reports, cumbersome collaboration tools, lack of data integration, restrictive systems (e.g. not allowing me to do real-time what-if analysis), etc. As we enter the age of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) we need to keep all these design principles in mind to create solutions that don’t obstruct or distract us but actually enhance the psychological and aesthetic factors of supply chain management. My parting question this time is, “What do you consider visual pollution in the supply chain?”

Want to learn more about Design for the Supply Chain? Check out the rest of the series:

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