Moving Our Products the Green Way

Nov 06, 2017

By George D’Urso
Director of Fiber Sustainability, WestRock Company

At WestRock, we not only want to meet our customers’ expectations for on-time delivery; we also want to reduce the environmental impact of our transportation systems.

That is one reason we implemented a vehicle-optimization tool at 14 of our North American containerboard and consumer mills. It has allowed us to optimize the way we load and ship cargo from our manufacturing locations throughout the United States, reducing both the environmental impact and freight costs.

In collaboration with a software vendor, WestRock enhanced and deployed a tool that uses transportation equipment, standard roll handling practices, and order size specifications from new production orders and floor inventory to calculate the optimum load pattern and weight per truck, railcar or intermodal container.

This system-based solution allows us to transport more packaging products using fewer rail and truck trips. The increased weight per shipment enables us to ship the same customer order volume over less number of vehicles therefore saving money and reducing our greenhouse gas emission output.

In 2016, we shipped the same customer order volume using 1,175 less rail cars and 500 less truck shipments than the previous year. This resulted in the collective elimination of more than 3100 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from truck and rail transportation.

Other improvements include improved load planning accuracy and speed within our shipping departments, and improved standardization of our loading and securement processes, which has positively impacted employee safety and helped to reduce re-shipments to our customers due to transit-related cargo damage.

In addition, our customers enjoy the benefits of fewer shipments because they have less to unload and reduced congestion in their yards.

By making our supply chain more efficient, we avoided fossil fuel use, reduced greenhouse gas and other air emissions associated with our transportation footprint, and saved money – all while continuing on-time delivery of products to our customers. We are proud to move our products the green way.

WestRock Company received the 2017 AF&PA Innovation in Sustainability Award for its Moving Products the Green Way project.