Rack Design & InstallationRack Sustainability

Rack Manufacturers Look For Ways To Cut Transportation Emissions

Companies around the world are focusing on reducing their carbon footprint, specifically emissions associated with supply chains. The 2023 MHI Annual Industry Report, “The Responsible Supply Chain: Transparency, Sustainability, and the Case for Business,” found that 48% of operations surveyed face increased influences to adopt a more sustainable supply chain. The members of the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) have likewise experienced the same pressures. As a result, more manufacturers of roll-formed or structural pallet rack are considering ways to become more environmentally friendly. Among the areas offering the highest potential sustainability returns is transportation. That is, switching from gasoline-powered trucks to electric vehicles to cut transportation emissions.

Why? For starters, CDP’s Global Supply Chain Report found that supply chains can account for more than 90% of an organization’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. More specifically, the International Transport Forum estimates that freight accounts for more than 40% of all transport-related carbon dioxide (CO2). Rack manufacturers (and others) increasingly see moving away from fossil-fuel powered transportation as an effective means to reduce their carbon footprint.

Electrification Helps Cut Transportation Emissions

Switching to electric transport to receive raw steel and deliver finished rack components to customers offers significant opportunities to improve sustainability, said Ryan Bartlett, President and CEO of RMI member United Material Handling (UMH).

Bartlett’s company is based in California, a state consistently at the forefront of environmental policy. He noted that Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in 2021 that banned the sale of new gas cars and trucks in the state by 2035. “People can still own gas vehicles and can buy used gas vehicles after that date,” clarified Bartlett.

In addition, the California Air Resources Board is now developing zero emissions regulations. These mandate that all medium- and heavy-duty vehicles shall be 100% zero emission by 2045 where feasible. Trucks used to carry freight for short-haul and last-mile deliveries will be subject to the mandate a decade earlier, by 2035.

With regulations like that taking effect, perhaps it’s no wonder that 40% of MHI Annual Industry Report respondents cited electrification as their top focus area for improved sustainability.

Rack Suppliers Surveyed on Sustainable Practices by Customers

Moving to electrified vehicles to cut transportation emissions is just one way rack manufacturers are implementing more sustainable practices, said Bartlett. He noted that customers and purchasing managers are increasingly surveying rack manufacturers and other suppliers and vendors about their sustainability practices.

“At UMH — and at many of RMI member facilities — our manufacturing operations are aimed toward being environmentally friendly,” he explained. “Doing things like powder coating instead of painting, packing with recycled materials, and using LED light fixtures and more energy efficient equipment, for example. In addition to being good for the environment, these practices can yield better production rates.”

For the majority of RMI companies, government requirements and customer expectations only partially drive these types of changes, Bartlett added. “Being environmentally responsible is also important as we’re trying to attract and retain new employees,” he said. “And, and we’re also wanting to make the world a better place for our kids and grandkids.”

Other Ways RMI Members Are Going Green

In addition to cutting transportation emissions, RMI members are enhancing sustainability across their operations and products in other ways. These include net-zero steel storage racks and domestic sourcing. Further, they’re instituting Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives focused on organizational health, workforce satisfaction, and safety policies. A recent article in MHI Solutions magazine, “Environmental Aspects of Sustainability Are Just Part of the Picture for RMI Members,” offers more details on these varied approaches.

For more information on how your pallet rack supplier can help your operation achieve its sustainability goals, reach out to the members of RMI. They supply industrial steel storage racks and related structural systems worldwide and across virtually every major manufacturing and distribution sector. Visit their website at mhi.org/rmi.