Green practices are good public relations. But as our cover story this month demonstrates, they're also good business. In that story, John Johnson reports on how large companies like Tesco and Staples are building distribution centers that make use of the latest technology to produce clean energy and reduce harmful emissions, saving money in the process. His article on what those companies are doing and Mitch Mac Donald's column on the good business sense in clean development point to a future in which sustainable business practices are a way of life.
Eventually, I suspect, business leaders that see the multiple benefits of environmentally friendly practices in their own businesses will start to look upstream in their supply chains at their vendors. Just as global businesses are becoming more insistent on better labor practices in their suppliers' plants, so, too, they may someday insist on doing business with companies that are working to improve their environmental practices. Our story on global sourcing, which leads off with the experience of a major European retailer, suggests that businesses feel an imperative to source from lower-cost producers. This story does not address the environmental issues, but looks instead at the complexities of attempting to manage a global supply chain.
The complexities of any business decision are further illustrated in our story on the debate raging in the pharmaceutical industry over what RFID tags make the most sense for the industry. With drug theft and counterfeiting on the rise, the industry is coming under increasing pressure from Washington and state legislatures to have in place systems for assuring the "pedigree" of a drug as it moves through the supply chain—something RFID is particularly well suited to do. That has added real urgency to the debate over the technical merits and drawbacks of competing technologies.
Speaking of technology, we also bring you a story on just how far warehouse control systems (WCS) have come. As James Cooke reports in his story, WCS can serve as the "brains" of an operation, overseeing and coordinating the activities of all the material handling equipment. Today's systems don't just move goods quickly through the DC, but intelligently as well—making sure, for instance, that workloads at packing stations are balanced. What's more, the systems can react to feedback from the material handling equipment and adjust operations on the fly.
Finally, we bring you a story on the latest developments in automated storage and retrieval systems, which have made large inroads into DCs. Next month, we'll bring you a story on another sort of green: Look for the results of our annual salary survey, and see how well you're doing.