Jon Roberts, Senior Sales Manager at OrderWise, explores the role technology plays in supporting merchants to stay at the forefront of sustainable manufacturing practices.

The green agenda is fast becoming a key priority for manufacturers - especially when branching into new markets. 

Research by Walden University has shown that more than 80% of adults - of all generations worldwide - will now only purchase goods from companies that prioritise being environmentally responsible. 

For builders’ merchants, finding the balance between creating an efficient supply chain and meeting the environmental needs of customers can prove tricky. Particularly given the fragility of the system, as has been demonstrated throughout the pandemic. There are so many variables to consider. 

Given that the wider construction industry has a significant environmental impact, it’s important for businesses operating at every level of the supply chain to demonstrate their credentials. 

Many customers are looking to order consolidated loads, rather than take delivery as separate transactions. This cuts down on transport mileage, as well as reducing some packaging, but it can place extra stress on your supply chain to adapt. 

It may also mean having a larger choice of product variants available for customers, as manufacturers experiment with new materials. Together with limited warehouse space, this means your supply chain itself will have to operate faster at delivering a smaller amount of each to your facility. 

Implementing an integrated system combats the issue of limited warehouse space as processes become more streamlined - creating an efficient working environment for the business. 

Smaller merchants may be at a slight advantage with this change, as they may well find it easier to adapt both their supply chain and their packing and fulfilment processes. Many will already be using ERP software to realise the benefits of improved organisation, planning and forecasting it offers, giving them the flexibility they need. 

For bigger businesses with large-scale facilities, though, it takes a little more forward thinking to turn around the processes. Those that are already using either partly or fully automated warehouses, linked in with their ERP systems, are perfectly placed to respond quickly. But, for those that don’t, it can be more of a challenge to change direction.

The thing to remember is that this is not a one-off change. It’s an evolution that will continue to develop. Merchants need to be able to forecast future trends, and they also must have the capacity in their supply chains and warehousing to adapt. Even if the market nosedives for whatever reason, businesses need to be able to move with the ebb and flow. 

Sustainability is only going to become an increasingly important part of business throughout the construction industry, and every organisation along the supply chain will need to be able to show their response. Rather than a quick change now, it’s about staying competitive. 

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