Reducing supply chain emissions: Barrows Retail Marketing Specialists

Submitted by: Amanda Botes, Monday, July 2, 2012

<p>The recyclable display unit designed by Barrows for Coca-Cola (Image supplied by Barrows).</p>

The recyclable display unit designed by Barrows for Coca-Cola (Image supplied by Barrows).

According to the recent Carbon Disclosure Project Supply Chain Report of 2012 up to 86% of an organisation’s total carbon emissions can be attributed to activities in their supply chain. Unfortunately achieving real reductions in supply chain emissions can be extremely challenging. However, there are added benefits to reducing supply chain emissions, in the form of improved efficiency and reduction of costs. 

Barrows, a Durban based retail marketing company, through their experience in working with Coca- Cola across Africa, have demonstrated that one of the most effective ways of tackling supply chain emissions is to redesign the products themselves so they need less materials, use materials with less impact, take up less space and last longer.  This article will focus on a display unit that Barrows designed for Coca-Cola.

A recyclable display unit for Coca-Cola

Barrows’ core business is in designing and manufacturing display units for retail clients. Barrows was approached by Coca-Cola to develop a new display unit for ambient sales of its soft drink product that could be used in different regions across the globe. In order to decrease the emissions associated with producing these units, Barrows design and engineering teams concentrated on the following areas:

Sourcing materials: Often organisations are unaware that the materials used in the production of their products have life-cycles and environmental impacts of their own. Barrows conducted research into their source materials and found that recycled materials could serve the same purpose as virgin materials in many cases. The result of this research is that 65% of the Coca-Cola display unit is composed of recycled materials that otherwise may have ended up at landfill.  To add a Cola-Cola signature to the recycling, Coca-Cola bottles were ground up and injection moulded to form structural parts of the new unit. 

Transportation:  The Coca-Cola unit is currently used in 12 countries. Previously these units were heavy one piece structures made of metal which required substantial shipping space. During the design stage of the new unit Barrows focused on creating a lighter and collapsible unit that could be hand assembled and would require less shipping space. This design not only resulted in less carbon being emitted but resulted in a 30% reduction in road and sea freight costs.  Often organisations try to reduce their emissions associated with transportation by changing to an alternative fuel source or mode, encouraging driving efficiency, or devising a route planning scheme. Barrows instead concentrated on the actual design of the product and created lighter units that take up less space when transported to achieve reductions in emissions associated with transportation.

Design for longer lifespan:  At the start of the project Barrows decided to design the new Coca-Cola Unit in such a way that the lifespan of the unit would be extended.   Barrows designers identified four key factors that affect unit lifespan: corrosion, UV radiation, mechanical failure and obsolescence. Barrows addressed these factors through the use of advanced stress analysis software developed in partnership with a multinational company. Plastic pigments were researched to ensure compatibility with re-used plastic and harsh UV conditions in destination countries. In addition the branding areas on the unit were designed to be interchangeable. Easy local replacement of graphic panels makes it possible for the unit to be adjusted for different regions and languages and allows the look to be refreshed when new marketing strategies are instituted.  Increasing the unit lifespan reduces the need to manufacture new units and reduces the amount of energy and raw materials required. 

End of life planning:  All the materials used in the unit are 100% recyclable.  The parts are all clearly marked and can be hand disassembled without extra tools. This makes it easier to separate parts and send them to be recycled. 

To date, 30 000 of these display units have been manufactured and distributed from Southern and central Africa to Japan. By focusing on both the design and supply chain of the unit Barrows has managed to reduce supply chain environmental impact and simultaneously reduce unit and logistics costs.

For more information visit the Barrows website.  


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Amanda Botes