You are now visiting our Global professional lighting website, visit your local website by going to the USA website
You are now visiting the Philips lighting website. A localized version is available for you.

A brand of


    The connected warehouse is sustainable

    Scalable systems and the warehouse of the future, part 3

    The first two articles in this series concentrated on the roles that scalable systems can play in warehouse digital transformation and in ensuring warehouse worker safety and well-being, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. They explored, too, how scalability can remove the barriers that make it difficult for organizations to adopt connected systems.

    This article takes a look at how scalable systems can help warehouses operate sustainably.

    A new era of green thinking

    Sustainability is an idea whose time has come.


    According to the 2019 United Nations Global Compact/Accenture Strategy CEO Study on Sustainability, 99 percent of “large company CEOs” are convinced that “sustainability issues are important to the future success of their businesses.” In a bellwether development, Apple has pledged that its products and supply chain will be carbon neutral by 2030. And two-thirds of consumers claim that they would pay more for a product manufactured by a “sustainable” brand, while 81 percent of them “feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.”


    In other words, a new and greener ethic is now redefining global capitalism. As the more environmentally conscious younger generations gain cultural and economic influence, this ethic will only become stronger.


    The rise of a green ethic is also evident in public policy. In the United States, the Green New Deal that some Democrats proposed during the country's last election cycle proved a political non-starter, but just the fact that they expressed it with such confidence indicates the extent to which the idea of dramatic climate action has moved into the American political mainstream. In the EU, the European Green Deal, an ambitious plan to make the multinational bloc carbon-neutral by 2050, is a reality, and is providing billions of euros to fund sustainable renovation products in member countries.


    While the evidence is only anecdotal at this point, it seems likely that the pandemic will intensify the global focus on sustainability. One effect of a global health crisis, understandably, is to make people all over the world far more aware of the fitness of the places they inhabit—whether the places they live are helpful or harmful. This is environmental awareness by any name, and its influence promises to grow.

    The warehouse's role in the sustainability drive

    Warehouses have a significant role to play in making the global economy sustainable, and smart systems can help.


    Let's start with warehouse lighting, which according to one study accounts for 36 percent of electricity use in non-refrigerated U.S. warehouses—the largest portion. A smart first step is to swap out legacy warehouse lighting, where it still exists, for LED lighting. LED lighting can be up to 80 percent more efficient than traditional lighting—even as LED light sources can last up to 25 times longer than conventional sources.


    But the possibilities get even brighter, so to speak. When organizations deploy LEDs within the framework of a scalable smart lighting system, they gain impressive new efficiencies. Thanks to connected technology, such a system can slash energy usage through light-sensing, motion monitoring, and occupancy capabilities, to give just a few examples.


    Occupancy sensors embedded in a smart lighting system installed in a warehouse's ceiling can continuously monitor for human presence throughout the lit environment. With the data streaming in from those sensors, the system can intelligently adjust from moment to moment, illuminating spaces only when necessary and leave them unilluminated, or less illuminated, when nobody’s there. The energy and cost savings from no longer lighting unoccupied stacks, corridors, and other zones can be significant—and added on top of the energy efficiency gained from the LED luminaires themselves.


    The possibilities do not end here, however. Warehouse managers can scale up the energy savings by integrating a smart lighting system with other smart systems in their facilities. If smart lighting and HVAC, for example, can share data and commands on a common network, then the intelligence gathered via the lighting system’s occupancy sensors can streamline heating and cooling functions within the building, cranking them up or phasing them down as necessary. It makes as little sense to constantly heat or cool an underpopulated warehouse area as it does to keep it constantly lit.


    Environmental sensing can also potentially assimilate into a scalable system. If your system can sense the morning sun beating down on the east side of your warehouse, it can lower the heating on that side of the facility while the sun warms it, then nudge the temperature upward again when the sun passes on. Similarly, louvered windows could be programmed to open or close automatically in response to sunlight conditions, using direct sunlight as a heat source or blocking sunlight to cool the space.


    Functions like these represent just a fraction of what scalable systems can do to make warehouse operations more sustainable. Data collection and data analysis, for example, can go much further, providing input for artificial intelligence applications. Such applications can process enormous amounts of data and visualize them so facility managers can make informed decisions that promote sustainability. Armed with insight about their facility's occupancy patterns, energy use tendencies, inefficiencies, and so on, warehouse managers can plan accordingly, making changes where and how the data indicates.


    Informed planning of this sort can make the difference in the creation of a sustainable enterprise. Data really does make the difference, in the warehouse/logistics sector as in others.

    The second-order benefits of sustainability

    The benefits of warehouse sustainability go beyond environmental responsibility. A sustainable warehouse—appropriately lit, appropriately heated, and carbon neutral—will also make employees more comfortable and therefore more productive. And a sustainable warehouse can be a differentiator in the labor market, attracting the best people, especially among the younger working cohorts. Call it the green halo effect.


    Scalable systems are the future—tools that are necessary for building a better, cleaner, cooler future. As crucial nodes in the global economy, warehouses must find ways to put those systems to work.

    About the author

    Jonathan Weinert, IoT and Connected Lighting, Signify
    Award-winning writer Jonathan Weinert has been been researching and reporting on LED lighting, connected lighting, and the IoT since joining Signify in 2008. 

    Share this article

    What can Interact do for you?

    Follow us on: