Taking Freight Efficiency to the Next Level: Boise's Success Story

When it comes to logistics, strategies that reduce carbon emissions also reduce transportation costs. Boise, a leading manufacturer of packaging and paper products in the United States, launched two initiatives to do just that – shifting from road to rail transport and making more efficient use of rail transport.

Together, these initiatives have resulted in a combined 60 percent reduction in the company’s CO2 emissions from transportation related activities, as well as cost savings on the targeted shipments.

Carbon emissions from freight transportation are on pace to grow 40 percent by 2040 – the equivalent of carbon emissions produced by 39 million passenger vehicles on the road today.

Leading shippers, like Boise, are making changes to put us on a more sustainable path. Boise’s story is the third in a series of EDF and MIT case studies about carbon-efficient logistics.

In the Carload Direct Initiative, Boise switched from using a combination of rail and truck to send products to one of its customers, OfficeMax, to sending shipments exclusively by train.  Both Boise and OfficeMax facilities are directly accessible by rail, so the two companies collaborated to make the switch. More than 200 carloads were shipped via rail direct from Boise manufacturing facilities to OfficeMax distribution centers in 2011.

Taking efficiency to the next level, Boise launched a Three-Tier Pallet Initiative to increase the volume of products in each rail shipment. Prior to this project, railcars were loaded two pallets high, leaving a space from the top of the second pallet to the roof of the railcar.  The company introduced a half-pallet size to take advantage of the extra space in rail cars. This increased railcar utilization by 14 percent and also provided the customer greater order flexibility.

The two initiatives have yielded combined carbon emission reductions of more than 2,800 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of saving over 313,000 gallons of fuel.

The Boise story is one of efficiency and collaboration. The Caterpillar case study describes how Caterpillar was able to collaborate with suppliers to consolidate inbound shipments and eliminate truck miles. The Ocean Spray case study described how Ocean Spray was able to collaborate with a competitor to make use of empty backhaul on rail.

Collaborative distribution presents a huge opportunity for companies to reduce costs and carbon emissions. Sure, collaboration has its challenges – coordinating schedules and order sizes, protecting data, adjustments to inventory, etc.

Still, leaders are finding solutions to these challenges.

Get started today – talk to your logistics team, your sustainability team, and your logistics service providers – thinking strategically about logistics will save you money and improve your environmental performance.

To read the full MIT version click here. To read the EDF summary version click here.