Tech's looming battle against rising energy costs

Green is not enough: How IT can (and must) lead the energy-savings charge across the entire enterprise

Removing energy costs from the entire supply chain

Manufacturing, storing, and shipping goods take a lot of energy. IT can reduce the energy needed at each of these supply-chain phases, says Gartner's Mingay. Many logistics firms, such as the US Postal Service, already invest in IT to create the most fuel-efficient delivery schedules possible. And the use of electronic signatures can save a ton of fuel when sending documents around, as Fidelity Investments has found. But IT can help even earlier in the process, by reducing the amount of items to be stored and delivered, Mingay says.

"There are many more opportunities to dematerialize [reduce materials used] and even [eliminate physical] content in a product or service," he says. For example, the shift away from CDs to MP3 files dispensed with huge energy costs, as will the move away from DVDs to downloaded or Internet-streamed video that Mingay sees coming soon. And Hewlett-Packard has reduced its laptop packing material by 65 percent, cutting down on fuel consumed for delivery, as well as lowering warehousing energy costs by packaging the notebooks in a messenger bag in which buyers can tote their laptops.

Another such opportunity is for IT to enable print-on-demand services and advanced materials manufacturing, Mingay says. "Print-on-demand will enable you to go to a local bookstore, tell them which book you want, and they will print it and bind it right then and there," Mingay says. "There is no waste, and you remove a huge amount of energy and carbon that comes from shipping books around the world." That lowers publishers' energy costs.

But the same approach can also reduce the costs in almost any company that uses printed materials, Mingay notes. IT can help the company save big by using print-on-demand internally, so only the necessary documents are printed. IT can enable this simply by providing the infrastructure for a library of PDF documents that users print locally when needed or contracting with online service providers of such electronic documents. This approach reduces the need for warehousing, which in turn reduces the need for energy-sapping climate control systems to preserve the paper. Delivery costs from the warehouse are also eliminated.

In the longer term, emerging technologies such as digital instant manufacturing machines can apply the print-on-demand concept to other goods, notes Laitner of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. These machines, which look like a large-scale ink-jet printer, deposit finely powdered droplets by micronozzles, then fuse them together, layer by layer, into a 3D object.

"You can make anything from cell phone covers to bone replacement for medical use," Laitner said. "Because you can make a product on demand, people are able to pick it up closer to where it is produced instead of wasting money transporting it between coasts."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Web telephony and conferencingdata center power consumptionenvironment

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Betsy Harter

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?