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Open AccessArticle

Environmental Impacts of Reusable Transport Items: A Case Study of Pallet Pooling in a Retailer Supply Chain

Department of Industrial Engineering, Alma Mater Studiorum–University of Bologna, 40136 Bologna, Italy
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Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3147; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113147
Received: 23 April 2019 / Revised: 23 May 2019 / Accepted: 30 May 2019 / Published: 4 June 2019
Manufacturing, storage, and transportation processes are typically facilitated by pallets, containers, and other reusable transport items (RTIs) designed to guarantee many cycles along a lifespan of several years. As a consequence, both supply and reverse transportation of RTIs need to be managed to avoid stockout along the supply chain and the unsustainable production of new tools from virgin materials. This paper focuses on the business of pallet management by analyzing the transport operations of a pallet pooling network serving a large-scale nationwide retailer. The pooler is responsible for supplying, collecting, and refurbishing pallets. The combination of the pooler’s management strategies with different retailer network configurations results in different pooling scenarios, which are assessed and compared in this paper through a what-if analysis. The logistical and environmental impacts generated by the pallet distribution activities are quantified per each scenario through a tailored software incorporating Geographic Information System (GIS) and routing functionalities. Findings from this analysis suggest how to reduce vehicle distance traveled (vehicles-km) by 65% and pollutant emissions by 60% by combining network infrastructures and pooling management strategies—identifying an empirical best practice for managers of pallet businesses. View Full-Text
Keywords: pallet management strategy; reusable handling system; closed-loop network; what-if analysis; environmental impact pallet management strategy; reusable handling system; closed-loop network; what-if analysis; environmental impact
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Accorsi, R.; Baruffaldi, G.; Manzini, R.; Pini, C. Environmental Impacts of Reusable Transport Items: A Case Study of Pallet Pooling in a Retailer Supply Chain. Sustainability 2019, 11, 3147.

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