Inbound Logistics | January 2023

Sustainable to a T


Furniture rental service Fernish seeks to give furniture second and third lives. Technology drives its circular supply chain.

about what we needed to build ourselves,” Smith says. For instance, when considering purchase order management systems, the Fernish team recognized their process was similar to many others, and a third-party solution would work fine. For its supply chain, however, Fernish developed its own system. “We are excited about the customized software we are building for our circularity oriented subscription business,” Smith says. “It’s unique, and a major competitive advantage as we grow.” As more consumers and businesses look for information on the environmental footprint of the companies they do business with, many firms, including those outside sectors typically considered green, are assessing their environmental footprint. systems, and

Consumers and businesses increasingly consider sustainability in their purchases, and their choices impact many supply chains. Technology can provide solutions. Technology helps drive Fernish, a furniture rental subscription service that enables customers to rent pieces of furniture or full-room designs from brands like CB2, Crate & Barrel, and Fernish’s personal line. “It’s a circular business,” says Kristin Toth, president and COO. The company’s products might be rented and returned multiple times, by multiple customers. To create a supply chain model that accounts for this, Fernish needed a way to record the history of each piece: How long has it been out? What repairs has it had? This information helps the management team make data-driven decisions.


customers are large, blue-chip firms, and they ask for information on WAF’s environmental footprint. About 10 months ago, WAF began working with Gravity Climate, which harvests, categorizes, and reports on data from WAF’s invoices for diesel, natural gas and other substances. In addition to providing this information to its customers, WAF can use it internally. For example, one report showed that forklifts running at night use dramatically less diesel than those running during the day. While it’s not yet entirely clear why, it’s possible nighttime operators don’t have to avoid congestion as much as those working during the day. As a result, their travel paths are more straightforward and they use less fuel. As WAF’s example shows, monitoring carbon emissions can have a bottom-line payo . Not only are many customers looking to do business with environmentally conscious companies, but reducing carbon emissions usually accompanies a reduction in the use of energy, cutting costs. “Sustainability is becoming synonymous with business resilience,” says Saleh ElHattab, founder and CEO of Gravity Climate.

Reducing carbon emissions emissions usually usually accompanies accompanies a reduction in the use of energy, energy, cutting costs. costs.

For example, Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry (WAF) makes aluminum parts for the automotive, defense, and other industries. “Our production process is energy intensive,” says Sachin Shivaram, CEO. While an aluminum foundry may not seem to have much connection to the new age economy, he takes a “modern, forward thinking” approach to the business. Part of that is working to monitor and reduce carbon emissions. Many of WAF’s

For instance, if a piece is coming to the end of its life, should Fernish o er it at a good price to the customer that has it, eliminating the need to pick it up? To answer these questions, each piece would need a barcode so the Fernish team could track it across multiple orders and locations. Smith and her colleagues considered third-party systems, but ultimately developed Fernish’s system and database internally. “We tried to be thoughtful

January 2022 • Inbound Logistics 95

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