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NHS Supply Chain Cuts Delivery Distances, CO2

NHS Supply Chain, the outsourced procurement arm of the U.K.’s National Health Service, cut delivery distances from 11 million to 9.8 million miles last year, according to its annual sustainability report, Focus on Sustainability.

In 2010 NHS Supply Chain cut carbon emissions from fleet vehicles by 16 percent compared with 2008, in tons of carbon per £million revenue, beating a 12 percent target. This was a 324 ton reduction in carbon generation compared to 2008.

NHS Supply Chain, which is operated by DHL as an agent of the NHS Business Services Authority, manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products and food for over 1,000 healthcare organizations and NHS trusts – the service providers for individual hospitals and regions. The organization provides over 620,000 products, with the aim of saving the NHS £1 billion ($1.6 billion) by 2016.

The NHS.had a 2010-11 budget of over £100 billion, according to the U.K. Department of Health. In 2010, NHS Supply Chain grew in number of employees, orders from customers and service calls from customers, and its number of suppliers nearly doubled from 520 to 1,000.

Last year it replaced 118 delivery vehicles with more efficient models limited to 53mph, according to the report. All new vehicles include cruise controls and laser aligned axles, plus air deflector kits where appropriate to reduce wind noise from turbulence and save fuel.

NHS Supply Chain also participated in a three-month trial of what it calls the world’s first 18-ton hybrid distribution vehicle, part of a wider two-year trial by Deutsche Post DHL. Made by Volvo Trucks, the vehicle is a parallel hybrid, meaning it uses both a battery-powered electric motor, and a regular diesel engine, which kicks in only when the vehicle reaches a certain speed. The vehicle also features aerodynamic side skirts, a teardrop body and roof top air deflector – all designed to save fuel through improved air-flow.

NHS Supply Chain CEO Nick Gerrard estimates that the vehicle will produce fuel and CO2 savings of up to 15 per cent.

Last year the company also introduced a driver training program, and worked with the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust to carry out a carbon congestion pilot. This showed that NHS Supply Chain deliveries were four times more carbon efficient than other suppliers to the trust, the report said.

Packaging changes have also driven down transport costs. NHS Supply Chain says it prompted its suppliers to review their packaging in order to take advantage of a new EU standard allowing thinner examination gloves. The organization was then able to procure a new range of six Newton gloves in boxes of 200, as opposed to 100 for the previous range.

In 2010 it revised direct from manufacture packaging (DfM) to smaller sizes on 28 products, resulting in over £112,000 of packaging and freight savings, and a more than 16 ton reduction in weight. It also drafted packaging guidance for all DfM suppliers to reduce waste.

It also introduced reviewed the packaging of 28 of its own-brand Choice for Health products, resulting in an average volume reduction of 17 percent per product, and creating combined freight and packaging savings of over £112,000 per year.

This year it is planning to review non-DfM packaging, produce packaging guidelines for non-DfM suppliers, extend its use of on-pack recycling labels from new to existing products, assess the amount of carbon saved by cutting down on packaging, and undertake a trial of a Waste and Resources Action Programme edit tool to assess the overall sustainability of its packaging options.

Around 60 per cent of carbon emissions across the NHS are attributed to the procurement of products and services, and in 2010 NHS Supply Chain reached a 14 percent reduction in tons of carbon per £million revenue from a baseline of 2008. It also reduced absolute electricity consumption by six percent from a 2008 baseline.

In 2011, NHS Supply Chain plans to meet a target of reducing tons of carbon per £million revenue by a further 2.5 per cent, and it is aiming for a 30 percent improvement by 2020 (although it did not specify a baseline for that improvement). It also says it is committed to helping NHS trusts meet a voluntary target to reduce carbon emissions by 10 per cent by 2015.

In 2010, NHS Supply Chain collected data to feed into the SCO2PE supply prioritization tool, a Microsoft Excel-based application developed by the Department of Health to help companies calculate an approximate carbon footprint and prioritize where they can find the greatest carbon emission reductions. This year it plans to identify its five most carbon-intensive products and work with suppliers to reduce the intensity.

Last month the NHS said that it had begun assessing the carbon footprint of health care procurement, and would use the average carbon intensity of raw materials to assess the emissions produced in manufacturing a product.

But NHS Supply Chain says its distribution center network is the aspect of its business with the greatest energy saving potential. In 2010, it achieved a 16 per cent reduction in absolute gas consumption, six per cent reduction in absolute electricity consumption, and six per cent cut in carbon per £million revenue, across its distribution centers relative to 2008 levels.

Re-lighting of its Maidstone distribution centre cut electricity consumption at the site by over 20 per cent, equal to 310,351 kwh or 167 tonnes of carbon.

In 2011, the organization plans to cut distribution center electricity by 12.5 percent and gas by 17 percent compared to 2008. It is implementing re-lighting projects at three more distribution centers this year, and plans to replace mechanical handling equipment at five centers to increase battery power and energy reclamation.

This year, NHS Supply Chain also plans to increase recycling from distribution centers to 75 percent, up from 73 percent in 2010.

The company has cut water consumption by 14 percent per employee since 2008, through improved management of box wash machines used to clean the reusable tote boxes that deliver goods to customers, and says it is continuing to look for opportunities to cut water use at sites with the highest consumption.

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