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Bolstering Your Competitive Edge with a Focus on Sustainability

Using data-driven solutions, your business can do well while doing good.

May 31, 2024

Kerrie Jordan, Group Vice President of Product Management, at the 2024 Epicor Insights user conference

When an organization thinks about setting strategic targets, the typical list includes goals like increasing revenue, managing customer satisfaction, and improving efficiency. But how many businesses are also thinking about lowering their carbon emissions or thinking environmentally about their supply chain?

It's a topic they can’t ignore any longer. At last count, 149 countries had net-zero targets, which means that most of you likely operate in regions where there are now, or soon will be, regulations that require reports on carbon emissions. As organizations come under increasing regulatory pressure to take action in this area, they will need to become more proficient at pinpointing the sources of carbon as well as identifying key opportunities to reduce emissions.

At first blush that might sound like a hard sell, but as we saw during our recent Epicor Insights 2024 user conference, our manufacturing partners are demonstrating why doing right by the environment can also help you do right by your bottom line.

How ERP Helps Foster Sustainable Growth

The discipline of carbon accounting essentially involves quantifying the amount of greenhouse gases produced directly and indirectly from a business or organization's activities within a defined set of boundaries. Ultimately, carbon accounting allows organizations to quantify their greenhouse gas emissions, understand their climate impact, and then set goals to reduce those emissions—which is, of course, the overall goal. 

Because it is a system that already tracks products and materials, ERP is a useful tool to gather carbon generation through automation, while identifying inefficiencies and opportunities in the process. The interesting new wrinkle is that a supplier that can demonstrate how their business is actively lowering carbon values can also leverage that data point to gain a competitive advantage. A manufacturer can include that good-news data with their invoices or quotes, so customers can see that they’re working with a responsible corporate citizen. What’s more, this information gives customers the choice to buy products which are lower carbon—something they might need for their own compliance reasons around carbon generation. 

Take the example of Optima Systems in the UK, a leader in glass partitioning. This company has been working with Epicor to improve carbon reporting, capturing evidence on how they lower carbon emissions. They’re now able to include carbon values on all orders and estimates, differentiating themselves from the competition. This is especially valuable when dealing with building clients who require these kinds of projections to meet construction standards for green buildings.

Another example is the work being done by Thong Guan Industries Berhad. Based in Malaysia, with additional locations in the United States, Denmark, and China, this business strives to achieve operational efficiency at a lower cost. Knowing that any damage to packaging can add up to significant expense for their customers, Thong Guan Industries Berhad worked with Epicor to develop a way to embed a QR code within the packaging material to wrap each pallet with optimal efficiency.  

The business leverages real-time data to reduce costs, man hours, and paperwork, while tracking the carbon footprint of every package. Thong Guan calculates its carbon footprint using Epicor Kinetic to track all the bookkeeping of every process, from the start of manufacturing to final customer delivery. As data gets exported to the cloud at every stage, managers can continuously examine the operational data to look for ways to maximize efficiency and lower costs. 

That, in turn, involves reviewing production and distribution processes, making design improvements, and implementing efficiency upgrades. It may also require participating in recycling and reuse programs, buying or using green energy on-site for production or warehousing, choosing green forms of transport, and working across the supply chain to reduce carbon inputs. 

By calculating the amount of CO2 at the product level and then incorporating that information into a product sheet, a manufacturer such as Thong Guan now has an additional selling point when it offers a quote to a prospective client. Distributors and retailers enjoy a similar halo effect by making that data available to commerce sites or on in-store packaging targeted at consumers.

Sustainability and Profitability

This need not become an administrative burden that erodes profitability. Here's where Epicor’s technology can help you adjust to that new reality with the technology tools that manufacturers can deploy to reduce carbon emissions while also increasing their competitive position in the marketplace.

You can ease the process of capturing all this information with the help of powerful business intelligence tools like the Epicor Grow Portfolio and Epicor Kinetic. A company can easily sort through vast amounts of data to surface new insights into the carbon emissions​ being generated.

Let’s take an example to demonstrate how this could work in practice.

With Grow, you can distill a large amount of data into a view or metric to understand how that area of the business performs and then make decisions accordingly. The system serves up a snapshot of your Cost, Revenue, Shipments and Emissions, in a graphical view, providing users with pre-built dashboards to quickly understand the meaning behind the data.

So, for instance, if a business wants to lower its carbon footprint, the first thing to check are the outliers in shipments that have higher than average emissions. At that point, one can easily spot how many different quarters contained shipments over a certain quantity of CO2 emissions, for example.

That allows the company to visualize data in a way that helps them make more accurate decisions. They can summarize data emissions per shipment and then slice and dice that data to understand more about any anomalies or outliers. In addition to viewing costs, the data matrix includes information about the amount of carbon generated. Drilling deeper into the raw data, managers can track all the large emission shipments and understand how they are getting delivered. Essentially, they’re now looking at a holistic picture of the business’s carbon footprint.

Putting Plans into Practice

To be sure, using sustainability to attract—and win—new business will take a shift to a different management philosophy. Sustainability is defined as fulfilling the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.

That may mean different things to different stakeholders, and will no doubt create varied priorities across the make, move, sell industries. At its core, though, being sustainable simply means using resources at a slower rate than they're being replaced by natural processes. Achieving this goal requires a delicate balance of awareness and efficiency.

Epicor automation technology is ready to show you how to boost profitability while reducing carbon emissions—helping you on a new path to sustainable success.