By Alex Dworkin, Senior Project Manager – Capital Projects
A recent project my firm was involved in illustrated that, with some creativity and a little extra effort, sustainable solutions can not only be achieved, but can also deliver savings.
One of our large national retail partners approached us with a challenging, yet simple project: Adjust the shelving layout throughout their entire portfolio, which consisted of over 8,000 locations. The goal was to remove specific sets of shelving components to allow for clearer lines of visibility to all areas of the store. Any project of this magnitude naturally comes with its usual challenges, including coordination with the local store managers, varying shelving layouts, and an aggressive timeline to complete the projects were all factored in. But this one took the concept of “complexity” one step further by adding an element of sustainability.
The story behind the project was very clear: The retailer’s stores were receiving less bulky merchandise, so there wasn’t any need for the extra shelving, which often obstructs sight lines on the sales floor. The scope of the project was simple: remove and dispose of the shelving units. Expectations were set high and included minimal impact to store operations, heavy communication, coordination and validation at the store level and individual billing per store. The budget was tight, and our client asked us to be creative in ensuring that all stores be completed within the fiscal year. Internally we identified this project as an opportunity to promote a sustainable solution through an aggressive recycling program.
In order to execute a recycling project of any size there must be a well-conceived plan, one that is communicated to the client and, most importantly, followed closely throughout the project. Our first step was to notify the client of our desire to recycle the metal shelving since we needed their cooperation and permission to use on-site storage space.
Our next step was to engage numerous local and national waste disposal organizations to best understand the most efficient options available for collecting and transporting the waste products to recycling facilities. By strategically locating recycling dumpsters at key locations within the retailer’s portfolio, we were able to centralize collection and easily coordinate pick up and removal. Internally, we recognized that managing the recycling program was a job in itself and tasked some members of the project team with solely focusing on managing this aspect of the job.
Having trusted vendor partners throughout the country enabled our operations team to source thousands of sites to those we knew had the capability and understanding of how to complete a project of this magnitude and within our time frame. Each vendor received a store list, a link to the instructional video and specific instruction on the recycling component.
Our team was split into three different groups: project execution, recycling and invoicing. The execution team was responsible for assigning and educating vendors, as well as coordinating with store managers. The recycling team held vendors accountable for delivering the waste materials to the appropriate collection points, to ensure coordination with our waste recycling partners, as well as tracking the financial returns from the process. In the end our invoicing team closed the loop by invoicing each location per customer-set criteria.
Watching any plan come together and delivering on a promise to the client is what this business is all about. But the sustainability factor meant adding a little more to both the client and us. Keeping 100% of the shelving, support posts and insert pins from landfills delivered a truly sustainable solution. By using local recycling locations throughout the country, we were able to help our client in their efforts to be continuously green. We also reduced the overall project cost by 15%, converting what may have been a disposal fee into a financial rebate.