Green logistics

The REWE Group, a German supermarket chain, has built one of the country's most cutting-edge logistics centres in the town of Neu-Isenburg. Electricity and heat for the XXL warehouse are generated by a solar unit on the roof and a separate cogeneration unit. These are just two of the many energy-saving measures implemented in the new building, helping the company to achieve its goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2022 as compared to 2006.

Cooperation at its best

30-metre-high shelves, 12 kilometres of conveyors: images from the high-tech warehouse (KfW Bankengruppe/Sabine Kamien).

Fresh fruit and meat, pasta and bread, shampoo and mineral water: nowadays, fully-stocked supermarket shelves are par for the course for shoppers, along with an almost unlimited array of brands, sizes and products. This all takes a huge effort in the field of logistics – and tends to consume a lot of energy, too.

"Logistics requires a lot of energy, which is why retailers can make effective savings in this area, particularly in relation to CO2," says Dominik Trayer from KfW IPEX-Bank. "Logistics service providers have to develop future-proof concepts so they can stay competitive and relieve strain from the environment over the long term." As a qualified economist, he advises key clients in the retail and consumer goods sectors who are trying to finance complex investment projects. Using the KfW Energy Efficiency Programme, KfW IPEX-Bank issues loans for investing in environmentally-friendly construction or renovation projects.

Intelligent routes

High-tech systems calculate the most energy-efficient routes for moving goods from A to B within the warehouse.

For example, for one of Germany's most cutting-edge logistics centres –REWE's logistics centre in Neu-Isenburg – KfW IPEX-Bank provided the retail group with a loan in the amount of EUR €125 million. Following a 20-month construction period, the high-rise warehouse opened in 2014 and has since become the central dry goods warehouse for over 6000 REWE supermarkets, REWE ToGo shops and REWE Centers across Germany. It stores any products that do not have to be refrigerated, from nappies and rice to nuts and juices. Its location in the geographical centre of Germany, not far from Frankfurt and with direct access to main roads and motorways, was carefully selected to make sure the trucks do not have too far to travel to the individual stores, thereby keeping harmful emissions as low as possible.

"We produce a proportion of the energy we need at the logistics centre itself," says Tobias Frey, REWE's energy manager who develops concepts like the one used in the construction of the logistics hall. Power and heat for the warehouse in Neu-Isenburg are generated from a solar unit on the roof and an additional cogeneration unit. The remaining requirements are covered by green electricity.

A total of around 20,000 items are stored over an area of 63,000 square metres and on shelves reaching up to 30 metres in height. Goods weighing several hundreds of thousands of tonnes are moved on an annual basis. On a 12-kilometre-long conveyor system running through the entire complex, products ordered by the individual supermarkets are collected and bundled to be loaded onto the trucks. To make this possible, intelligent high-tech systems calculate the ideal route within the building to help save energy in an efficient manner, thus helping to avoid any unnecessary journeys.

Smart systems

A solar unit on the warehouse's roof produces heat and power.

These automated or at least semi-automated processes relieve physical strain on the 600 or so members of staff. For example, sensitive products that could be damaged by pneumatic systems are lifted to a more flexible height to protect workers' backs. Day-to-day life inside the logistics centre has been designed to ensure the best possible interaction between humans and technology.

Another of energy manager Tobias Frey's tasks is to keep a continuous eye on whether the anticipated figures have been achieved. Mr Frey explains that the building in Neu-Isenburg consumes around 20% less energy than a conventional building. This milestone is helping the entire REWE Group to achieve its corporate goals, which aim to cut its specific greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2022 as compared to 2006.

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KfW IPEX-Bank finances energy-efficient investments by international business groups.

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"Companies like REWE, who take their corporate responsibility seriously and work hard to develop and implement green concepts, fit in perfectly with our strategic business model, namely the creation of financial solutions to improve the protection of our environment and climate," says Dominik Trayer. KfW IPEX-Bank is currently working with another financing partner to support the construction of another REWE logistics centre in Koblenz with a loan of EUR €50 million.