Will 'Inside the Box' Thinking Change Industries?

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For some companies, perhaps it will. Reinventing the wheel may help as well – or even a combination of both.

Boxes and wheels have been a subject of conversation in Steve Lindsey’s department for quite some time. As the director of security services for Walmart, his responsibility of monitoring and maintaining security for the world’s largest retailer is no small task. On top of this, like all other departments at Walmart, his team is tasked with contributing to the company’s aggressive sustainability goals from their own, unique perspective.

And while it may seem odd that a security team can make marked strides in sustainability, looks can be deceiving. Recently, the team put out a call for action that may just have helped revolutionize an unlikely industry: cabling.

Heavy duty cables, used to connect security cameras and other similar equipment, typically come ready to distribute on large, reels made of a cylinder and two, plywood wheels. However, these reels actually have huge costs, both in environmental and labor expenses. Using them can be cumbersome, time-consuming and cause stoppages in progress. Additionally, they do not have a significant recycling or disposal option, outside of the landfill. Plus, they’re tough to ship with their awkward dimensions and bulk. Lindsey’s team looked to change that.

“Every meeting that we have with a vendor, we have some sort of a sustainability discussion with them,” Lindsey tells Earth911 of his team’s  process to make their operations more sustainable. “During the early discussions, there’s not a lot of enthusiasm right away, but as you continue that discussion, they begin to get it.”

Walmart’s call to the industry to improve these reels was simple. “So you’ve got two wheels of wood sometimes connected by a piece of steel, as well as plastic coated copper cable that’s been around forever. How can you improve that?”

But instead of a cacophony of creative solutions, Walmart generally heard the repetition of “that’s just the way it is.”

Incredibly, their call-to-action was answered. Paige Electric, formerly not one of Walmart’s vendors, offered the redesign of its 1 PAC cable box to replace these plywood reels. Now in their second generation, the boxes are made of 100 percent recycled and recyclable corrugated cardboard and have the functionality of being used either as a reel or a box, allowing for flexibility in installation and saving a massive amount of time and frustration.

Because of this change, the 69,000 reels that Walmart typically uses for a particular type of cabling will be replaced by these lightweight boxes. They estimate this small change will save 135 tons of landfill waste annually, as as well yet-to-be measured vital dollars in shipping, as the boxes require less space and fuel to travel.

For Paige Electric, this innovation in packaging has earned them significant credibility. It not only affects Walmart’s operations, but their other client’s money- and environment-saving goals as well.

“We have one large customer who will probably be converting 96,000 reels over the next two years,”  Frank Conaty, vice president of operations for Paige, tells Earth911. “Not only that, but we’ve redesigned the box for products roughly up to 40 pounds, and they now use 28 percent less corrugated than before.”

And although the Walmart contract is won, innovation continues at Paige. “We’re really not sitting on our hands on this one,” Conaty adds.

Lindsey is already pleased with the changes. “You know the guys out on the streets that actually use it are the ones who recognize it, and the first thing they noticed were no more splinters in their fingers,” he joked.

“You know, whether or not we helped change the industry is yet to be seen, but certainly the opportunity presents itself to do that. There are thousands of security integration companies out there using more or less of this wire, and if at some point they’re able to realize the efficiencies we’ve realized, it will save them money. If that happens, then that becomes a success for all of us,” Lindsey added.

Like many who hope to make significant strides in growing their business, Conaty sees his actions as beneficial towards overall sustainability goals as well. “We’re all parents, and beside the fact that our kids will whack us over the head for throwing out our plastic bottles, I’m happy to see the scent in the wind change culturally in the United States.”

The video below explains the changes made to these reels. Courtesy of Walmart.

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