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Corteco packaging in a carton

Combining Sustainability and Customer Service

In Hirschberg, Germany, our subsidiary Corteco has stopped using plastic bags when small quantities are shipped. In terms of its impact on the climate and resource use, the policy eliminates 45 tons of CO₂ emissions per year.

Single-use articles made of plastic are “out.” In many countries, for example, the classic plastic bag for supermarket purchases is already prohibited. That’s because the waste from the production of these resource- and energy-intensive throw-away products contaminates the landscape and the world’s oceans while damaging flora and fauna. That is not sustainable. As part of the climate related and environmental activities at Freudenberg Sealing Technologies, Corteco began its own sustainability initiative in mid-2021, under the direction of Dr. Wolfgang Lohmann, Director, Operations Europe. But before the launch, Corteco, which specializes in replacement parts for the auto industry’s independent spare parts trade, set one goal in advance: The facility would do away with the plastic bags used in the shipping department at its main distribution center in Hirschberg. “We saw them as a considerable waste,” said Julia Urban, Operations, Continuous Improvement (CI), and Project Manager Europe at Corteco. Nearly 400,000 bags were used each year to package small quantities for delivery and to separate them from the rest of the items in a shipment. The goal was to make it easier for the customer to classify the items since many an export shipment includes more than 1,000 different articles.

These plastic bags no longer exist. Corteco has made small quantity shipping more environmentally friendly.

Smart Picking

A point of clarification: Simmerrings, oil drain screws and brake hoses are stored on shelves at Corteco in Hirschberg, generally not loose but enclosed in product packaging. They are already packed, clean and safe, in appropriate, standard quantities, in small closed cartons bearing the Corteco logo. The bottom line: The additional use of plastic bags was necessary from the standpoint of customer service – but not for the actual packaging Corteco’s solution combined sustainability and customer service. It involves smart picking based on a clearly defined packaging approach. Corteco was able to build on preliminary work from several years earlier. At that point, Corteco had sorted and organized its items in the warehouse with an elaborate process based on product categories. “We pick every order using a prescribed route. The heaviest articles, such as pulleys, are the first up and therefore lie at the very bottom of the large outer carton. The lightweight car interior filters come at the end,” Urban said.

In short: All the items in a product group automatically end up together in a large shipping carton. The plastic bags are no longer needed for classification purposes. Urban pointed to the specific benefits: “Our customers save time during the unpacking and don’t have to discard any plastic waste,” she said. Expressed as a CO2 equivalent, 45 tons of the climate damaging gases are eliminated.

Corteco no longer has to buy the bags, and an extra step is eliminated during packaging. Laslo Thaller, Head of the Distribution Center, and Michael Apfel, Operations Expert, supervise the eff ort. Another tangible project at the Hirschberg site is already envisioned: The center had been using plastic adhesive tape, but now is switching to paper. The Corteco sustainability initiative is looking beyond its warehouse activities. It is examining the entire transportation paths for incoming and outgoing shipments, for example. Urban expressed her hope for still more successes and concrete progress. “As a sales organization without its own manufacturing operations, we are exploring very specific options for achieving Freudenberg Sealing Technologies sustainability goals. Our employees are certainly enthusiastic. They were already overflowing with ideas at the kickoff meeting.”

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