lean is green It can be said that lean is green. The obvious benefits of green and lean are energy savings, productivity savings, and savings from improved utilization of materials. They can also lead to innovations that involve creation of new products out of waste materials.

by Tim McMahon, Founder of A Lean Journey Blog. Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimALeanJourney. Connect with Tim on Linkedin. Connect with Tim on Facebook.

Many manufacturers know the benefits of lean manufacturing: higher productivity, better quality, reduced cycle time, plus enhanced employee engagement.  Lean is excellent at marshaling different groups and individuals into a high performing team focused on rooting out waste. That relentless focus on eradicating waste makes lean a necessary partner for green.  [See our related post Lean is the Means to be Green]

Environmental waste is any unnecessary use of resources or a substance released into the air, water, or land that could harm human health or the environment.  Environmental wastes are often a sign of inefficient production, and they frequently indicate opportunities for saving cost and time.

Lean efforts can lead to significant environmental gains since environmental wastes are related to Ohno’s 7 deadly wastes.  The table below, from EPA’s Lean and the Environment Toolkit, lists the environmental impact of these wastes. Click on the photo for a larger size.

environmental impacts of deadly wastes

Despite the relationships between Lean’s 7 wastes and environmental wastes, many Lean implementation efforts often overlook opportunities to prevent or reduce environmental wastes.  I have found adding the following 5 environmental wastes with the acronym WASTE to the traditional wastes helpful:

  • Water: leaks, waste streams from processes
  • Air: evaporation of chemicals, dust, particulate
  • Solid Waste: filters, excess material scrap
  • Toxic/Hazardous Waste: solvents, process residuals
  • Energy: machinery on when not in use, heat loss, oversized motors

These five wastes raise awareness of the opportunities for improvements that not only affect the process, but also working conditions and overall environmental impact.

Environmental benefits from Lean alone are often incidental; they are not a result of an environmental focus or concern.  Green and Lean should be synergistic not just additive or complementary concepts.  The integrated whole of both methodologies is often greater than the sum of the impacts from each approach.

The tools in the toolkit for Green and Lean improvements are one in the same.  They include techniques like value stream mapping, workplace organization and standardization with 6S, spaghetti chart, waste walk or treasure hunt, kaizen activities, and standardized checklists.  As in Lean these tools are used to visualize and identify the wastes in our processes so we can eliminate or reduce them.

You can get started today with a number of simple efforts in conjunction with your improvement activities.

  1. Turn off equipment when not in use.
  2. Set computers to hibernate after 30 minutes of no use.
  3. Use light sensors or turn off lights when not in use.
  4. Rent or buy a thermal camera to find lose electrical connections in panels and transformers or overheating motors.
  5. Rent or buy an ultrasonic detector to find compressed air leaks.
  6. Work with your utility company to upgrade to energy efficient lighting.
  7. When purchasing new equipment buy Energy Star® rated equipment.
  8. Establish a recycling program at your facility.
  9. Look at ways to reduce paper usage with smarter printing and paperless approaches.
  10. Reduce the amount of packaging you use to protect or contain your product.

The most obvious benefits of Green and Lean are cost savings which are synergistically coupled with value creation opportunities.  Cost savings may include energy savings, productivity savings, and savings from improved utilization of materials. Value creation opportunities may include innovations that involve creation of new products out of waste materials and finding ways, in service delivery processes, to enhance customer’s experience.

While the pursuit of Green and Lean is not a destination but a journey it is clear that organizations that stretch themselves to build a culture around the values of Sustainability, Excellence, and Equity will ultimately have a big advantage those who do not.  Green and Lean is not a dichotomy rather it can be said being Green is Lean.

The Impact of Lean on Consumer Product ManufacturersFEATURED RESOURCE:
Free Report on The Impact of Lean on Consumer Product Manufacturers---Learn the real dedication to Lean that requires a focus on change, the identification of areas of improvement across the enterprise and a commitment to monitor continuously. The real challenge to Lean, however, requires this first change, a shift in the culture. Consumer products manufacturers are early on in their Lean journey compared to companies across industry, with 56% less than a year to 3 years into it. By leveraging external expertise and taking small steps in their Lean programs, these manufacturers are setting their sights on reducing cost, driving down inventory, and sustaining a culture of Lean throughout the enterprise. But success is being found by those Best in Class consumer products manufacturers that go the next step by tying their Lean objectives into business opportunities, and by measuring the impact of the Lean program. These companies are placing more emphasis on monitoring the metrics that are tied with success, including inventory and on-time delivery, to truly maximize the competitive advantage to be responsive to the customer. Request Your Free Report on The Impact of Lean on Consumer Product Manufacturers.

© 2011, Tim McMahon. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tim McMahon (2 Articles)

Tim McMahon, Founder and Contributor of A Lean Journey Blog that is dedicated to sharing lessons and experiences along the Lean Journey in the Quest for True North. The blog also serves as the source for learning and reflection which are critical elements in Lean Thinking. Tim is a lean practitioner with more than 10 years of Lean manufacturing experience. He currently leads continuous improvement efforts for a high tech manufacturer. Tim teaches problem solving skills, lean countermeasures, and how to see opportunities for improvement by actively learning, thinking and being engaged. Tim McMahon was recently elected to the Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Northeast Region Board of Directors. He will also serve as the Vice President of Programs for the region in 2011. Tim has been supporting the AME Northeast Region as the Social Media Lead and National on the Social Media Council. This role is to identify how to best leverage social media tools for increasing networking within AME. Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimALeanJourney. Connect with Tim on Linkedin. Connect with Tim on Facebook.