Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lean Manufacturing and the Environment.

Lean Manufacturing and the Environment. 

Most of us think of lean manufacturing as a way to improve profitability and increase the reliability and accuracy of the supply chain. Lean manufacturing can also relate to the environmental impact that a manufacturing process has on the surrounding area. Lean manufacturing usually helps the environment without specifically intending to. Environmental wastes ( the 8th deadly waste) focuses on production efficiency while minimizing waste. This idea of waste can be related to wasting resources like electricity and raw materials. With increasing energy costs and increased environmental awareness companies have started targeting energy consumption in Kaizen since it has a very noticeable effect on the bottom line. 

Based on this development the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started a Lean and Environment initiative to bring out this unexplored facet of lean manufacturing. In this program the EPA partners with manufacturers and helps them transform into a lean business while highlighting the 8th deadly waste. The EPA provides tools to the manufacturers such a Value Stream Mapping tool which has been modified to incorporate and highlight environmentally sensitive operations and processes. 

By realizing the effect of lean manufacturing on the environment the EPA has performed Kaizen in its own right. Based on these observations they reanalyzed their system to reduce environmental waste and modified it to work together with companies. An example on the EPA websites shows how the EPA found a way to reduce the packaging costs for wings manufactured by Boeing. In doing so they reduced the associated waste of 350 cubic feet of cardboard and non biodegradable plastic wrapping.
Further interesting results from this movement can be found on the EPA website 


This brings up a very important question :

Can governments and policy makers use a Lean revolution to start a Green Revolution ?


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