Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Synergies Between Lean and Green

Earlier in the course we watched a video about Herman Miller furniture, and the synergy between their design and company visions. You may recall that a point of major focus for Herman Miller is environmental sustainability. The video even provided an anecdote of the Herman Miller honey, which resulted from a decision the company had to make about how to deal with a wasp infestation when they moved into their new building. This example showed how sometimes the most optimal decision can also be the most environmentally friendly—in this case choosing to colonize bees over paying for pesticides was not only the sustainable option, but the option which in the long run proved more profitable (they now produce their own honey and can offer this honey to customers).

The following article from ( explains “the traditional way of thinking goes that ‘green’ business initiatives add costs, while implementing ‘lean’ processes is about streamlining and saving money”. While this may be the common sentiment, this viewpoint may actually be quite flawed. Businesses often view green initiatives as costly because of the investment in change and possible upfront costs, which are also very present when switching to a lean manufacturing process. Upon closer inspection, the two philosophies are actually quite similar, as they are rooted in waste reduction. The article identifies seven key ways in which a lean process is also environmentally favorable: fewer product defects, less overproduction, minimizing wasted movement, reducing transportation, less excess inventory, reduced waiting, and less over-processing. With these in mind, hopefully it will become easier and easier for companies to do what is best for them and their process while making the right choices for the environment .

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