Becoming a Lean, Green, Waste-Eliminating Machine

Can leaner be greener? Absolutely. We already know that lean manufacturing focuses on the elimination of waste, but when done in a manner that results in less material waste and less wasted worker effort, lean manufacturing efforts can result in the creation of a more environmentally friendly business as well. To maximize green effects, specialists recommend making environmental sustainability and lean manufacturing efforts co-top priorities, resulting in an effort where green is just as important as lean.

What kinds of organizations have made the commitment to both lean and green? Examples include the State of Washington Department of Ecology, which has even published a “Lean and Environmental Toolkit” explaining how to use lean procedures, Value Stream Mapping, and Six Sigma strategies to help other organizations become greener.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also laid out guidelines for companies looking to become both leaner and greener simultaneously. Their website includes literature on incorporating lean with environmental efforts, including protocols for the handling of hazardous waste and how using less energy results in both leaner and greener outcomes.

A success story of a company that set out to become leaner and greener is that of Beachley Furniture, a business that produces upholstered furniture. After Beachley Furniture implemented the EPA’s Green Suppliers Network Program, the company reduced their scrap production by $200,000 worth, saving both money and the scrap from ending up in a landfill. Through these and other efforts, the company was able to save $461,100 overall annually. President and CEO of Beachley Furniture, David Beachley, spoke highly of the changes. “We have not only streamlined our process and reduced rework, but we have seen a dramatic improvement in our quality,” he stated.

Lean manufacturing efforts often resulted in environmentally conscious outcomes by their sheer waste-eliminating nature, however, when green outcomes are made an equally high priority as lean outcomes, both ends can benefit significantly. See how your company can become a lean, green, waste-eliminating machine!