How does lean connect to sustainability

Although you might not immediately make the connection, sustainability and lean manufacturing go hand-in-hand. Lean’s ultimate goal and concept is to make the workplace as efficient as possible, which also means reducing or eliminating waste. There is a strong emphasis on continual improvement across a number of key categories including delivery, quality, cost, and service. Making these improvements can also lead to tremendous environmental benefits as a result, which then creates a more sustainable work environment.


Eliminating Environmental Wastes

Creating a more sustainable workplace environment first requires identifying and removing environmental waste, which is defined as the excess or unnecessary use of resources related to the water, air, or land that have the potential to harm the environment or negatively impact human health. Environmental waste can happen when companies use resources to deliver services and products to customers, who then dispose of the products without thinking about environmental impact. Waste may include water, energy, or raw materials used in volumes greater than what is required to meet customers’ needs. Environmental waste can also include materials and pollutants such as emissions, hazardous substances, and solid waste that are released into the surrounding environment and may impact human health. Environmental wastes do not add value to the customer, and they are also costly to the business and society.


Seven Deadly Wastes

There are seven deadly wastes that can impact a company’s performance, customer satisfaction rates, and even bottom line. These wastes include:


  • Overproduction
  • Inventory
  • Transportation
  • Motion
  • Defects
  • Over-processing
  • Waiting


Overproduction means producing a surplus of materials. Overproduction can also include more energy than is needed to make products. Using too many materials or too much energy can create unnecessary products, which in turn causes waste. The excess products may go bad or need to be disposed of rather than being consumed by customers. The hazardous materials used in overproduction may lead to excess emissions, worker exposure, and waste disposal.


Inventory requires additional packaging to store Work-in-Progress (WIP). Waste can also arise from damage or deterioration, and it can require additional materials to replace damaged products. The more inventory a company has, the more energy it must use to cool and heat space with the products, and it must also use more energy and electricity to control the inventory environment.


Transportation is another major area where the environment and lean’s principles intersect. Transportation includes all parts of a business’s operations, including the production and manufacturing facility and the office. Transportation can refer to the movement of products or data and information. For products, transportation has the ability to produce a significant amount of waste. More energy is required for transportation of products, which consequently produces more emissions. Excess space is also required to move WIP, which in turn increases the costs associated with heating, lighting, and cooling the surrounding environment. Additional packaging and materials are also required to transport an item from one place to the next and to ensure the parts and components on a product do not break during the transportation process.


Defective products also produce waste, as they require additional recycling or disposal procedures. Additionally, companies need to use more energy and time for repairing or recreating defective productions.


Over-processing refers to the excessive amount of raw materials and parts used to make an end product. This creates excessive energy usage, waste, and emissions.


Waiting is the time it takes to make a product and have it land in the hands of a customer. The downtime between the two process stages can result in damage to the products and increases the likelihood of material spoilage. Wasted energy can also result from excess lighting, cooling, and heating used in product downtime.


To learn more about sustainability and how it affects lean, contact C Tek today.