One of the ways that we are driving climate change negatively is through the excessive or unnecessary consumption of finite resources. I use both excessive and unnecessary in that explanation because not only do we consume more than we need but we also consume resources when we don’t really need to at all.
Excessive consumption gets a lot of attention – turn off the lights when you’re not using them, carpool for your commutes, and the like – but how often do we manufacture or assemble items and materials when we shouldn’t be producing them at all?
Lean is a customer-focused operational management philosophy based on providing to the customer exactly what the customer wants, when the customer wants it, and in the condition the customer wants it. Based on customer expectations, Lean cuts out unnecessary waste activities in processes so that giving the customer what they want is done in a more timely and efficient manner. Reducing waste activities means conserving energy and resources and not using them for things the customer does not want. By not adhering to the customer expectations, companies run the risk of becoming more and more wasteful.
So shouldn’t Lean be considered a key player in any Earth Day initiative? How are Lean and Earth Day intertwined?
– Making items exactly as the customer wants them means you aren’t producing defects – a defect is a condition in a product or service that a customer refuses to accept, thereby the energy and materials used in the defect are either wasted and scrapped or must be reworked which requires more time and energy. Zero defect production saves energy and time.
– Producing more than what the customer requires means a buildup of inventory. Inventory production requires materials and energy, and excess inventory means those resources were consumed in advance of when they would actually be needed by the customer (if at all). Excess inventory consumes space, and space is finite.
And how about inventory that has a short shelf life? A baseball team producing hot dogs well in advance of when they’d be purchased or eaten means many hot dogs would have to be thrown away after ballgames. All the energy used to produce the bun and bratwurst, the heat energy used to cook the food…all trashed.
– Inventory sitting on shelves has to wait and wait and wait for the customer to order it.
– Excessive transportation stems from not having materials and products in the exact location where they are needed by a customer (internally or externally). Isn’t it “more green” to use a local supplier of materials or components than to go with the “low cost” route of having them made in China (with far less stringent environmental standards than the US) then shipped here by large boat? Not only that, local suppliers have shorter lead times because it doesn’t take them an extra two or three weeks to arrive from across the seas.
All of the Lean wastes have resource ties to their costs – human capital, energy, and time. By being smarter about our processes and being strategic in our sourcing, we can reduce the environmental impacts we have very quickly.
(PS – we are drawing entries for the Masters pin flag giveaway and will be contacting recipients shortly. Be on the lookout for an email!)