By Bob Hitch, Project Manager, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech
Lean enterprise, lean manufacturing, and lean production are terms describing a manufacturing practice that eliminates and discourages the use of resources for any purpose other than creation of value for the end customer. This production system is mostly derived from the Toyota Production System (TPS), and is experiencing general acceptance in the United States. TPS focuses on using less work to produce the same value, and centers around the eight deadly wastes, known as DOWNTIME: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-utilized resources, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Extra Processing. Additionally, as lean becomes a widely-accepted practice, many are adding safety into the mix.
Recently it has been discovered that considering environmental and energy saving opportunities as part of Lean implementation improves the reduction of raw material usage, conserves water, and lowers energy use while maintaining or improving productivity. The acronym FEWER can help us remember the additions to Lean principles. Full use of raw material, Energy performance, Water conservation, Eliminating toxic material, and Reduction of: packaging wastes, emissions to air and water, solid and hazardous wastes, regulatory obligations, and risks. By allowing for environmental and energy opportunities to converge with process improvement, manufacturers are seeing benefits around cost reduction, improved process flow, reduced lead times, lower regulatory risk of non-compliance, meeting customers’ expectations of stewardship, improved environmental quality, improved employee morale, and elimination of toxic materials. In addition manufacturers are able to reduce packaging waste, air emissions, solid waste, and hazardous waste.
Lean tools, such as Value Stream Mapping, 5S, and Kaizen, can be leveraged to produce these improvements by finding and eliminating the ‘blind spots’ in lean. A few of these potential oversights can occur because:
- Overhead and facility support costs usually are so large they hide the environmental wastes occurring in the process.
- Energy uses and human health exposures are rarely considered in lean initiatives such as Kaizen events.
- Lean does not consider the lifecycle effects of processes that can affect customers and stakeholders.
Taking these factors into consideration, how can you use lean tools to overcome the obstacles and realize the benefits in identifying energy and environmental wastes?
Learn to identify hidden costs by adding Environmental/Energy as an additional ‘deadly’ waste
By applying lean thinking to any environmental process, you will get a better idea of how energy is being used in your facility, and how much of it is required to perform each process step. Consider these examples:
- Through this process, a company found as much as 40 percent of their chemical purchases went directly into hazardous waste as the chemicals expired on the shelf or became obsolete.
- Another company was exceeding their compressed air capacity and wished to purchase an additional compressor. A quick study of their system revealed corroded and leaking fittings, leaking quick-connect seals, and inappropriate uses of compressed air (air motors, blow-off nozzles). By fixing these problems, the company was able to reduce their air needs to a level below their current compressor capacity.
- A third company reduced their electricity costs down to half of previous levels by simple, low cost improvements in facility and process.
Utilize the value stream mapping (VSM) tool to identify opportunities
By utilizing value stream mapping, you will be able to gain a picture of existing process conditions that can help determine where work is needed to achieve the desired (future) process state. The visual clues of VSM are then readily augmented with both energy content and environmental impacts. By adding ‘EHS” icons to indicate process steps with opportunities, you will be able to identify opportunities to reduce energy use or environmental impact. During mapping, you utilize a ‘materials’ line to indicate where material reduction will lead to lower scrap generation. By adding a line similar to the ‘materials’ line, you will be able to show energy used in the process, and how much energy is lost at each step. At this point, you will want to introduce your Environmental Health and Safety team to the Lean system. They will be able to provide valuable insight for making improvements in processes that also improve energy and environmental exposure.
Run a Kaizen event to show energy in process and energy usage
These identified opportunities may lead to Kaizen events, which are used to eliminate wastes and make quick changes in the workplace. This is a strong tool that is made even stronger when environmental and energy concepts are included. Working conditions may be improved, and regulatory issues may be avoided with EHS team members working an event. It is a good idea to include energy and environmental concepts in training for the Kaizen team members, and include EHS staff on the team when appropriate. Checklists help Kaizen teams know when to call for the EHS staff. Consider such topics as: How much energy is used in this process; are there chemicals that may impact safety or the environment; how much hazardous and other waste is generated and how is it disposed; are air emissions involved? Each company will want to have a list customized for their own operations.
Expanding the newly identified 6th S in 5S
The Five S tool (or 6 S if you include safety) includes lean concepts of sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain, and safety. Expanding the scope of 6S to include energy and environmental impacts can help your company reduce the occurrence of expired chemicals, reduce defects (resulting in less wasted energy), avoid productivity losses form health hazards, and meet your company’s goals for environmental performance. Lean practice in this area uses yellow tagging during the sort step to identify areas with EHS issues. The ‘shine’ pillar is often expanded to include energy and environmental concerns. The ‘sustain’ work may include EHS personnel to create plant-wide inspection criteria and audit questions.
As you consider ways to enhance your lean production systems, be sure to include environmental and energy as potential opportunities for waste reduction. The strong tools of lean, combined with the additional insights from your environmental and energy team members, will help you continue to improve your processes by driving out waste and finding cost savings.
Several resources are available to guide us through this improvement in lean practice. The US Environmental Protection Authority has two web sites that give practical advice and case studies: http://www.e3.gov/, and http://www.epa.gov/lean/environment/toolkits/environment/. In addition, the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership has practitioners who can guide your first steps with an E3: Lean-Green Assessment.
This is part of a series of articles for manufacturing improvement. Download a pdf of How to use Lean tools to cash in on environmental and energy savings.