How to apply lean manufacturing to help the environment

The world’s natural resources are becoming quite limited as time progresses.  What was once considered a wealthy supply from nature has dwindled to dangerous levels.  And it seems as if we are using up the resources Mother Nature can give us faster than ever before.  Remember last year when we used up a year’s supply of natural resources in just seven months?  That means that over the last five months of 2016 we ate up almost half of this year’s resources.  We are in desperate need of managing earth resources in the most efficient way possible before it’s too late.

One sector that has been at the focal point of environmental protection is manufacturing. For years, factories for different types of products have been on the watch list of those who can cause the most amount of harm to the environment.  International treaties have been signed to make sure companies comply with environmental protection standards.  While they have proven to make an impact, there is still much work to be done.  It’s not enough for companies to comply to rules and regulations; if history has taught us anything is that rules are meant to be bent or broken.  To witness true environmental awareness, companies must change their culture.  David Kiger recently wrote about how to make the supply chain green and this is just a starting point as a matter of fact.  Companies must make their whole manufacturing culture efficient.  This provides us with a very important question: “How can a company be efficient at all levels of the company and still deliver?”  The answer is quite simple.

Lean manufacturing!  It’s the perfect solution for companies looking to protect the environment without losing profit.  Lean manufacturing is all about using every single resource efficiently.  In other words, find out how to use the necessary things without creating waste or sacrificing quality.  There are eight areas where companies generate the most amount of waste.  Reducing it is essential to the success of lean manufacturing.  By reducing waste, companies are directly making a positive impact in some of the most important categories.  Let’s see how companies can use lean manufacturing techniques to give Mother Nature a little breather.

1 . Produce only what you think you can sell

The production line is arguably where the most amount of waste occurs.  Taking raw materials and turning them into inventory requires a lot of energy and disposal of unused material.  Storing inventory requires taking up space and using machines (often powered by gasoline) to move things around.  If there is a surplus of inventory, there will surely be demand for using more electricity and machines to store it adequately.  To avoid spending precious electricity and by proxy the energy plants that consume natural resource to generate electricity, companies must sit down and analyze how their inventory moves during the fiscal year.  This will give them an excellent idea as to when they can ease up on production and save some electricity and therefore save some natural resources.

2.  Transportation policies that focus on cleaning up the environment

Companies need to move their products from Point A to Point B if they want to be in the black at the end of the year.  Point B can be rather numerous and there could be several stops along the way, both within the manufacturing facilities and distributors.  Within the company facilities, those in charge should consider using energy efficient vehicles which don’t emit a lot of pollutants.  On the distribution level, companies need to analyze just how much of their transportation fleet can be reduced to include electric cars and trucks.

electric-car-charging-station_lean-manufacturing_transportation_electric-car-charging-station
Image courtesy of Håkan Dahlström at Flickr.com

3.    Get the workforce to commute more efficiently

Factories and manufacturing sites employ the largest number of people in any industry.  How they get to the facilities can play a huge role in helping the environment or putting it into the intensive care unit.  How so?  A considerable percentage of workers use their own car to get to the office or the factory and they usually arrive alone.  More cars on the road equals more pollution and more consumption of resources.  If companies can implement incentives for employees who commute through carpools or clean energy transportation means (electric cars, bicycle), they would be making a positive impact on the environment.

Lean manufacturing can be a valuable ally in the struggle to help Mother Nature recover her strength and make the planet healthier.  Additionally, it will help the company save some of their own resources and in the end, this adds up to lower costs at the end of the year.  Lean manufacturing across the board helps companies protect the environment, directly and indirectly.  We have abused natural resources to the point where they will be harder to come by.  One of the best measures companies can take is to apply lean manufacturing to how they go about making their products.

* Featured Image courtesy of Unsplash at Pexels.com

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