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Increase Profits with Lean and Green Synergies

Key Points
  • If you want to be more sustainable, implement lean manufacturing.
  • Applying lean concepts reduces raw materials, waste and harmful emissions.
  • You can also increase sales and become more competitive.
Lean manufacturing lowers operating costs while reducing your environmental impact.
lean manufacturing

The old school of thought was that lowering your plant's environmental impact would add costs. Now, many manufacturers realize that lean leads to green, increasing profits. Lean manufacturers eliminate or minimize waste and non-value added steps in the following seven categories. As you can see, becoming more sustainable is also a result:

  1. Fewer product defects translates to fewer raw materials required, less plant space, systems and equipment to rework or repair those products, which equals to less energy consumption (and fewer emissions).
  2. Less overproduction is a major focus of lean. You only produce what you need, when you need it. Fewer raw materials and energy are consumed. You also eliminate the risk of having excess inventory, which may eventually end up in a landfill.
  3. Minimizing wasted movement between production tasks reduces space requirements and the associated increase in heating, cooling and lighting requirements. The time to produce a product is also reduced, resulting in lower energy requirements.
  4. Reducing transportation when shipping your products or moving materials within your facility also decreases the energy used and the subsequent emissions. Efficient plant layout and locating your production facilities as close to the customer as possible are key.
  5. Less excess inventory equals more efficient use of space, saving on heating and cooling costs. You also consume less packaging and raw materials, as well as reduce waste from obsolescence and undetected defects.
  6. Reduced waiting means equipment, information or materials are available when you need them. Operators won't have to wait for a machine to complete a production task. Production downtime is reduced, resulting in less wasted energy.
  7. Less over-processing reduces the number of steps or materials required to make the product, decreasing the amount of waste. By minimizing process steps, emissions are also reduced.

By going lean, you can achieve your sustainability goals and increase the value of your business and competitive advantage at the same time. For instance, the tractor components manufacturer Hy-Capacity Inc. achieved zero landfill status in 90 days while adding more than $100,000 in sales after applying lean concepts.

But remember that such synergies—and the subsequent benefits—will only work if your company culture, from the top down, supports these efforts.

Image from Questline, Inc.