Posted by: Knightbird | March 4, 2015

Positive Lean Environment Impacts

The United States Environmental Protection Agency produced an agency report that won a 2003 Shingo Prize for recognizing that regular lean improvements have ancillary benefit for reducing environmental impacts.[i] If we define waste as a traditional Lean Practitioner does, it is any action in our processes that do not provide value to our customer. Excess waste does not provide value, and in fact require expense to dispose of. And if disposed of improperly, the waste is detrimental to society—a cost that the business creating the waste does not bear.

This concern was identified as an important one by a Japanese Lean Sensei: “Emissions to air and water, as well as the generation of solid/hazardous waste, represent a waste of production (that is, no value to the customer), just as surely as the need for protective equipment (such as gloves and ear plugs) is, and that eventually lean would address them.”[ii]

The good news from the EPA Report is that Lean implementation helps reduce environmental waste as a byproduct of Kaizen. When we start to target environmental waste through Kaizen, the benefits should multiply.

[i] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Lean Manufacturing and the Environment: Research on Advanced Manufacturing Systems and the Environment and Recommendations for Leveraging Better Environmental Performance.” October 2003. Online Report. 06 October 2005. <;.

[ii] Mitch Kidwell,Lean Manufacturing and the Environment: Ignoring the 8th Deadly Waste leaves money on the table.” Target Magazine, Volume 22, Number 6, Sixth Issue 2006.

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