Organic cucumbers, vegetarians, global warming… and lean manufacturing. An unlikely combination? Not in the latest issue of Grist Magazine, which provides "environmental news and commentary."
In a very well-written article, Supply and Da Man, Joel Makower discusses the potential for savings by "greening" the supply chain. The classic example is by using more energy efficient lighting, where in the case of Baxter it saved almost $50 million. But as that company soon realized, significant additional savings are possible by pushing "green" up and down the supply chain. Baxter is extending the concept from raw materials all the way into the hospitals of its final customers, such as new raw materials to help reduce the amount of hospital waste.
Other companies have taken note, and the EPA has started a public-private partnership called the Green Suppliers Network to help suppliers and manufacturers eliminate waste, save money, and reduce their environmental impact. Members, such as Abbott Labs, GM, Herman Miller, Pratt & Whitney, and Johnson & Johnson come from a wide variety of industries.
What is pretty impressive is that this environmental activist author gets lean right. He discusses how lean focuses on the elimination of waste, creating the benefits of faster cycle times, improved productivity, higher quality, and increased flexibility. And he even talks about continuous one piece flow and how just in time requires supply chain reliability. He could run circles around some of the baffoons that write for the Wall Street Journal or various other top tier newspapers that continue to miss the point of lean.
And he’s right. Lean manufacturing and green thinking (or "supply chain environmental management") are in many ways naturally symbiotic. And he’s realistic… "In the end, it’s the economics, stupid. If ou can convince the powers that be that there’s a way to save money beyond the purchase price you can break through the purchasing department’s traditional reluctance to change vendors."
In your search for waste, take a step beyond the traditional steps of turning out the bathroom lights and see where you can leverage green to save money (increase value…) at your suppliers and customers.