I always wanted to find a way to use NAM and Greenpeace in the same title. NAM goes to great lengths to portray Greenpeace as one of the roots of all that’s wrong with manufacturing competitiveness (although I’ll admit that link was rather amusing). Similarly Greenpeace is all over the evils (or "eeveels" for those movie fans out there) of the global military-industrial-capitalist-running-dogs-complex.
I’ve always been somewhat amused by the cadres of dreadlocked environmental activists that seem to smoke far more than today’s evil businessmen and chase human-powered Inuit whale hunters with the oil-leaking Rainbow Warrior. Likewise we’ve also jabbed NAM more than a bit with their incessant cry that manufacturing’s problems are due to everyone and everything except internal process waste. But I also believe that we need groups on the extremes… whether it’s Greenpeace on one side or NAM on the other… to help define the continuum of our world and provide ideas for improvement.
Greenpeace recently posted it’s Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks some of the top electronics manufacturers in terms of their environmental impact. The full detailed report is here. The ranking is based on nine criteria regarding chemicals policy and practice and also producer responsibility with taking back discarded product.
Our friends at Dell tied for first, and were noted for being exceptionally proactive with chemicals management, PVC phaseout, BFR phaseout, and individual producer responsibility (IPR). Surprisingly Apple, usually the darling of the anti-establishment crowd, was near the bottom. Couple this with their recent sweatshop problems and you have to wonder who is a better model for industry. Lenovo comes in dead last, which is perhaps makes it the poster child of the environmental disaster currently fermenting in China.
This does matter. Contrary to what some NAM-ites would want you to believe, manufacturing is not about making a product at the lowest possible cost. Instead it is about making a product with the highest possible value for the customer. If you don’t understand the difference, then I’d suggest you read some of the books on the right side of this blog. Cost is only one component of value.
The high costs from our regulatory, legal, domestic labor, etc environment are real. But simply removing those costs does not necessarily create more value. As we’ve pointed out time and time again, Toyota knows this… and is very successful operating plants in North America. Likewise there are many domestic companies that compete very successfully with Asia. Value also includes quality, customer service, and delivery time.
And it increasingly includes sensitivity to the environment. Many of us are already disgusted when buying a small virtually-indestructible product that is surrounded by irresponsibly larger packaging that goes straight into a landfill. Such as the USB flash memory key I bought the other day… the size of a stick of gum in half a cubic foot of packaging that will be around for archaeologists of the future. And I won’t go into how it took a trip to my garage to find the tools required to open the double-sealed hard plastic blisterpak. That’s a double reduction in value as I see it.
We’ve written before about how lean and green are complementary. Although this report wasn’t the deciding factor, it did play a part in my decision to buy a Dell D620 instead of a Lenovo ThinkPad. For some people, especially with some products and markets, environmental sensitivity may already be a predominant decision-making factor.
That’s value, from the viewpoint of the customer. The fundamental bedrock of lean.