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Lean Accelerates Sustainable Enterprise

Over the last decade, the consumer drive for green products has pushed environmentally conscious ideologies to the forefront of company values, goals and products. Consumers have made it clear that the evolution of their products matter. Companies that embrace sustainability see the financial value of reducing their environmental footprint. The earth’s resources aren’t infinite. Environmentally-focused companies become stewards that ensure long-term success and sustainability of the ecosystem.

But how do companies reach these new social and environmental goals?

Companies leverage Lean philosophies and principles to drive this change. For example, Kaizen events in manufacturing facilities have lead to “green” results even when it wasn’t the intended outcome. In fact, the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that green efforts “ride the coattails” or occur incidentally as a result of these production-focused efforts.

Many companies have struggled to initiate widespread green principles due to the cost/benefit ratio or how to measure environmental performance success connected with their Lean activities. According to a recent Deloitte study, it’s a battle between sustainability goals, profitability and efficiency. They suggest that leveraging a powerful and well-established performance improvement methodology to jump start new sustainability programs or substantially boost existing ones is the path companies should replicate.

What if organizations conducted Lean activities to drive green practice? These two concepts can work in concert with each other, but organizations need to integrate these principles to drive continuous improvement. Lean managers must be trained to be environmentally focused as well as production focused.

Jabil understands the harmonious nature between Lean and green. For instance, Jabil Shanghai addressed their use of liquid nitrogen and shifted away from its usage and delivery. They upgraded the liquid nitrogen chamber to a water cooling chamber and installed a nitrogen generator to replace the delivery of liquid nitrogen tanks. The results of the project were astounding: carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by nearly 15,000 tons per year, liquid nitrogen costs went down by $3.6 million per year and power costs eased by more than $150,000.

In Jabil Guadalajara, test equipment stayed powered on after testing was completed which meant a large amount of energy was still being used during nights and weekends. The result of a Kaizen event added an instruction to the electrical script in order to shut down the equipment automatically after tests were finished, saving nearly $20,000 annually.

Is your company on the forefront of driving Lean and green sustainable solutions? How might the relationship between the two predict future behaviors?

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