It’s exciting to hear from Lean companies around the world on their efforts and innovations to be more green!
This insightful article comes from the Lean Enterprise Institute in Poland (LEI Poland) who co-developed the Eco Lean method during the Eco Lean Compass project, pursued in the international consortium of LEI Poland, various industry companies (from Poland, Turkey and Germany) and a department of the Fraunhofer Institute.
I was fortunate to have the chance to ask the project lead and board member at LEI Poland, Mr. Remigiusz Horbal, a few questions about the project.
(LGI) What inspired you to take on this project and conduct two case studies?
(RH) We believe that being “eco” for the company is not a matter of trade off between being more eco-friendly or more cost efficient, but it’s a way of being more productive. On the one hand we know that some environmental friendly technologies require substantial investment but on the other in every company there is a potential for many improvement projects, which can improve eco efficiency, do not require investment (or investment is very low) and have positive impact on productivity. We can also state that more productive processes generate less waste, scrap, pollutions and consume less energy and materials. The goal of the project is to reveal this great potential of improvement, which leads to both productivity and ecological gains using Lean methods.”
(LGI) What would the outcome be if more Lean companies adopted this method?
(RH) Typically improving eco-efficiency is a separated process in companies. There is a person responsible e.g. for implementation of ISO 14001 norm in a given company and this person tries to analyse critical environmental factors, define some goals for improving eco-efficiency, list some actions. Because the norm requires that. In this way improving eco-efficiency becomes a separated process. Something far from daily activities, daily problems, improvement actions (like Kaizens). Thanks to our method ecology becomes an integrated part of routine improvement efforts, and eco-efficiency is perceived on the same level like quality, productivity or safety. What is the most important the methods we proposed lets to identify such improvement actions, which do not require much investment and have positive impact both on business factors (like cost, productivity) and environmental ones (like scrap, pollutions).
(LGI) What do most companies miss about the potential of using Lean for environmental performance?
(RH) Many managers still think that being more eco-friendly is a comfort, not every company can afford. Actually every day we can do in our plants small things which help our planet. It does not cost much, it also helps our productivity. Everything we need to do, is to understand how environmental aspects are related to our company, plant and it’s efficiency and began to see synergies between our business success and eco-friendliness.
Thank you to the Lean Enterprise Institute in Poland for sharing your work with us. The Eco Lean Method Case Study can be viewed here: