Over the past several months we've been discussing Lean as a business model that eschews waste. One of the more common wastes is the obvious waste of physical product – paper, ink, solvents, packaging, etc. It only makes sense, then, that if we can reduce the amount of physical waste that we generate on a daily basis we'll not only become "green," reducing our environmental footprint, but we'll save more green, as in the kind that makes our bottom line grow. Over the past several years, the Lean movement has naturally taken on a green tint and the result is "Clean" Manufacturing.
Let's review. Lean, commonly defined, is a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste through continuous improvement. Waste, commonly defined, is anything other than the absolute minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, space and time necessary to produce what the customer desires. In our pursuit of waste we sometimes, even often, overlook opportunities to reduce wasted consumption of water, electricity, oil, and gas; in other words, pollution prevention.
According to Judy Wlodarczyk, director of environment and energy for CONNSTEP and one of the co-creators of the Green Suppliers Network, "Clean manufacturing takes the focus (of Lean) one step further by looking at environmental waste." Judy says that being green is more than just using alternative sources of energy or building a LEED certified structure; it's a way to optimize the amount of raw materials that you use so that you can reduce waste and, therefore, the money spent on those materials.
Green Suppliers Network
The Green Suppliers Network (www.greensuppliers.gov) was developed by the Manufacturing Extension Partnership of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST MEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency. The GSN aligns OEM's, suppliers, and government agencies in order to provide small and mid-size manufacturers with Lean and "clean" technical assistance.
The program drills down deep to uncover the root causes of inefficiencies that drive up a company's waste, in order to provide alternatives that are in keeping with the best available, sound environmental strategies.
One added benefit is that companies that eliminate environment related waste can reduce their cradle to grave risk and strengthen their regulatory compliance.
According to the EPA, the Green Suppliers Network, in its relative infancy, has generated:
- Over $7 million in environmental savings
- Approximately $20 million in Lean savings
- More than 70,000 kilowatts of energy savings
- More than 10 million gallons of water saved
- A reduction of more than 1 million pounds of solid waste
- A reduction of toxic and hazardous chemicals in excess of 15,000 pounds
- A reduction of more than 130,000 gallons of water pollution
Consumers are demanding green
It's no secret that today's educated consumers are demanding more and more environmentally sensible solutions. This translates into retailers demanding the same from OEMs, which trickles all the way back down the food chain to you, the packaging and label converter.
According to an article published in March in the Hartford Business Journal, Wal-Mart wants to "reduce its waste by 25 percent in the next three years, in large part by using less packaging." In addition, "getting on the green bandwagon isn't just about being good to the planet anymore." Companies must adopt strategies such as Clean Manufacturing "if they are to stay competitive not only with consumers, but with other businesses."
What's a printer to do?
To start, you need to reassess your own material consumption. The logical starting place for "Clean" is the same logical starting place for "Lean" (get the connection?).
Look around your facilities. If you can, view your plant from an elevated vantage point, either from a mezzanine or a scissor lift. What do you see? I'll bet you see an awfully high amount of "stuff" – rolls of paper, ink, chemicals, corrugated, cores, stretch wrap, stickyback, rollers, plate materials, rags… the list is almost limitless.
How much of this "stuff" do you really need?
Use your Senses
Notice the highlighted S. Remember 5s? I hope you do, but let's review.
- Sort or Separate what you really need on a daily basis from what you do not. Many companies use the "red tag" method. In the red tag method any item that is not considered useful or necessary is marked with a red tag, dated, initialed, and moved to a designated red tag area (sometimes called the "junk yard").
- Set In Place the items that are left over after sorting by putting them in the most logical place where they are going to be used. This is known as POUS, or Point-Of-Use-Storage.
- Shine: Clean everything on, in, under, over and around the area.
- Standardize your 5s activities. You must make this a daily requirement.
- Sustain your gains through standardization and discipline.
If you require only two pallets of raw material, you create two pallet locations for that raw material and you purchase only two pallets of that raw material. And you never have more than two pallets of that raw material. Control your consumption of materials by standardizing your purchasing processes and using kanban signals.
Shine, shine, shine, and when you're done, shine some more. Make it shine. The objective of 5s is to make waste obvious so that you can eliminate it. You can't eliminate the waste if you can't see it. By cleaning equipment you not only make leaks immediately obvious (wasted oil, grease, water, etc.), you extend the useful life of the equipment by controlling a machine's two worst enemies – dirt and heat. A dollar's worth of prevention today is worth avoiding the capital cost of a new machine later.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Be proactive with your vendors and your customers.
Reuse and recycle pallets. Eliminate stretch wrap. Stop using core plugs by eliminating the causes behind crushed cores: too much wind tension, undersized boxes, or a shipping company that treats your customers' packages like that gorilla in the old American Tourister luggage commercials.
Rediscover "printer's black." Reblend inks by utilizing an ink matching system – maybe your ink vendor will provide you with one, depending on your purchase history with them.
Use SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die) techniques to reduce the amount of time (wasted energy) and material (wasted paper and ink) that is consumed during changeovers.
Plan your changeovers so that you're following lighter colors (like process yellow) with a darker color (like black) so that you don't have to clean the station as much as you normally would have too.
Switch to non-toxic cleaners for your equipment and your building. Studies have shown that indoor air pollution poses a significantly higher risk to a person's health than outdoor air pollution.
Lean means clean, and clean is Green
Less material usage. Less chemical usage. Less energy usage. All this adds up to lower operating costs for you and a better planet for all of us. Lean is Clean. Clean is green, and green is "the new black" that will show up on your P&L.
Bacchus Press, Label Impressions, Curtis Packaging in Connecticut are just a few of the companies who are on the "Clean" green bandwagon, so start getting "Clean" today.
If not you – who? If not now – when?