Printing Lean

Clean Manufacturing

March 31, 2009

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow don't be alarmed now,
it's just a spring clean for the May Queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
there's still time to change the road you're on.

– James Patrick Page and Robert Anthony Plant, CBE

Ah, spring. Time for a spring clean – out with the old and in with the new. This month, April, is also the month in which we observe Earth Day. Earth Day observances, held annually on April 22, are intended to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the Earth's environment.

In today's unsettling economy it's very easy to ignore the environment in which we live and run our businesses and to retreat further and further into what one perceives as a protective or insular layer. Staying in the bunker until this economic battlefield sorts itself out might seem like the right path to go by but, as Messrs. Page and Plant proclaim, there's still time to change the road you're on and begin down a new path, on a new road, a new journey to becoming a Lean enterprise.

Instead of ignoring our personal, business and community environments, we can, instead, embrace the metaphor of the "spring clean" and make April a month of renewal, a month in which you throw out the old, wasteful ways of running your business and instead, begin operating using Lean as your guide down this new road.

Lean and Clean

Lean enterprises are "Clean" enterprises in that they not only eliminate the waste of defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion and excess processing (DOWNTIME), but they also reduce their use of raw materials, are more energy efficient, conserve water, eliminate toxic chemicals, and reduce packaging, air and water emissions, solid and hazardous wastes and help to reduce a company's overall regulatory obligations, exposure and risk. Given all the benefits that being Lean and Clean offers, what business wouldn't want to start down this road?
Seek out and eliminate waste

Lean, if you remember, is a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste (non-value added activities) through continuous improvement by flowing the product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection.

Waste is "anything other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, space, and worker's time which are absolutely necessary to add value to the product." (Shoichiro Toyoda)
Borrowing from these basic Lean principles, Clean Manufacturing is a "systematic approach to eliminating waste by optimizing use and selection of resources and technologies while lessening the impact on the environment."

A Clean enterprise that embraces Lean and strives to continually reduce the wastes associated with DOWNTIME will find that it has:

-Less scrap, fewer defects, and less spoilage, resulting in less solid waste;

-Less overproduction, less scrap and fewer defects, resulting in a reduction in raw material consumption;

-Less overproduction and less inventory, resulting in a reduction in materials needing to be stored, a reduction in physical space (both land and facilities), and less consumption of energy to heat, cool, illuminate, and secure these storage spaces as well as reducing the need for electric or propane powered material handling equipment;

-Less overproduction, less inventory, less storage and a reduction in transportation, resulting in a reduction in emissions from material handling equipment and transportation vehicles.

These are benefits that can be seen up and down the entire supply chain and not just in your facility. Imagine the savings in energy and the reduction in fossil fuel consumption if we cut our waste by just 1 percent.

The 1 percent solution

You don't think that 1 percent can make a difference? Let's take a look.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, nearly one third of all materials discarded in the United States in 2007 were paper and paperboard. This waste weighed in at approximately 83,000,000 tons, or 166,000,000,000 pounds. That's 166 billion, with a b.

The Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit organization based in New York, states that the pulp and paper industry is the second largest consumer of energy and uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry in the USA. The fund estimates that the production of one ton of paper requires the use of 19,000 gallons of water and uses 11,134 kWh of energy, the same amount of energy used by an average household in 10 months. What could a 1 percent difference make?

Using just these figures, a 1 percent difference would mean 830,000 fewer tons of paper and paperboard waste, over 15 billion fewer gallons of water used in processing (enough to fill more than 22,000 olympic size swimming pools), and more than 9.2 billion kWh of energy, and that's just from the supply side. Add to that the aggregated 1 percent savings of every printer around the country and we've got ourselves a significant impact.

The energy savings from a 1 percent reduction, using these estimates, would provide enough electricity to power more than 630,000 homes every year. If we use the estimates from the Organization of American States' Office for Sustainable Development, that figure would climb to over 924,000 homes. The actual number is probably somewhere in the middle.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there are approximately 125 million full-time (non-seasonal) households in the USA. That would mean that a 1 percent reduction in energy could save enough energy for one-half to three-quarters of 1 percent of homes within the country. Now that might not seem like much, but the amount of energy saved could provide enough power to households in cities the size of Dallas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, or Houston for an entire year. It would take either 3.7 million tons of coal or 10.7 million barrels of oil to generate that much electricity. That's enough oil to power every passenger car in the United States for over a day.

That's a lot of power, the power of 1 percent.

Time to change the road you're on

Time and time again you've heard me go on about the impact that waste reduction can have on your company's bottom line. I hope that you realize, now, the impact that our combined companies' waste has on our environment. It's time to take action. How?

Use the same steps for Clean Manufacturing that you would for Lean Manufacturing. Go out and see the waste for yourself. Use your senses: look, listen, hear, smell, touch (but don't taste!). Where do you see wasted materials, wasted energy, or wasted space?

Look for:

-Old or obsolete materials
-Equipment using power but not being used to make product (i.e., to create value)
-Water leaks
-Air leaks
-Oil or lubricant spills or leaks
-Computer displays showing screen savers. (A PC in screen saver mode uses pretty much the same energy as when it's in non-screen saver mode. The "sleep" mode uses less than one tenth of the power.)

Now that you've identified wastes that are not only costing you DOWNTIME but could be adding to your environmental footprint, start using some basic Lean tools to lessen this impact.

Use 5S to organize your facility and to identify obvious waste. Sort out what you don't need and get rid of it by selling unwanted paper, corrugated or inks to recyclers or through third-party brokers. Use Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) to keep your equipment in peak condition to avoid wasting energy and prevent oil, water, or air leaks. Reduce batch sizes and the amount of material and energy needed to produce them by using the quick changeover techniques of SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Die).

Monitor your efforts and maintain your progress through continuous training of employees and regular audits of your facilities. Continuously attack the eight common wastes (DOWNTIME) and you will impact your bottom line and your environment.

And as (you) wind on down the road
(Your) shadows taller than (your) soul
There walks a (sensei) we all know
Who shines (a) light (on waste) and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last

If you listen to what your senses are telling you and to the lessons that the simple observation of your facilities can teach you, you will find that everything does, indeed, turn to gold in the form of lower operating costs and a smaller environmental impact on your community. These efforts, if consistently and purposefully driven year after year, will be a beacon of white light that illuminates the path for your business for years to come.
Tom Southworth is a Lean Consultant with CONNSTEP, Connecticut's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). He is a Senior Member of ASQ, an ASQ Certified Manager of Quality & Organizational Excellence, and is a SME Lean Bronze Certified-sensei. He can be reached by email at