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During Value Stream Mapping it is relatively easy to include sustainability aspects. However, only a few companies do this, one exception is AkzoNobel.
In general however, Green Value Stream Mapping is not on the business agenda yet. This is a missed opportunity, since the demand for green processes and products by the customers will steadily increase.
Sustainability means that you fulfill the needs of the current generation, without compromising the needs of future generations. This definition immediately brings some synergy with Lean manufacturing to light: take for example the reduction of the use of raw materials.
Are there also conflicts possible between Lean and sustainability? When Lean manufacturing is defined simply as reducing waste of time and materials, then the answer is yes. Take for example reducing waiting times, this may lead to more transport and thus to an increase in carbon dioxide emission.
Although the simplified definition of Lean above als a method to reduce waste is very often used, it is not correct. Lean is not about reducing waste, Lean is about increasing the value added, in the view of the customer.
So, what your customer values should always come first. At the moment this is above all good quality, a low price, rapid delivery, and the possibility to order custom-made products. However, when your customer will increasingly start to ask (what is to be expected) for less use of harmful substances, less environmental pollution, less energy use, and more recycling, those aspects should be added as Lean targets. So, there is no conflict between Lean and sustainability at all! Note that the customer in this story can also be a government, since governments also determine your license to operate.
Value Stream Mapping can easily be adapted to include sustainability aspects. By doing that, Lean is broadened. The usual focus on short-term financial results is then supplemented with a more holistic, long-term approach. By putting things like energy consumption and harmful emissions on the value stream map, companies can prepare themselves for a future in which green processes and products will be increasingly valued by the customers. In addition, this increases the commitment of your employees to think and act Lean. After all, most people like to work for a company that cares about the environment.
Using for example more water and energy then needed, could for example be labeled on a Green Value Stream Map as a new form of waste. And the use of toxic raw materials in a product could be labeled as a defect. By asking why-why-why, it is then possible to reduce waste and search for alternative, greener chemicals.
Green Value Stream Mapping
Although there is a lot of criticism, sometimes right and sometimes not, the greater part of the companies is working hard on sustainability. However, these programs are not connected to Lean manufacturing, which is a wasted opportunity.
Is your company one of the few exceptions, does it put lots of work in Green Value Stream Mapping? If so, would you please share this success with us? And if your company doesn’t use Green Value Stream Mapping, why not?
Dr Jaap van Ede,
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