Everyone knows that one of the goals of lean is cutting waste from systems and processes. Toyota’s Chief Engineer, Taiichi Ohno, developed ‘the seven wastes’ as a way to identify and locate different kinds of waste in a given system. However, these wastes have traditionally focused on the elimination of product and production waste. But what about environmental waste?

Environmental waste is also a sign that there is room for cost and time savings within a company. As companies implement lean strategies to their systems and processes, they should also be considering how those strategies might have an environmental impact.

How Can Lean be Green?

Lean practices can sometimes have accidental environmental benefits. For example, minimizing wait times can also mean minimizing energy expelled from additional heating or cooling. By eliminating production waste, you are inevitably eliminating environmental waste.

Still, lean can be more intentional than that. An old or malfunctioning HVAC system can be replaced or fixed, making the system more efficient and saving the company money in the long-term. Implementing a strategy in production aimed at identifying problems before materials are created can reduce both wasted energy and wasted materials. Even simple lean strategies like using motion detectors to turn off lights or shutting down computers every evening can have significant impacts on environmental waste elimination.

When implementing lean strategies, it’s important for companies to consider environmental waste. How can a lean strategy reduce the volume of water used in a given process? How can a lean strategy also prevent or reduce hazardous waste from accumulating? Is there a way for a lean strategy to reduce wasted energy?

Lean strategies don’t need to be implemented with an ‘either or’ mindset. When considering lean strategies, it’s important to consider product or production waste as well as environmental waste.