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Lean Manufacturing and Environment

Case Studies & Best Practices

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Many organizations have found that implementing lean concepts and tools results in improvements in environmental performance, even when lean activities were not initiated for environmental reasons. Since environmental savings are often not part of the "business case" for lean improvement activities, however, organizations implementing lean do not necessarily quantify the environmental performance gains associated with their lean initiatives.

Below are examples of the types of environmental benefits that result from lean implementation. Click on each link to view a full case study of the organization's lean activities and the environmental implications of those activities.

  • Apollo Hardwoods Company
    • Uses fewer trees and less energy to produce the same amount of product
    • Designed equipment that can use smaller pieces of wood, which reduces wood scrap and alleviates the need to harvest large-diameter, mature black cherry tree
  • Baxter Healthcare Corporation
    • Over a three-day event, an interdepartmental team developed value stream maps (VSM) that detailed the plant’s use of water and identified processes with potential for improvement
    • Using the VSMs, the team developed an implementation plan that will save 170,000 gallons of water per day and over $17,000 over three months, with little or no capital investment
  • The Boeing Company
    • Boeing Everett
      • Realized resource productivity improvements of 30-70 percent from lean initiatives
      • Eliminated the use of 350 cubic feet of cardboard and bubble wrap packing material per 747 wing panel set
      • Reduced chemical usage per airplane by 11.6 percent
    • Boeing Auburn
      • Defects have been reduced from 1,200/10,000 in 1996 to fewer than 300/10,000 presently
      • Reduced floor space by 200,000 square feet
  • Canyon Creek Cabinet Company (PDF) (18pp, 135K) Exit Disclaimer
    • Expect savings of almost $1.5million annually from process changes
    • Process improvements included reduction in lead time, work-in-progress, defects, overproduction, downtime, operator travel time, and material loss and damage
    • Decreased VOCs which will reduce permitting requirements
  • Columbia Paint & Coatings (PDF) (20 pp, 111K) Exit Disclaimer
    • Environmental savings included:
      • Reduction of 15,000 lbs of paint solids from wash water
      • Saved 18,000 lbs of shrink wrap
      • Removed 2,820 lbs of hazardous materials from the waste stream
  • DuBois-Johnson Diversey and Steelcase
    • Lean practices resulted in:
      • Energy savings of a 60 percent reduction in the BTUs required
      • Reduction in water usage by 80 percent
      • Waste stream was cut by 85 to 95 percent
  • General Electric
    • Peebles, Ohio Facility
      • General Electric's jet engine facility in Peebles, Ohio has found ways to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by implementing Lean methods, while also producing significant cost savings. Lean events contributed to the following successes at the facility:
      • Reduced fuel consumption for GE90 engine testing from 20,000 gallons to 10,000 gallons.
      • Produced 5,000 metric tons less of GHG emissions from the GE90 in 2007 compared to 2006.
      • Achieved cost savings of $1,000,000 due to fuel use reduction.
      • Reduced GHG emissions from the CFM testing cycle by 1,600 metric tons annually.
      • Streamlined engine balancing process and troubleshooting techniques.
    • NBC & Universal Studios – The Treasure Hunt Model
      • NBC Universal, which is 80% owned by GE, is one of the world’s leading entertainment companies and is involved in the development, production and marketing of various entertainment ventures throughout the world. Through the Treasure Hunt model, many savings were realized at Universal Studios Hollywood.
      • Conducted well over 200 treasure hunts globally with a combined emissions reduction of over 250,000 metric tons of GHGs.
      • Seen over $14 billion dollars in revenue from ecomagination products and services.
  • General Motors
    • Saturn Kanban Implementation
      • Saved 17 tons per year in air emissions
      • Eliminated 258 tons per year of solid waste
      • Reduced hazardous waste generation from 9.0 pounds per car in 1992 to 3.2 pounds per car in 1996
    • Fairfax Assembly Paint Booth Cleaning
      • Reduced purge solvent used by 369 tons in the first year
    • Lean Supply Chain Development
      • Eliminated 7 tons per year of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, hazardous wastes, and transportation-related impacts by working with suppliers to eliminate a painting process step
  • Goodrich Aerostructures
    • Lean Chemical Management at California Facilities
      • Eliminated four 5,000 gallon tanks containing methyl ethyl ketone, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and trichloroethane
      • Eliminated the potential for large scale spills and the need to address risk management planning requirements for these tanks under Section 112(r) of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments
  • JEA (PDF) (8 pp, 385K)
    • Process improvement efforts at JEA have produced the following overall results:
      • Achieved a utility-wide cumulative cost savings of $579 million from Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.
      • Avoided an impact of $95 million on the utility's 2010 budget from projects specifically focused on cost reduction.
      • Saved an average of $950 per customer and avoided rate increases of $20 per month directly related to process improvement efforts.
      • Completed over 580 projects since 2000.
  • Lasco Bathware (PDF) (23 pp, 156K) Exit Disclaimer
    • Process improvements include:
      • Reduced production bottlenecks and established cleaner and more organized work areas
      • Decreased variability in spray operations
      • Reduced energy use and FRP wastes
      • Reassigned over 1,900 annual labor hours to other value-added activities
  • Lockheed Martin
    • Reduced hazardous waste resulting in cost savings due to the elimination of RCRA permit requirements
    • Reduced facility size by 1/3 (a reduction 550,000 square feet)
    • Reduced chemical storage capacity to 2% of it's original size
  • Plymouth Tube
    • At a facility in West Monroe, LA, Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) and Production personnel were able to identify environmental wastes that presented opportunities for working with lean techniques to improve their processes
    • Their lean efforts reduced lubrication used at this facility by 1400 gallons, saving almost $4000 annually in lube costs and $1800 is recycling fees
    • The team was able to completely eliminate a costly hazardous waste stream of ink by changing their printing process
  • Rejuvenation
    • Lean practices made quality control everyone's job, allowing quicker identification of problems and reducing rework
    • Use of Lean has cut work-in-progress (WIP) on the floor from seven to eight days to about one and a half days
  • Robins U.S. Air Force Base
    • Waste Collection Process
      • Used methods such as Value-Stream Mapping (VSM), standard work, and 6S to reduce the lead time to collect and haul away hazardous waste on schedule
    • "Point-of-Use” Distribution of Hazardous Materials
      • Through a series of rapid process improvement events, the environmental, safety, and occupational health (ESOH) staff at Robins AFB instituted point-of-use (POU) cabinet systems for distributing “right-sized” quantities of hazardous materials/chemicals for use on the shopfloor
  • 3M
    • Lean Six Sigma has helped 3M reinvigorate its highly successful pollution prevention program by training more than 55,000 salaried employees since 2001 and involving them in improvement projects that often have environmental benefits
    • Lean Six Sigma is a valuable tool that contributed to 3M exceeding its corporate Environmental Goals from 2000-2005, reducing volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 61 percent, Toxic Release Inventory releases by 64 percent, waste generation by 30 percent and energy use by 27 percent (when indexed to net sales)

Other Examples

EPA is working with other organizations to highlight lean and environment success stories and to identify good practices for maximizing the environmental performance of lean efforts. If you have any examples or perspectives you would like to share, please contact EPA.

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